Open-Mind Portraits

Strategy #26

What are they?

Open-mind portraits create an opportunity for a student to reflect on a character and think about different events in the story from the character's viewpoint. These "portraits" consist of two parts: the character's face on top, and then several "thinking" pages where the students portray what the character might be thinking at various points of the story. Therefore, as students draw open-mind portraits, they are visually representing characters and their thoughts.

Why use this instructional strategy?

  • Powerful way to examine characters
  • Students must review story events and analyze theme as they contemplate the character's feelings- therefore clarifies and reinforces learning
  • Focuses on comprehension
  • Hands-on
  • Visual
  • Can improve writing skills
  • Also builds their vocabulary
  • Can also make the character more relatable

Step by Step Instructions

  1. Make a portrait of the character. Students select a character from the story they're reading, and then they draw and color a picture of the head and neck of that character.
  2. Cut out the portrait and thinking pages. Students cut out the portrait and attach it on top of several more sheets of drawing paper.
  3. Design the thinking pages. Students lift the portrait and draw and write about the character's thoughts on the "thinking pages." These portray the character's thoughts or feelings at key points in the story.
  4. Share the completed open-mind portraits. Students share their open-minded portraits with the class and discuss the words and pictures they chose to include on the thinking pages.

When to Use this Strategy

Common Core Standards

  • Students comprehend grade-appropriate literature
  • Students analyze a character, drawing on specific details in the text
  • Students explain how a series of characters fit together to provide the overall structure of a story.


  • McLaughlin, M., & Allen, M.B. (2001). Guided Comprehension: A teaching Model for Grades 3-8. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
  • Paquette, K.R., & Fello, S.E. (2010). Using open-mind portraits as a springboard to expository writing. Childhood Education, 86, 234-240.
  • Tompkins, G. E. (2010). Literacy for the 21st Century (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon/Pearson.