Silhouette Portraits

UDL 3.3

In Silhouettes, students create an outline of an image that represents a topic or subject and fill the center of it with relevant drawings, images, and words. When assigning Silhouettes, the teacher provides guidelines for the type of content the students are expected to display in their work. Teachers can ask students to fill Silhouettes with symbolic representations of themes and motivations as well as facts and significant events. Teachers can use Silhouettes to showcase key facts about individual students, story characters, historical figures, countries, and many other areas of study. This strategy allows students to visually and kinesthetically process content, helping students make connections between key concepts, symbols, and ideas.

Implementation Tips

Creating Silhouettes
Provide pre-made Silhouette templates as a modification to support students that have difficulty creating a given outline to represent a topic (e.g., face, animals, states or countries, action sports). Search online for free websites such as [[|]] to find easy to trace, copy, or print silhouettes.
Pre-Teach the purpose and expectations for creating a Silhouette through modeling. Use think alouds and voice overs to demonstrate your decision-making process while making an outline, generating ideas, and representing those ideas (e.g., both literal and abstract representations).
Different Implementations of Silhouettes
Implement Silhouettes as a self portrait activity, a method for students to present research information, or as a means to monitor comprehension (e.g., using Silhouettes to analyze a character). Students can also be directed to break a Silhouette into [[ | sections ]] to organize the information presented.
Allow students to draw, write, or use outside images (e.g., using clippings from old magazines, stickers, images printed from the internet, actual photographs) to represent their thinking about the featured topic.
Group Share
Host a group share after students create Silhouettes to create a forum where students can learn from one another’s insights. Students are expected to verbally describe their creations to the class or a small group. After, all Silhouettes are displayed for students to analyze more deeply (i.e., a Gallery Walk).


Close Reading Activity
To analyze the characters in a read aloud, a teacher places students into groups to create Silhouettes. Each group is provided with a Silhouette of a different character and students work together to decide how to represent their character (e.g., recording traits, thoughts, words, feelings and emotions, influences). Through this collaboration, students share their character analysis and as they listen to others, they confirm their understanding or grow new insights. Once groups are finished, the class meets to conduct a group share. After, the class then uses the group Silhouettes to compare and contrast the characters.
Generating Writing Ideas
In the beginning of the school year, a teacher asks students to create “personal” Silhouettes. With students seated on the rug, the teacher tells students, “Please include words or drawings to represent anything that is meaningful to you, special talents you might have, or your accomplishments. There is no limit as to how much you can include!” Students turn and talk with a partner, generating at least three ideas. Next, students are transitioned back to their seats to make their creations. Completed Silhouettes “live” in student writing folders and students refer to them when they need a writing idea.
Emotional Inventory
When a student is unable to verbally express their needs or emotions, a teacher uses the Silhouette strategy to provide the student with a means to visually represent their thinking. The teacher presents the student with Silhouette templates (e.g., an outline of a brain for needs/an outline of a heart shape for emotions), reminds the student how each template can be used, and then provides the student with 3-5 minutes to write/draw. When the student’s need or feelings are identified, the teacher is able to take steps to assist.

Related Strategies