This was a short project that went really with my middle school ESL class so I thought I’d share the idea with you. My students were able to come up with three products in one activity: a mind map, a self-portrait and an essay. The unit topic was about “Identity” or “Personality” but I guess this will work for general descriptive adjectives lesson as well. 


  • To teach students about adjectives describing themselves
  • To encourage students to think about their talents, abilities and what they like about themselves
  • To help students write a short essay centered on the topic “Who Am I?”


  • A3 paper
  • coloring pens
  • notebook (for writing their draft)

Mind Map: Identity Bubbles

First, I asked my students to create an Identity Mind Map by reflecting on the question “What makes you “you”? Mind maps are used to present related pieces of information, such as appearance and personality, in organized and visually-appealing ways. By creating a web of their identity, students had a road map for the succeeding activities.

We started with a topic in the middle called “My Identity” and then proceeded with keywords that branch off the main idea such as appearance, personality, interests, beliefs, culture and so on. Students then come up with more words that branch off the subtopics, e.g., appearance –> black hair, tall, round face; personality –> cheerful, outgoing, hardworking. 

Identity bubble could look something like this:


In this part of the project, students drew themselves using symbols, icons or illustration that represent themselves. I encourage them to glean from their Identity Mind Map for inspiration. By doing this, students were able to express who they are in a creative way.

descriptive adjectives project

I understand that not everybody can draw well so I gave students different options to achieve the same end. Some students used technology to create their self-portrait while others cut out words and images from magazine and newspaper!

I allowed my students to use personal devices to make a collage of their identity.
Made of cut outs from magazines and newspaper.

“Who AM I?”

The last part of the project was to write an essay revolving the topic “Who Am I?” Needless to say, the mind map and self-portrait helped students a lot in writing their essay! Students did not find this part difficult at all nor did they have a writer’s block because they already had ideas on what to write about! 

The final output with all the three elements together looked like this:

self portrait ideas

You can download my simple PowerPoint presentation and project rubric TpT or TES. It’s free!

What do you think of this activity? Let us know in the comments!

Author: Melchor Bernardo

Students call me Teacher Mel. After quitting law school, I moved to Vietnam to be with my first love – teaching English! This website is a bit of a copy of my teaching styles and philosophy. I live by the words of Benjamin Franklin: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

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One comment on “Self-Portrait Ideas for ESL Students

  1. Hamid Bouadou on said:

    I find the idea very inspiring thanks so much for sharing

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