Word Portraits

Social Studies, Art, and Language Arts Activity

Students use words to create a profile of where they live.



  1. Ask students what they think of when they hear the term word portraits. Some students may think of how writers use descriptive words to make a picture in the reader's mind.

  2. Tell students that they are going to make a different kind of word portrait. They are going to use words about their subject to shape and fill in a drawing of that thing. As a model, use words about a familiar subject to draw a picture on the chalkboard. For example, using the following words, make a simple flower, repeating the words as often as necessary to complete the shape you decide on: bright, scented, pretty, wild, bouquet, blossoms, free, colorful, butterflies, bees, gardens.

  3. Ask students to think about where they live: their town or city, their state. Suggest that they think of a view they especially like, such as the skyline of a city, a picturesque hillside, or their own neighborhood or home. They might begin by making a small sketch of the scene.

  4. Have students sketch outlines of their scenes on drawing paper. Then have them think about words they might use to describe that view. For example, for a city view they might chose words like these: busy, crowded, energetic, dynamic, noisy, exciting. Suggest that they search through newspapers and magazines for those and other words and cut them out. When they have enough, have them fill in all or part of the scene by pasting the words in place.

    As an alternative, have students work in groups of two or three to brainstorm descriptive words, then write them in. Or they can also use the words to form an outline, then add details. These might include windows, people, and vehicles, which they can either draw or cut from a magazine and paste down.


Some students might choose to make a word portrait of a map of their town, city, or state. Have them add details, such as names and symbols of important places.

Students can share their word portraits by reading them aloud in a small group. Encourage them to then use some or all of those words in writing about where they live, as in a poem.

Search out poems or other works by local writers who have written about the area. Share that work with students. Some students might enjoy using those writers' lines to create a word portrait of his or her subject matter.

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