One of my favorite things in teaching is to prove the students wrong when they don't feel like they can do something. The unanimous "I can't draw myself!" response to the introduction of this project simply led to my excitement about the final outcome.
I began by taking a digital picture of each student (probably the largest struggle seeing as these are seventh graders). I then printed each photo as a full black and white page on the printer at school.
Each student was advised to cut their photo vertically, but zig zags and curves were just fine. They chose one half and glued it to a piece of drawing paper.
I did a short demonstration on drawing what we see instead of what we think we should see, emphasizing that they really look at the details of the photo. Too often we think we already know what something looks like, but one of the best ways to be better at drawing is to be better at observing!
After the basic outlines were done we discussed shading and the fact that gray is not just one color. It may feel funny to color shadows under your eyes, but it makes you look more like you!
The students went to work and had excellent results, even surprising themselves.