Clay Masks (Kindergarten + 1st Grade)

Lesson Plan by Amanda E. Gross
National Visual Art Standards: 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5
Cognitive, affective, & psychomotor skills
4 Sessions

Unit Title: Forms
Unit Goal: Some artists use detail and 3-dimensionality to give personality to human and animal forms.
Lesson Title: Clay Masks
Lesson Goals: Some mask artists exaggerate facial expressions to communicate emotion.

Lesson Objectives:  As a result of instruction, students will be able to:

  1. Create a mask portrait using air-dry clay, which shows facial detail.
  2. Choose an emotion and communicate it through an artwork.
  3. Understand how a “mask” is a “form,” and why air-dry clay is a 3D medium.
  4. Understand how masks function for various people and cultures.
  5. Work consistently, respectfully, and relatively independently.
  6. Critique their own and other students’ artwork respectfully and insightfully.

Vocabulary Words: form, emotion(s), clay / Model Magic, Play-Doh, mask, human face (eyes, chin, mouth, eyebrows, cheeks, nose, possibly ears and hair)

Visual References: 
Left to right: Manuel Jordan’s Makishi; Mask Characters of Zambia, printed and mounted images of Greek and theatrical masks, my own demonstration mask and Sharpie drawing. Additional resource: Gita Wolf, V. Geetha, & Anushka Ravishankar’s Masks and Performance with Everyday Materials.

Instructional Support Materials: Visual resources (listed above), dry erase board with markers or paper and Sharpie, my demonstration mask, chime or other method to bring students to attention.

Supplies: Paint, paintbrushes, cups of water, Model Magic (2 packs per student), wax paper, clay manipulation tools, Play-Doh, hand wipes, paper plates, paper towels, markers, crayons.

Assessment Strategies: Individual and group discussions, observation of work periods, final masks, final critique.

Evaluation criteria / evidence of success: 

    • Student is able to manipulate air-dry clay in a way that shows s/he was able to discern facial detail and decide which details will make the portrait personal.
    • Student makes meaningful decisions about facial exaggeration, portraying emotion through form and color.
    • Student perceives how 3D “form” is different from 2D.
    • Student can perceive and explain meaningful cultural functions of masks.
    • Student is able to rely on her/his own sense of portrait design, and observably undergoes a process of experimentation with the air-dry clay medium.
    • Student can evaluate artwork in terms of technique and the emotion another student may have tried to convey, and make meaningful comments to peers in a polite manner.

Class Progression:

Day 1: 
1. Motivation: Have students sit in a circle, and show them the visual resources.

  • Ask: Can anyone raise their hand and tell me what this is?
  • Explain how mask is a form.
  • Where have you seen a mask before? Why might a person wear a mask? (hide, protection, to make up a story around yourself, etc.) Who wears a mask? (doctors, superheroes, robbers, people at Halloween, many traditional
  • cultures such as Greek and Zambian, characters in plays, etc.)
  • Discuss some masks of cultural significance and how masks transform the wearer. What emotions do these masks convey? What emotions can you think of?
  • Students give examples of emotions, and then all students make the emotion; they see how emotions change their faces.

2. Introduce the lesson and the day’s steps.
3. Group question-and-answer about how to handle Play-Doh safely (Do we put it in our mouths? Do we throw it at our friends? Etc.)
4. Explore: Students go to their seats. Place a ball of Play-Doh before each student. Demonstrate how to make the following, as students follow along:

  • A ball
  • A pancake
  • A ball transformed to a pancake, with hole (this is how students will make the eyes in their masks)
  • A ball transformed into a cube
  • A snake: challenge students Who can make the longest snake?

Day 2:
1.Motivation: Review what happened in the last class.
2. Show visual resources again, including demonstration mask; ask What parts of my face did I include in my mask?
3. Have students look at each other’s faces; What parts do our faces have that we should include in our masks? Students point to parts of their faces as they name the parts. As student name parts, sketch them onto a piece of paper or whiteboard.
4. Discuss and model emotions: What emotion did I show in my mask? How can you tell? Who can tell me an emotion? Make that emotion. Let’s all make it. What changes on our face when we make that emotion?
5. Explain how students will make their masks. Explain what students will do once they get to their seats.
5. Group question-and-answer of how to handle Model Magic safely.
6. Explore: Students form their masks; instruct them to do the following:

  • Open the Model Magic packs and mush the contents of both packs together.
  • Divide into a bigger ball (to make pancake) and small ball (push this ball away for now).
  • Make a pancake, put the pancake on your face, and push in around the nose
  • Using a clay manipulation tool, make two holes for your eyes.
  • Make a mouth. What emotion are you going for?
  • Using the smaller ball, make whatever else that you want, to make it look like you: cheeks, eye brows, hair, etc.

7. The masks are done! Time for them to dry. Consider placing them on paper plates, labeled with students’ names.

Day 3:
1.Motivation: Review; Can anyone tell me what we did last class?
2. Review colors (warm versus cool, dark versus light) and emotions. Colors can also relate to emotions. Can anyone give me an example of a color that relates to an emotion? Students raise their hands and give examples.
3. Review paint safety and handling: Do we splatter paint? Do we get the colors all muddy? Explain how to mix two colors on the wax paper “palette.”
4. Explore: Students paint their masks, attempting to cover all white spots. Students attempt to use colors that relate to chosen emotions
or make realistic colors (orange, brown, etc. together with plenty of water).

Day 4:
1. Motivation: Review; Can anyone tell me what we did last class?
2. Discuss how students can add detail and designs to their masks, and how the end-of-class critique will work.
3. Explore: Students add detail and designs to their masks with marker or crayons.
4. Reflection: Critique: Have students stand or sit in a circle. Each student presents her/his mask and says which emotion they attempted to convey. Encourage students to tell about what they like about their own or peers’ masks


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