Laissez les bons temps (et leçons) rouler!

Fat Tuesday was not a part of my upbringing, but the spirit of letting "les bon temps" roll was certainly something my parents encouraged--our version was a saucepan and wooden spoon parade around the house while singing "We are marching to Pretoria." Even now, when I feel especially festive, I let my inner 6-year old hum those two lines. (I only just found out that there are lyrics beyond "We are marching to Pretoria-Pretoria-Pretoria. We are marching to Pretoria-Pre-tory-ory-AH!"  Thank you Wikipedia.)  

These days I live in a more diverse universe--both real and virtual, and Fat Tuesday ventures into my field of vision annually. There are beads and masks at my drugstore as well as my friends' jubilant and madcap FB announcements and photos. I especially like the masks, and I know I am not alone in this. So,  I thought this month's blog could focus on a few
mask idées which I hope will inspire some bons temps with your learners.

 Faces of Diversity Jose Manuel Ribeiro / Reuters

Show students any of the images of mask collections from google docs--this one for example:Share

• Ask about the types of masks they see in the photo and the types of masks they have worn or seen.   
• Have learners categorize the mask images by emotion, rate their appeal or craftsmanship, or come up with one sentence that someone wearing one of the masks would say.

For your intermediate-level learners, show this 9-minute documentary "Behind the Mask"  in segments, asking learners to listen for specific information in each segment (See sample time frames and questions below) 
Segment 1- 00:00 to 1:49

How old is the oldest mask we know about?

Where is the picture of that mask?

How old is the Balinese mask tradition?

What did ancient people believe about masks?

Segment 2- 1:50-3:59

How did masks help actors in the Greek theater?

How did Comedia del Arte actors use masks? 

Segment 3- 4:00 – 6:19

How did you feel when you saw the actor in the lion mask?

One speaker says masks are “stepping into another person’s shoes.” Is that a good thing to do? Why or why not?

Which masks do you remember from this part of the documentary?

How is making a mask different from wearing a mask?

Segment 4- 6:20 – end

One speaker talks about masks allowing us to have fun in public.  

What are the pluses and minuses of “having fun in public”?

How does a mask help a person have fun in public? 
Based on your lesson theme, come up with a scenario for a roleplay. For example; if students are working on giving opinions and talking about healthy life choices, you could set the roleplay in a workplace breakroom, and have groups of learners develop a role play based on a situation that occurs when someone brings a birthday cake to work. Some workers are upset because they don't want to eat sweets, but several workers like snacks at work.
Next have the groups determine the personalities of each person in the role play and decide what those people look like. Distribute markers, paper plates cut in half, craft store half masks, or stiff card stock cut in large half circles, glue sticks and other craft items for groups to use in creating masks that represent the different personalities they've decided on. (Because you want to be able to hear the "actors" in their role plays, it's probably best to create masks that only cover the upper half of the face, leaving the mouth exposed.)
Have learners put on their masks and practice their role plays. Give groups the opportunity to perform their role play for at least one other group if not the whole class. Be sure to get feedback from the class about how they felt using the masks. 
Use masks to play "hot seat"- the activity where one person sits at the front answering the class' questions. These questions may be printed on sentence strips or cards or may be generated by the learners. In this version of the activity, the student who volunteers to be "on the hot seat" is given a choice of printed masks of famous people. The class then addresses the learner as the person on the mask. E.g. "Mr. Lincoln, what's your favorite color?" (Note, "Mr. Lincoln" tries to give answers that make sense based on what everyone in the class knows about him.)
Fat Tuesday will have been and gone by the time most of you read this--and Halloween is not for months yet-- but wouldn't you agree that masks can be the source of some truly lighthearted learning anytime? How have you used masks in your teaching?
(1) The Asian mask collection at Lisbon's new Museu do Oriente
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