Wednesday, September 21, 2011

4th grade Marvelous Masks

I bookmarked this lesson from a post at Fun Arts 4 Kids last spring, and I'm so glad I did! I used Lori's idea, but made a few changes to suit me and my students.

At the end of the school year in June, my scrap box was full, and I just could not bring myself to toss it away. Then a retiring kindergarten teacher passed on a pile of cut up paper, and someone else brought me their faded bulletin board paper. It was this excess of paper, plus the great lesson idea, and a great bunch of kids that led me to set this paper aside until now. Here are some individual views of the masks and some more explanation of the process.

I'm not sure the photos do the masks justice. They are HUGE. We started with 18x24" tag, folded in 1/2 and cut to make a chin shape as desired. Then the rules were simple. The mask was to be symmetrical, and was to use warm colors or cool colors. As the masks got finished, some kids asked to deviate from the colors they had chosen, and I let them expand. It looks like a lot of these kids chose warm colors, but these are only 1/2 the masks - the rest will be completed tomorrow and I think there's lots of cool colors in this next batch.

The kids used big foam brushes and watered down Elmer's glue to cover the face with assorted scraps of construction and tissue paper, painting under and over with the glue mix. As a result, the masks feel quite stiff and sturdy. We did this for 2 class periods, and in the 3rd class, the kids used regular Elmer's glue to add smaller details, and then slit and stapled the masks to make them pop out. It's hard to see this in the photos. I gave very little instruction and let them figure a lot out for themselves.

Somehow, it seems the pile of scraps has gotten bigger instead of smaller. How did that happen? Yesterday some girls in the aftercare program came to the art room and sorted it into 3 large cartons: tissue paper, paper in rectangles and strips, and the colorful scrappy mess box.

I'm sure there will be some other grades who will be jealous that THEY didn't get to make these masks, but I chose this group to do it because I knew they could handle the chaos. This is a special group of kids; I first noticed it in their unique responses to learning about Frank Lloyd Wright in 2nd grade, and they continued to amaze me last year with their "fauve fauves" - colorful paintings of African animals that I posted about here. So I knew they were the right group to tackle this project.

I must say, this lesson is not for the weak of heart. You need to know your kids really well and trust that they will be able to handle the chaos. I had to smile, earlier this evening, reading a good post by another art teacher about organization. She had the materials for each class/grade in a box lid, and it looked like it would work well, IF ONLY I USED STUFF SMALL ENOUGH to fit in a box lid. My art room yesterday, before the girls helped sort the paper, looked like a hurricane had torn through the place. One whole table was piled in mountains of scraps (no exaggeration here) and was therefore unusable for kids to sit at, and my counter was piled with a big box of cut up painted paper for another 3rd grade, as well as trays of yarn, buttons, and sequins they were also using; also oil pastels, scissors big and small, bottles of 2 kinds of glue, a big bucket of glue/water mix, soggy foam brushes, and of course the stuff that SHOULD be on the counter, like the paper cutter, the CD player, a bucket of Sharpies, the 6th grade to-be-graded box full of passports.... you get the idea. I think a 1st year teacher might have gone into hiding, or picked another career. I have a couple of college students who will be coming in for some observation time and I hope the chaos doesn't scare them off. A few box lids would have been like putting a band-aid on an explosion.

I guess, when it comes to art with kids, I subscribe to the "go big or go home" philosophy. Thank goodness no administrator stepped foot in my room any time yesterday. By the time I left for home at 6:30pm (way too late, I know) it was starting to look a little less frightening.

I can tell you, the 4th graders LOVED making these masks, helped each other, and scrubbed every inch of glue off the tables at the end of each art class. (We did not cover the tables; the masks were so big and the tables so crowded that a layer of newspaper underneath would have just made it worse, I think.) Thanks, Lori, for the inspiration for this project. Now will someone PLEASE tell me what to do with these giant cartons of scraps?!!


  1. Go big or go home... :) Cool project.

  2. Yeah! I love them! Great work to you and your students!
    Lori from Funart4kids!

  3. These are just terrific. You really had a varied stash of papers for kids to use. I love that the masks are so different from each other!!

  4. WWWWWWWWWWWOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I want to do this!!!!!!!!

  5. I have taken to using large sheets of butcher paper to cover my tables which can be rolled or folded and reused many times like a table cloth. Works better than layering newspaper.

  6. Thanks for the comments, ladies. The kids really enjoyed the project and they are making a big hit in the hall. I hung the next batch up today! I filled up mine, and I'm taking over everyone else's bulletin boards. ;D

    @Artteacher: I actually think we were better off without a table covering. Since we were using wet sloppy watery Elmers with big fat brushes, I think the masks would have all stuck to any sort of paper table covering. The kids actually love washing the tables. I have lots of sponges, plus a whole bunch of $1 store scrubbers, and it only took a minute or two to get the tables all clean. The brushes cleaned out real easily.