To begin this project I began by showing my 4th graders a powerpoint that I put together that explored the totem poles created by the Pacific Northwest Native Americans. We talked about how the totem poles were typically stylized images of animals that often represented people, events, or even whole communities! We also talked about how animals often have associated human characteristics - for example a dog is loyal, an owl is wise, a fox is sly, etc.
After viewing the powerpoint, I had students figure out which animal they thought best represented themselves and practice sketching stylized versions of it on a worksheet I created. I emphasized repeatedly that students should avoid just drawing the outline of their animal, and instead just use the shape of the posterboard itself as the body (this took A LOT of reinforcement for some students). Once students were pleased with their sketch, they were given a piece of 14"x12" white posterboard and redrew their animal onto the board in pencil. This was then traced over in black sharpie. Once the drawing was completed, students used tempera paint to add color to their animals. Once the painting was finished, I used strips of posterboard stapled to the back of their boards to make their pieces 3-dimensional. Students that finished early had the opportunity to use construction paper to add more detail.