By MaryAnn Kohl
I adore engaging in hands-on art experiences with young children, but I also love getting kids excited about dramatic play! This Halloween idea is a sure-fire winner for children from preschool through grade 2. When I work with kids around Halloween, I bring this favorite activity that involves drawing jack-o-lantern faces on orange paper circles taped to ice-pop sticks. These funny faces then become props in reciting a little poem involving interpretive voices. Children get to hold up the faces during the poem to act out the fun. This also gives them something to hold on to during the dramatics!
[Repeat at least three times]
Recite the poem above once or twice through. Ask the children to repeat the poem after you. Show a different orange pumpkin face for each speaker/character in the poem, such as a happy jack-o-lantern, sad jack-o-lantern, sleepy jack-o-lantern, mad jack-o-lantern, broken jack-o-lantern, small jack-o-lantern, and a pumpkin pie jack-o-lantern.
Hold up various jack-o-lantern faces from the poem out of order and ask the children to shout out who the face is.
and so on.
Keep shuffling the jack-o-lantern faces, and show them to the children over and over, allowing them to name each face again and again. Next, encourage the kids to use interpretive voices to describe the faces, such as a happy voice for Jack-o-Happy, a tiny voice for Jack-o-Small, and a tired yawning voice for Jack-o-Sleepy. Be prepared for the children to really enjoy the voices, so give them plenty of time to try them out again and again. Some kids may want to stand up and use the interpretive voice alone rather than in the group. Go with this idea as suits your group.
Kids will need orange paper, scissors, black marker or crayon, tape or glue, and an ice-pop stick or tongue depressor. Have the children divide into groups of seven to construct the seven Jack-o-Faces. Each child can cut one of the seven faces from orange paper, add the facial features for that face, and glue or tape it to an ice-pop stick (like a masquerade mask). No eye-holes need be cut.
Ask the children to bring their Jack-o-Faces to the circle. Have the first group of children line up before the others, following the order of the poem. Read aloud the poem, and make sure each child holds up his or her “face” at the right time. Now, ask the children to create individual funny voices for their pumpkin faces. Once again, recite the poem. The happy pumpkin uses a very happy voice. The sad pumpkin uses a crying voice. The mad pumpkin uses an angry voice. Jack-o-Pieces sounds broken, and the words are staccato. The small pumpkin has a tiny voice, and Jack-o-Pie has the strongest voice of all! Invite the children to say the poem in order, holding up their Jack-o-Faces in front of their own faces as they use their interpretive voices. When complete, they may sit down. Then, repeat with a new group!
Matching Game: In a box, place seven Jack-o-Faces to match with seven words/names, such as big, small, pie, pieces, etc. Match the Jack-o-Faces with the words that describe them.
Sentence Chart: On a sentence chart, feature sentences from the poem, such as, “I am Jack-o-Happy.” Make sure the sentences are out of order. The children can then put the sentences in the correct order of the memorized poem, saying it out loud as they work. Little Jack-o-Faces can also be used to help match to the sentences.
Puppet Show: Use the Jack-o-Faces to create your own puppet show, repeating the interpretative voices used to recite the poem.
Jack-o-Face Books: Children can draw one of the Jack-o-Faces on each page of a short, handmade book. Encourage them to invent new faces and voices, such as Jack-o-Fish (bloop bloop) or Jack-o-Baby (wah, wah, goo goo). They can draw, write, or cut out faces to glue in the book.
See Where the Children Take You! I have seen one child act out the entire poem on his own. I have seen kids invent new personalities and jack-o-lantern faces to add to the poem, often rhyming. Open your mind to letting kids carry this to a new level, and you may be surprised what they come up with from this simple poem!
Additional Ideas to Expand the Theme:
MaryAnn Faubion Kohl is the author of 20+ award-winning books of activities for children. Two of her newest titles are First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos and Art with Anything. MaryAnn invites you to subscribe to her free ArtsyKidsNEWS monthly e-newsletter packed with lots of art ideas and book giveaways.