When we introduce a story in the classroom, we like to give students the opportunity to retell it. There are lots of ways to approach this, and storytelling masks add easy drama to readers theater, tableaux vivants, dramatic play, or dramatic retellings.
Getting the masks
In the photo above you can see Jan Brett’s beautiful masks for her book The Hat . Download them for free at Jan Brett’s site. You’ll also find masks for The Umbrella, The Mitten , Gingerbread Baby, and Town Mouse, Country Mouse.
Cut them out, glue on a craft stick, and you’re set.
There are other sites with free printable story masks, such as Childcare & Beyond, the PBS Arthur mask page, and Crayola’s mask collection. We link to these at particular story lesson plans when we find a good one at a safe site, but the whole “free printables” neighborhood online is riddled with spammy and even dangerous-to-your-computer sites, so this isn’t our first choice. Plus, printing the masks out, coloring them, copying them, and cutting them is usually not the most cost-effective approach for us (Jan Brett actually sent us some, and hers are worth the trouble). We like having kids make their own with paper plates, or choosing ready-made options for the classroom drama props collection. If you want to add masks as an art project, check out Making Masks.
Scholastic makes a whole series of storytelling masks, such as their Little Red Riding Hood Fairy Tale Masks and Goldilocks and the Three Bears Fairy Tale Masks. (Child’s Play Library) has a series of storytelling masks with scripts, including The Princess and the Dragon: Character Masks and Play Script.
Foam Animal Face Masks are designed to be held on with yarn or string tied behind the child’s head. This requires less manual dexterity, though some kids dislike having this type of masks on their faces.
For the youngest kids, headbands can be a better choice. Make a headband from bulletin board trimmer or sentence strips, staple on an appropriate cutout, and you’re set. Making Learning Fun has printable examples for The Very Busy Spider.
Using the masks
Once you have some masks, you have plenty of options for using them in class:
- Use them when you read the story aloud. Hold up the mask for the character who is speaking.
- Use them to work on point of view. Have a student hold the Little Red Hen’s mask and explain how the Little Red Hen felt, and then have another student use the Cat’s mask to express the Cat’s viewpoint.
- Have students wear them for tableaux vivants: students stand still in a scene from a story as the scene is read or told.
- Use them for reader’s theater or extemporaneous acting out of the story.
- As a class, write a play script and use the masks for the performance.