It seems like most ALTs rely only on flashcards to teach vocabulary. While they’re a great resource, they lack something fun and tactile for kids to interact with. This is especially true when teaching Kindergarten or early Elementary School lessons, where you need to be interesting as well as educational.
When I first started teaching Dinosaur Class, a full immersion Kindergarten that met for an hour every weekday, I knew I wanted the class to be less rote learning of words, and more exploration.
I was searching for animal clipart to help them, and was planning on making my own masks for the various animals that the students were learning, but as anyone who works at an eikaiwa knows, you have basically no time to prepare materials that are that involved.
I stumbled upon Masketeers, and was instantly sold. My eikaiwa didn’t want to spend the money to subscribe, of course, but if it saved me hours of Illustrator work I wouldn’t get paid for anyways, I figured it was totally worth the $27 to get everything.
It is the best $27 I have ever spent when it comes to lessons. Hands. Down.
I have used these masks for so many lessons, which the kids adored. First, I printed and laminated them, and made a simple headband (I will post a tutorial of that shortly) for the kids to wear for their “animal parade” they did for their parents, and teaching “I am a ____.”
Learning songs, like the Octopus Song (link forthcoming), is so much more fun with the masks for kids to each be a sea animal. Instead of on headbands, I taped them to some waribashi (wooden chopsticks, like you get in restaurants) so the kids could easily hold them and use them as puppets for the songs. I even had to request a mask of a tuna fish from the mask maker Ian, and he gladly made me the tuna lightning fast!
When not being worn, the masks make great classroom decorations, and can be taken down and placed around the room for run and touch games, saying “where is the giraffe?” and having all the kids run and touch the giraffe mask.
Teaching potentially abstract concepts such as big and small, or tall and short, these came in really handy as well. I would print out square cards with the cat mask in three different sizes (small, regular, and large) and have a student put them in order from big to small, or small to big. I would divide the whiteboard up into “big” and “small” sections, and have students tell me where a certain animal went.
When students were beginning to learn writing, the masks came in handy yet again. Using the black and white outlines, I made tags from the animals and had the students trace the animal name printed out using the Print Clearly font I recommended earlier.
I also shared them with a fellow teacher who was working with older students. He used the black and white outlines to have students write their very own version of “Brown Bear,” using their favorite animals and colors, and putting on a small performance for their parents!
These are a lot of projects I hope to put up here on this blog, but as you can see, there are a million and one ideas for using these masks, beyond simple wearing!
I hope this has inspired you to give some thought into how you can integrate interactive materials with your lessons, so they’re more enjoyable for both the students and you!