When the Mask Opens

(Submitted by Heidi Wood – SD 41 Burnaby)
Poem: When the Mask Opens
Source: Taking the Names Down From the Hill
Poet: Philip Kevin Paul

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Listen critically to understand and analyse ideas and information, by visualizing and sharing; making inferences and drawing conclusions.
  • Recognize and apply the features of oral language to convey and derive meaning, including text structure and nonverbal communication.
  • Read fluently and demonstrate comprehension and interpretation, including: poetry in a variety of forms, stories from Aboriginal and other cultures.
  • Select and use various strategies during reading and viewing to construct, monitor, and confirm meaning, including: making connections, visualizing, and reading selectively.
  • Create meaningful visual representations for a variety of purposes and audiences that communicate a personal response, information, and ideas relevant to the topic.

Goal of the Lesson

To encourage visualization, sequencing, and inference making using poetry.

Activate Prior Knowledge

Utilize the “Poet’s Toolbox” (Georgia Heard)


Teachers ask students to consider the following questions while completing the poetry writing/reading tasks below:

What tools have been used that help you visualize the sequence of events?

What is the purpose behind the structure of the poem?

In your opinion, what is the poet trying to draw references to?


(Pre-Reading Activity)

Cloze poem activity

– Share/discuss student word choices

(Reading Activity)

Read the original poem When the Mask Opens by Philip Kevin Paul

– Students take turns reading the original in pairs/two voices/round/etc….

– Teacher discusses tools and questions to promote inference making and visualization.

(Post-Reading Activity)

  • Discuss the different types of masks used in history, traditionally, currently – use pictures to prompt discussion in either a gallery walk or table talk.
  • Create paper drawings of masks that represent the student.
  • Write a poem about what the masks means to the student.
    • Using the five senses of see/hear/taste/feel/smell gives a good framework for exploring the meaning.


Masks can be varied around the world.  Try showing pictures that compare an ancient culture to a modern mask. For example sun masks can be found in cultures all over the world and from a large period in history.

Modern society creates masks in the media with makeup, clothing, hair, etc…

Exploring the history of masks regardless of its use has two common points: they are used to conceal or partially conceal the person/identity who is wearing it and it represents a different person or creature other than the person who is wearing it.

(Dana Cormaney, copyright 2003 – www.hallowfreaks.com/masks)

Demonstrate Understanding

The mask and the poem are evaluated using the criteria sheet and brainstorm format. (see When the Mask Opens: Poetry Activity)

Reflect on Learning

Create a visual journal/collage that represents the history of masks or a collection of masks that explore personal and cultural identity.

Extended Learning Activities

Create a three dimensional mask with the poem written on it. Click here to view examples of student poetry and masks.