A fun activity to encourage extension and development of vocabulary.

Most masks offer an alter ego to the world: wild, wonderful, magical, fearsome and at times angelic. Our face can be a mask that we use to present a view we wish others to see.

Producing a ‘self-portrait’ mask based on a close look at your pupils’ memories and visual lexicon will reveal ‘inside’ self-portraits. Ask your children to close their eyes and very carefully touch their face and hair, letting ideas just flow into their minds as they wander with their fingertips across their hair, forehead, ears, cheeks, nose, chin and all the other areas of their face. When they are doing the ‘looking’ with their fingertips, ask them what they are reminded of as they ‘read’ their face. Do their closed eyes remind them of mushrooms, their nose of a mountain or a rocket?

When they have finished this, discuss with the children about how sometimes we ‘see’ and empathise by touch and memory. Ask them to quickly sketch a word-image portrait of themselves based on their touch pictures.

The challenge is for them to then make their mask. If their hair reminds them of a hare then they will need to draw and cut out a hare. If their ears remind them of caves or shells then they should draw and cut out the respective shapes. When all areas of the face have been covered help them join together all the different images and shapes to form a portrait mask. The masks can be made out of simple, available materials such as card joined with tape and string to hold them in place.

While this is fun in itself it also encourages an extension and development of vocabulary; offers an insight to empathy and understanding of the richness of their view of the world and how others see the same world they share with us.

To extend and enrich this activity ask your children to consider what they like to hear, eat, say, touch and so forth with different parts of their face and head. The smells of bread, the sound of laughter, the splash of water against the skin are typical of the ideas that children will produce. This time the mask can be made up of drawings and pictures of the items discussed so that the eyes are perhaps replaced by TV screens and a drawing of the child’s friends or a book and some flowers. In this way a picture of the child in the fullest sense is revealed to others as well as to the individual child.

Thanks to John Senior for this activity.

First published in Primary G&T Update, October 2006