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A Symbol of Myself


  • Language Arts


  • 3-5
  • 6-8

Brief Description

Hands-on activity challenges students to create a “symbol of myself.”


Students will
  • reflect on their unique selves.
  • create a clay "symbol" that represents themselves.
  • write an explanation that tells about the symbol and why they chose it.


icebreakers, self-esteem, team, team building, getting to know you, writing

Materials Needed

  • modeling clay (Option: see recipes below)
  • lined 3- x 5-inch index card
  • newspaper
  • pencil
  • paper clips and other tools (optional)

The Lesson

In this activity, students use clay to form a symbol of themselves. Some of the students' symbols wind up being very concrete, and some might be surprisingly abstract. This is a nice getting-to-know-you activity. It is also a good opportunity for a first writing assessment. In addition, the symbols make a great display/conversation pieces for back-to-school open house night. Students might put their symbols on their desks; parents can wander the display in search of their child's symbol and desk.

To begin the lesson, discuss with students the meaning of the term "symbol." Ask, What is a symbol? Can you give some examples of symbols? What are some symbols that are often used to represent the United States (or your home country)? (the eagle, our flag, the White House) What symbols might be used to represent your state? your school?

Then challenge students to consider what kind of symbol might represent themselves. To model the thought process, you might share a symbol you would use to represent yourself. For example,

  • a baseball might represent your passion for playing and watching the game;
  • an ear might represent that you think your ability to listen to people is one of your best personal qualities;
  • a measuring cup might represent your favorite pastime -- cooking;
  • a rocking chair might represent your love of family (the chair has been passed down from generation to generation); or
  • a bird might represent your love of nature.

If you teach older students, you might introduce the idea that some symbols are very concrete (the baseball, for example), some are a little more abstract (the ear, for example), and some might be very abstract (a sun with rays -- each ray representing a different aspect of your life, for example).

After students have had a chance to consider the things they might use as symbols of themselves, provide them with modeling clay so they can create that symbol. [You might have students make their own clay. See the clay recipes listed at the bottom of this activity.]

Once students have created their symbols, ask them to write at least three sentences telling why they chose the symbol to represent themselves. When those sentences have been edited, they can write the text on the index card. Set the index card next to each clay symbol in a classroom display.

When students have completed their symbols, each student might have the opportunity to share it with the class. This is a nice chance for each student to share something about her or himself and to feel comfortable about getting up in front of the class.

Clay Recipes
Play Clay Recipes
Preschool Clay Recipes: Cooked
Preschool Clay Recipes: Uncooked
Recipes for Clay and Playdough
Art Recipes: Clay, Goo, and Other Compounds

Tips for Creating Clay Symbols

  • Cover desks with newspaper so the clay does not get all over the desks.
  • Tools such as pencil tips and paper clips can be used to create detail on the students' symbols.


Since this is an early-in-the-school-year activity, keep the writing sample for future reference. Include it with later-in-the-year samples to illustrate students' writing progress. This activity also offers an informal activity for assessing students concrete vs. abstract thinking skills.

Submitted By

Tammy Buehler, Forest Park Elementary School in O'Fallon, Missouri

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Copyright © 2008 Education World

Originally published 09/17/2004
Last updated 07/14/2010