Day of the Dead Masks

Grade: 6

Materials: exemplars, printouts, pencils, erasers, colored pencils, sharpener, rulers, black Sharpie markers, paper, newspaper, paper cutter, paper towel, water, plastic containers, liquid glue, spatula, white acrylic paint, colored acrylic paints or paint markers, mask molds, plastic wrap.

Teacher Prep: Familiarize self with Engage NY EL Protocols, prepare artifacts, Day of the Dead PowerPoint, print template pages, gather materials, cut newspaper strips, prep papier-mâché mixture. You will need A LOT of newspaper. I reach out to local businesses and ask parents to bring in newspaper all year in order to have enough for students.

Day 1: Have students complete gallery walk using template from my Teachers Pay Teachers page. I have students grab clipboards that we received from Donorschoose.org and explain directions. Students understand that they are to travel around the classroom to look at different artifacts (that are numbered). The artifacts consist of six photograph images that are similar/related to the images in the Power Point presentation you can download on my TPT page. Tip: Laminate your photos so that they can be reused year after year! I love my Amazon Basics laminator. You can find the link here.

The activity is silent and students have approximately two minutes at each station. While they are completing the gallery walk, I play themed music (Coco & The Book of Life Soundtracks are great!)

Once students have independently completed the gallery walk, I have them return to their seats are share with a partner or table for two minutes (turn and talk EL Protocol). Have students share out what they have discussed, popcorn style. Introduce lesson plan with Power Point. Hand out oval mask templates and have students create a draft sketch of what their mask will look like.

Day 2: Demonstrate how to use papier-mâché. Pass out mask molds and use plastic wrap to cover mask faces so that the newspaper does not stick to the plastic face mold, and they will come off easily once dried. I make the papier-mâché mix prior to the students arriving, and use these black commercial bins. Each table gets one bin and this seems to be working better than other ways I have tried in the past. Since I have about 30 students per class, I use almost 3/4 of a bottle of glue for two classes each day to make enough papier-mâché.

Leave the masks to dry overnight. Since I have several classes completing the assignment at once, I remove the masks from the mold at the start of the following day. I trim the edges of the masks and write the students’ names and class name on the inside of the mask with a thick Sharpie. Some masks will still be wet, so I leave them in the cabinet to dry completely until the next time I see the class.

Masks left to dry overnight

Day 3: Have students use white acrylic paint to add 1-2 coats. Allow to dry overnight. My favorite to use is the Blockout White from Dick Blick.

Day 4-5: Students will begin painting their masks. I suggest that my students use pencil to draw their design right on the mask first before using colored paint. In the past, I have used liquid acrylic paints, but recently switched to Decocolor paint markers for this year and the results have been AMAZING!

Day 6-7: Time to decorate! I give my students options of many different craft items to use to decorate their masks from glitter glue pens, feathers, beads, tissue paper, pipe cleaners, wire, etc. Part of the assignment’s requirements is that students must add a 3-dimensional object to their masks.

Day 8: Make revisions, and fill out self assessment rubrics. When students complete rubrics, they can work on word searches or create papel-picado.

Sign for bulletin board display

Sub Plans: I typically will leave the dvds for Coco and The Book of Life, with question worksheets.

Alternative Assignments: This year I have some students with severe allergies, and they would not be able to be around the glues and paints used. I have a few alternative assignments that can be done in an alternate setting using very few materials (computer, crayons, scissors, tissue paper).

Early Finisher Assignments: Here are some great resources that I have pinned on Pinterest, packet resources, worksheets,


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