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Home » Blog » Writing & Language » Writing Instruction » Biography Writing With Watercolor Portraits

Biography Writing With Watercolor Portraits

Literacy, Writing & Language, Writing Instruction, Writing Projects

Written by: Angie Olson
Watercolor portraits and student biographies
One of my favorite projects my students do are watercolor portraits.  We pair them up with our biographies writing unit and the parents always love how they turn out.  This post outlines how we create the watercolor portraits along with a free template of the questions we use for the student biographies.
1.  Give each student a piece of cardstock or tagboard paper.
2.  Instruct them to draw an oval that almost fills the entire space.  I did this in front of them as a guide.
3.   Write a list of MUST HAVES:  hair, eye brows, eyes, nose, mouth, ears, neck, and shirt.  Then encourage them to add anything that might make their self-portrait unique to them:  freckles, glasses, hair bows, head bands, earrings, and shirt design.
4.  Once their pencil job is complete, demonstrate how to use watercolor paints to add color to their self-portrait.  Then give them plenty of time to do this task, instructing them to fill all the white paper with color.
5.  The next day, I gave each child a permanent black marker (I encourage a class set of these) and showed them how to trace over all of their pencil lines.  This makes the project pop.  Make sure watercolor paint is dry before doing this step.
6.  Last, have your students cut out their self-portrait.  Make sure to have clear tape available for when they snip off hair, ears, etc.
7.  When it was time to display these for the parents, we taped a ruler to the back of the project to keep the project from falling over.  On the students’ desk they had a writing assignment where they wrote about what they were thankful for and why since it was close to the Thanksgiving holiday.
I am often asked what my students are writing about to accompany their watercolor portraits and although we’ve done a few different projects, my favorite are student biographies.  I provide my students with a partner and a list of questions to get started.
You can download the free Student Biography Interview Questions here! This freebie features 11 questions to get students started on their biography interview.
I also use this graphic organizer to help kids organize their writing before they start: 

Use the image below to pin to your Pinterest boards for future reference.


  1. Teaching Autism

    Ah they look so fab! Love them!

    Teaching Autism

  2. Lauren Duris

    This is SO cute! I want to do them with my firsties before conferences in October!
    Flipping into First

  3. Kim

    I love these! And this post cracks me up… especially "having tape available for when they snip off hair, ears, etc." That's proof that you really are a teacher–and a good one! 🙂 Thanks for the tips!

    Finding JOY in 6th Grade

  4. 20pearls5

    Wonderful idea. Thanks for posting.

  5. samsid03

    I LOVE this project and can't wait to try it!!! 🙂 First a couple of questions.

    1. What size tag board did you use? 11 x 14?
    2. Just regular crayola water paint trays, like you buy at walmart?

    Thanks so much!


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Welcome, I’m Angie!

Hello there! I’m Angie Olson- a teacher, curriculum developer, educational blogger and owner of Lucky Little Learners.

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