/educators/lessons/grade-k-2/Masks_and_Aesops_Fables

ARTSEDGE Lessons for Elementary School

Masks and Aesop's Fables

Aesop's fables are over 2,600 years old, but the stories—and their morals—are still relevant today. In this lesson, students will learn a fable, make simple masks, and retell the fable as part of a Greek chorus using masks.

Overview

Key Staff

A regular classroom teacher with an aide can do this lesson.

Key Skills

Developing Arts Literacies: Understanding Genres
Making Art: Performance Skills and Techniques
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture, Connecting with Other Arts

Summary

This multi-media visual and language arts lesson offers intellectual, creative, and interpretive opportunities through use of books, music and the internet. By listening to and/or reading Aesop’s time honored tales, students will develop insights to human nature and make a connection between ancient Greek culture and their own contemporary culture. Working with art materials to create a mask, which they will use, enables students to personalize these lessons as well as develop design and build skills. Performing the fables with their creations will empower them to engage an audience.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Listen to or read a variety of Aesop’s fables.
  • Create a comedy and tragedy mask.
  • Act out fables as part of a Greed chorus.
  • Modify a mask with color and decorations to characterize an Aesop character.
  • Identify and describe in writing the Aesop character on the mask.
  • Work in collaboration with other students.
  • Be able to comprehend vocabulary, plot and moral of some Aesop’s fables.

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Demonstration
  • Hands-On Learning
  • Role Playing
  • Reflection
  • Group or Individual Instruction

Preparation

What You'll Need

Materials
Resources
Technology Notes

If using music, have the music segments pre cued.

Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Session 1

  • Have vocabulary on board and handouts for students
  • Pre make a paper plate mask (K-1) and have available for lesson
  • Pre make a cardboard mask (2-3) and have available for lesson
  • Go to Aesop’s Fables Online Exhibit for the full text of "The Hare and The Tortoise.")
  • Print copies of Aesop’s fables

Session 2:

  • Pre- make a paper plate mask (K-1)
  • Pre- make a cardboard mask (2-3)
  • Pre-make MASK STEPS SAMPLES for masks (K-1) and (2-3)
  • Refer to lesson plans for session 2

Session 3:

  • Have vocabulary on board
  • Have student’s completed masks available
  • Have music selected and cued (optional)

Prior Student Knowledge

Knowledge of the fable of the Tortoise and the Hare

Physical Space

Classroom

Grouping

  • Large Group Instruction
  • Small Group Instruction

Staging

Session 1: Regular classroom set up
Session 2: Arrange desks in small groups
Session 3: Have open area for students to perform their drama

Accessibility Notes

This lesson has not been adapted to address any specific individual student needs.

Instruction

Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Build Session 1
Apply Session 2
Reflect

Engage Session 1

1. Write the following vocabulary on the board and refer to them throughout the lesson.

  • Fable: a story, often short, that has a moral
  • Moral: lesson or truth learned from the fable
  • Comedy: a play in which everything turns out right for the characters
  • Tragedy: a play without a happy ending

2. Tell students that in ancient Greece, people often told stories to entertain and educate one another. Since most did not read, these stories were passed on through word of mouth or performed on stage.

3. Inform students that Aesop, a slave in ancient Greece, was a storyteller. His stories, called fables, were told for hundreds of years before people wrote them down. His fables were short tales that taught important truths about human nature. Aesop’s fables often use animal characters that behave like humans to teach a moral or lesson. (Refer to the ARTSEDGE Unit Fables to help students learn more about the literary form and/or write their own.)

4. Ask students about their personal experience with masks.

  • When have they ever worn or used a mask?
  • Why did they wear a mask?
  • How did it make them feel?
  • What was the reaction of other people when they wore their mask?

5. Explain to the students that masks were an important part of ancient Greek arts and culture. Actors used masks to help tell the stories. The masks reflected a type of character (old man, god, woman, etc.) The masks had exaggerated features so that audience members sitting far away could see and recognize the characters.

6. Show the students sample masks you or other students have made and demonstrate how they worked. The mouths on the masks were open to ensure that the actor’s voice could be heard. They also revealed the character’s emotion: comic masks had open-mouth smiles, while tragic masks had open-mouth frowns. The masks were made of linen or cork and fitted over the head. The actors themselves added color and hair to create more recognizable characters.

7. Explain that in Greek drama, a few actors portrayed all of the characters in the story. The actors switched masks to signal a change in the character portrayed. The actors and the chorus were all men. If there were female roles, they were played by men wearing masks. A chorus, consisting of a group of 12 or more men, was on stage with the actors. The chorus commented on the story and related off stage events through song, chant, and dance. The masks worn by the chorus were all identical.

Build Session 1

1. Ask students if they know the fable, "The Tortoise and the Hare." (Go to Aesop’s Fables Online Exhibit for the full text of "The Hare and The Tortoise.") Ask if anyone is familiar with the basic plot, characters, or moral of the story.

2. Read the fable to students. Instruct them to listen carefully, because they will be retelling the story in a few minutes.

3. After reading the fable ask students:

  • Who are the main characters in the story?
  • What was the problem in the story?
  • How does the story end?
  • What is the moral of the story?

4. Chart students’ answers using the Fable Plot Chart located within the Resource Carousel. Allow all students the opportunity to respond and explain their answers. Have students then sort out the answers that best match the story.

Apply Session 1

1. Have students sit in a circle for a round robin retelling of the fable. Begin with "Once upon a time there was a tortoise and a hare and…" Turn to the student to your right and have him/her continue the tale. Students may need prompting to keep on track. Dialogue may be added to keep the story interesting. (If the story ends without the whole class getting a turn, restart the fable.) Finish the retelling by repeating the moral of the fable.

2. Next have students demonstrate the facial expressions of the characters. What expression might the hare have had at the beginning of the fable? Would the hare's expression change at the end of the tale? Have students demonstrate. Repeat this exercise for the tortoise, showing the character’s expressions at the beginning and end of the fable. Have students do this with partners or, if possible, in front of a mirror. (You can buy inexpensive mirror tiles in any hardware or home improvement store.)

Engage Session 2

1. Briefly review the following from session 1:

  • Vocabulary words: fable, moral, comedy, tragedy
  • How ancient Greeks used stories to educate and entertain
  • Used masks to act out their stories
  • The tortoise and the hare fable

2. Hold up models of comedy and tragedy masks for students to see. Ask students the following questions:

  • Which do they think is the comedy mask?
  • Which do they think is the tragedy mask?
  • What type of character might use these masks?
  • Why the mouths are open on the masks?

Demonstrate how the masks are used.

Build Session 2

1. Discuss the artistic elements of the masks. Point out the lines, shapes, and colors that are used on each mask. Explain to the students how these artistic elements help create the characters and express their feelings. Give the following examples:

  • Line: explain that a dark outline can make facial features more visible from a distance
  • Shape: name the various shapes such as triangles, circles, etc. that may be used on each mask to make up facial features. For 2-3 masks point out how turning the eye and mouth shapes upside down change the expression from a happy face to a sad face.
  • Colors: explain that colors have feelings and moods associated with them. For example the warm colors: red, yellow, orange are sometimes used for happy feelings, while the cool colors: blue, green, and violet are often used for sad feelings.
  • Proportion: draw their attention to the size of the eyes and nose and mouth compared to the size of the mask. Note that the eyes are near the middle of the mask. (Children often place eyes way up on the forehead) and that the mouth is about as wide as the distance between the pupils. The ears are on the plane between the eyebrows and the bottom of the nose.

Apply Session 2

1. Display the pre made K-1 or 2-3 MASK STEPS SAMPLES (see resource box below).

2. Assign students or classroom aides to distribute materials to each student.

For K-1 only:

  • White paper plates (two per student)
  • Tongue depressors (two per student)
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • K-1 Smile and Frown Templates
  • Several strips of masking tape

For 2-3 only:

  • Cardboard from a box cut into 12"x 12" or 11"x 8" sections (two per student)
  • Netting or mesh cut into 6"x 6" sections (one per student)
  • Template of a diamond shape 3"x 2" or 3"x 4" (even if folded in half)
  • 2-3 Smile and Frown Templates
  • Dowel rod or paint stirring stick
  • Strips of masking tape
  • One small (3 oz./89mL) bathroom cup
  • Pointed scissors
  • Pencil
  • Paint brushes (one per student)
  • White, black, and multicolored poster or acrylic paint
  • Mixing tray
  • Bowl of water
  • Paper towel
  • Newspaper

3. Direct the student’s attention to the or MASK STEPS SAMPLES. Explain that they will be following those steps to create their masks.

4. Model the steps as the students make the masks. The final results are a plain comedy mask and a plain tragedy mask. Later, students will customize the mask for another Aesop character, adding color and hair just as the ancient Greek actors and chorus did.

For K-1 mask:

  • Take the small cup and place the bottom down side on the flat area of the paper plate. Hold it in place to the upper left and then the upper right to trace the eyes. Make sure that there is a space between the eyes. Do it for both plates.
  • Take the K-1 Smile template and place that on the center of the lower flat part of the plate and trace it.
  • On the other plate, take the K-1 Frown template and trace it on the lower part of the plate.
  • As soon as each student has traced all of the shapes, take a sharp scissors and pierce through each eye and mouth. This will give the students a good head start and guide to cut out the eyes and mouths.
  • When the cutting is complete, take the masking tape strips and attach the tongue depressors to the back.
  • Give students a few moments to play with the masks and to act out their characters.

For 2-3 mask:

  • Using a pencil draw an oval shape larger than a face on one of the pieces of cardboard. Do this for the second piece as well. Cut out the ovals and save the scraps.
  • Draw free hand eye shapes and smile on oval or trace 2-3 Smile Template onto oval.
  • As you see the tracings are completed, take a sharp scissors and pierce a hole through the eyes and mouths. This will get students started; and they can then cut the rest.
  • For the nose, take a piece of scrap cardboard and trace the diamond template onto it. Cut it out. Fold it in half evenly. Glue the two longest edges only and hold it in place for a few minutes to let it set. DO NOT OVER GLUE!
  • Using scrap cardboard, draw and cut out two small circles for ears. Using masking tape, attach part to the back of the oval. Be careful of the nose!
  • Take the netting or mesh and place it over the eyes and mouth. Trace around the spaces, making the mesh circles about a width of a finger larger than the spaces. Cut the material out. Glue around the edges of the openings and place the newly cut pieces ON TOP of the cardboard. DO NOT OVER GLUE!
  • Paint the mask white. Do not paint the netting or mesh. Once the white paint is dry, take a dry brush and apply black paint around the glued edges of the eyes and mouth. Let it dry.
  • Add the dowel or paint stirrer to the back of the mask. Affix it with masking tape.
  • Give the students a few moments to play with the masks and act out their characters

5. Divide the class in two groups, assigning one group to play the hare, the other the tortoise. Instruct students to customize the comedy and tragedy masks they made according to their characters features. They may want to make more than one mask if the character’s features change from comedy to tragedy or visa versa.

Alternatively, you could assign specific actors to take on the varied roles and have them adorn their masks for their parts.

For K-1 students

6. Distribute glue, colored markers, crayons, construction paper, and yarn. Students can use construction paper to add hair, beards, ears, manes, etc. Yarn can also become hair. Glue these on the back of the plate to peak out of the sides. Use the crayons or markers to fill in the white spaces.

7. Have students dictate the following information to you or an aide to put on an index card:

  • Student’s name
  • Title of the fable
  • Name of the selected character
  • Lesson the character taught or learned in the fable

For 2-3 students:

6. Distribute glue, paint, construction paper, and yarn. Students can use construction paper to add hair, beards, ears, manes, etc. Yarn can also become hair. Glue these on the back of the plate to peak out of the sides.

To make hair, the paper can be cut into strips and curled using the blunt edge of a scissors or by winding it tightly around a pencil. Glue the strips to the back of the mask. Do the same with the yarn, if used.

Paint the mask white. Do not paint the netting or mesh. Once the white paint is dry, take a dry brush and apply black paint around the glued edges of the eyes and mouth. Let it dry.

Add the dowel or paint stirrer to the back of the mask. Affix it with masking tape.

There are many ways to change the appearance of the mask. In addition to different colors, the ears can be changed to look more like an animal. The eyes can also be changed - take a piece of black construction paper and make two small circles. Glue them to the middle of the eye space.

7. After the masks have been altered, give each student an index card to record the following information:

  • Student’s name
  • Title of the fable
  • Name of the selected character
  • Lesson the character taught or learned in the fable

Engage Session 3

Theater games/exercises are a great way to involve students in a project, stimulate creativity, and loosen up students for the actual project.

1. Have students stand to find a "balloon space." To do this, tell students to pull an invisible balloon from behind the left ear and blow it up. Instruct students to inflate the imaginary balloon so that it is big enough for them to step inside their imaginary balloon. Have them check out the space above and below the balloon, then twist to the left and right. If any students are touching, they must shift until they are free to move within their space without coming into contact with others.

2. Remaining in their own "balloon space," ask students to portray three actions that tell the hare’s story. Perhaps the hare runs in place, takes a nap, and/or shows disappointment at his loss.

3. Practice the moves in sequence, as a group, for 15 seconds each.

4. Next, have students demonstrate three actions that portray the tortoise’s story. For example, students can walk in place slowly, walk in place in a determined way, and slowly jump in the air to show the excitement of the moment when he wins.

5. Again, practice the moves in sequence for 15 seconds each. After the movement activity is complete, students may quietly release the "air" out of the "balloon" and return to their seats. The "balloon" can be inflated as needed later in the lesson.

Music to introduce or play between scene changes in the drama. (see listed suggestions below) or use an instrumental piece from in-class or library collection.

  • Moody Blues, album: A Question of Balance, track: “Tortoise and the Hare.” This piece has an upbeat tempo.
  • BJ Dooley, album: The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay, track: “The Tortoise and the Hare for a New Age.” This is a folk song with a “new age” humorous twist on the familiar fable.
  • Aesop’s Fables, spoken word CD, read by Anton Lesser, Naxos Audio Books

You may wish to download the “The Tortoise and the Hare” and post it so that students can "read the room."

Build Session 3

1. Write the following vocabulary on the board and refer to them throughout the lesson.

  • Fable: a story, often short, that has a moral
  • Moral: lesson or truth learned from the fable
  • Comedy: a play in which everything turns out right for the characters
  • Tragedy: a play without a happy ending

2. Inform students that plays in ancient Greece were comprised of poetry told by 1-3 actors and a chorus. The chorus was a group of 12-15 people who contributed to the telling of the story through chanting, singing, and dancing.

3. Review with students how in ancient Greek theater all people on stage wore masks. The actors changed masks to signal a change in mood or character. The masks had holes in the eyes and mouths. Smiling masks were used in comedies (plays with happy endings), while frowning masks were used in tragedies (plays with unhappy endings).

4. Ask students to think about "The Tortoise and the Hare." From the hare's point of view, would the fable be considered a comedy or tragedy? Would the tortoise consider the story a comedy or tragedy?

5. To review the story and script out the parts of the tortoise and the hare ask students to suggest three lines for each character to recite. These lines should convey the important parts of the fables. For example, the rabbit might say: "I’m faster than you are! Ha! Ha!" "I think I’ll take a nap." and "You won?" The tortoise might say: "Gee, you’re fast." "I may be slow, but I’ll get there." and "Wow! I won!"

6. Allow time for groups to practice reciting their lines with their masks. Discuss the mask choice for each line. Does one keep the same mask throughout the story? Decide when to change the mask if necessary to tell the story.

7. Finally, have students add the movements that were created for each character. Do the movements work for the lines? If not, modify either the movement or the line. Allow time for each group to practice reciting their lines with the appropriate mask(s) and movement.

Music to introduce or play between scene changes in the drama. (see listed suggestions below) or use an instrumental piece from in-class or library collection.

  • Moody Blues, album: A Question of Balance, track: “Tortoise and the Hare.” This piece has an upbeat tempo.
  • BJ Dooley, album: The Railway Bridge of the Silvery Tay, track: “The Tortoise and the Hare for a New Age.” This is a folk song with a “new age” humorous twist on the familiar fable.
  • Aesop’s Fables, spoken word CD, read by Anton Lesser, Naxos Audio Books

You may wish to download the “The Tortoise and the Hare” and post it so that students can "read the room."

Apply Session 3

1. Have students perform the fable. Videotape the performance and/or invite the administration, parents, or another class to view it.

2. Encourage students to explore other Aesop fables. Like the actors and chorus in ancient Greece, students can alter their masks to create a new character. Have individual students or student groups find others who can suggest a new character or fable. Students can then work as a group to practice retelling the new fable using the appropriate mask(s) and movement, and present it to the class.

3. After reading 5-10 fables, have students choose their favorites. Record the titles on an index card. Write the title and characters for the students to remember. Each student can then select a character to create on the mask.

Some suggested dramatic fable titles include:

  • The Ant and the Grasshopper*
  • The Bat, the Birds, and the Beasts*
  • The Dog and the Wolf*
  • The Fox and the Cat*
  • The Fox and the Lion*
  • The Fox and the Stork*
  • The Lion and the Mouse*
  • The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse*
  • The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing*
  • The Young Crab and His Mother
  • The Frogs and the Ox
  • The Boy and the Filberts
  • The Kid and the Wolf
  • The Bundle of Sticks
  • The Shepherd Boy and the Wolf
  • The Gnat and the Bull
  • The Farmer and the Stork
  • The Travelers and the Purse
  • The Owl and the Grasshopper
  • The Boys and the Frog
  • The Wild Boar and the Fox
  • The Fox and the Goat

* indicates the fable has a quiz associated with it

For K-1 students:

4. After reading or listening to the new Aesop fables, students can select a new character to make by modifying either the tragic or comic mask which remains. Distribute the remaining materials; glue, colored markers, crayons, construction paper, and yarn.

Decorate the mask as before to create the new character.

5. As students are working, record the following on an index card: the story, what they are dramatizing, the character’s name, and the moral the character taught or learned.

After students play and act with the newly modified mask, display it with the index card. Send the other mask home

For 2-3 students:

4. After reading or listening to the new Aesop fables, students can select a new character to make by modifying either the tragic or comic mask which remains. Distribute the remaining materials; glue, paints, construction paper, and yarn.

Decorate the mask as before to create the new character.

5. When the second mask is finished have the students record the following on an index card: the story, what they are dramatizing, the character’s name, and the moral the character taught or learned.

After students play and act with the newly modified mask, display it with the index card. Send the other mask home

Reflect

1. Aesop’s Fables has the fable, related vocabulary, and a five-question quiz to test vocabulary and comprehension.

2. Divide students in groups of four. Have them read the assigned fable and take the quiz. This can be done either by downloading the material, or by completing the quiz online. The quiz answers serve as a way to assess understanding of the fable.

3. Display the customized masks on the bulletin board with the index card explaining the character and fable.

4. You may wish to use student performance on the quiz as an additional piece of assessment evidence.

Extend the Learning

Find books that "fracture" the fables and retell them alone or in tandem with the Aesop fable. Titles include: Squids Will Be SquidsThe Stinky Cheese Man; and The Wolf Who Cried Boy.

Watch the cartoon "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show." The writers fractured Aesop’s fables in quite a few shows. Ask students to compare the real versions with the fractured versions.

Standards

Throughout the nation, standards of learning are being revised, published and adopted. During this time of transition, ARTSEDGE will continually add connections to the Common Core, Next Generation Science standards and other standards to our existing lessons, in addition to the previous versions of the National Standards across the subject areas.

The Arts Standards used in ARTSEDGE Lessons are the 1994 voluntary national arts standards. The Arts learning standards were revised in 2014; please visit the National Core Arts Standards (http://nationalartsstandards.org) for more. The Kennedy Center is working on developing new lessons to connect to these standards, while maintaining the existing lesson library aligned to the Common Core, other state standards, and the 1994 National Standards for Arts Education.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Theater

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 1: Script writing by planning and recording improvisations based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 2: Acting by assuming roles and interacting in improvisations

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes

Language Arts Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process

Language Arts Standard 6: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts

Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

World History

World History Standard 1: Understands the biological and cultural processes that shaped the earliest human communities

Credits

Writers

Mary Beth Bauernschub
Original Writer

Ann Reilly
Adaptation

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