A Portrait of Self Through A Name

By Carroll Scott

 “Names have a mysterious transforming power. Like a ring on a finger, a name may at first seem merely accidental, committing you to nothing; but before you realize its magical power, it’s gotten under your skin, become part of you and your destiny.” -Stefan Zweig

 I wanted to look at a new take on a self-portrait. Looking more at a name rather than looking in the mirror. Your name is something used every day, whether it be by your peers, your family, or a new person you meet. Many people in the world share the same name. For instance, my name is shared with an actor named Carroll O’Connor. Although we share the same name, we are nothing alike. I wanted the children to create something of their self that is unique and stands for just that. They started with letter exploration to familiarize themselves with the letters of the alphabet. As they discovered the letters, they realized that other children had the same letters in their names, a connection they never knew was there.

Liam: Hey, Julian and Ethan have A’s like me!

Julian: R is for Rebecca! Seth has an S.

Liam: I made Ethan. Ethan, do you think You can write my name?

Carroll: Is there any other words you want to spell?

Liam: x-ray!

With a few explorations of letters and collaging they were ready to start self-portraits. The children chose a letter, or part of their name, that they felt represented themselves.  With the help of some glue and A LOT of glitter, children were able to see themselves through a letter of their name and notice that that was enough.                           

One child chose to do an individual page for each of his letters, each one being unique on its own. While using his sand name for reference, he went through every letter, which he spent most of one day and continuing to the next, finishing up. This child came in the morning of the first day not wanting to do an activity, but when collaging was offered, he reluctantly joined the table. To my surprise, he was automatically enthralled with the idea of creating a letter self-portrait.

J: Carroll, can I do every letter of my name or just the Y (referring to his last name)?

Carroll: You can do as many as you want for whichever letter you choose.

J:  EEEE, I’m so excited!

As I watched these children pick each jewel or piece of fabric to add to their collage, I could see that it was so much more than just slathering on glue and adding glitter. They were planning out the placement of each piece, looking closely at their work before placing it on the glue, using both critical and creative thinking. As they looked at their peers’ letters and noticed that they had a connection with another child they didn’t know was there, it sparked interest and enhanced their social development.

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