What Do I Do When a Student Hides Their Mouth Behind a Mask?

Face-to-face communication has been determined to be at least three times as effective as non-face-to-face communication, which may be one of the contributing factors as to why humans engage in such conversations on almost a daily basis. This degree of benefit is severely hampered when a student wears a facial mask.

Masks are worn in Japan to stop the spread of colds, flus, and airborne pathogens by completely covering the nose and mouth. However, by covering the mouth, the mouth becomes hidden and cannot be seen, thus removing the face-to-face communication benefits that help promote classroom learning.

Japanese Face MaskStudents expect to get the most value for their money, and this may only be accomplished with some clever thinking from the teacher. Although the student will continue to wear their mask, they can still express emotion and add important facial communication with the help of sheets of paper with images of mouths on them.

Drawing all mouth shapes by hand is the best option, but for teachers under deadlines, this may take away from other important preparation time. Time can be saved by printing the following characters with a 72 point font. (60 point font for children)

Emotion Mask

An emotion mask with "minor surprise" and "smile" expressions.

  • ) – smile
  • ( – frown
  • D – big smile
  • < - big frown
  • つ – biggest smile
  • く – biggest frown
  • | – apathy
  • / – confusion, disbelief, or skepticism
  • * – puckered lips, anger
  • . – light surprise
  • 。- minor surprise
  • o – big surprise
  • O – bigger surprise
  • ○ – biggest surprise
  • □ – maximum surprise, disbelief, or shock

Emotion Mask 2

A store-bought emotion mask.

After printing the characters, rotate them 90 degrees clock-wise, and affix double-sided tape to the rear of them so that they are able to stick to the student’s mask. During speaking activities, have the student choose the mouth shape that best reflects their current emotion, and then affix it to their mask. If the student wishes to change emotions, they may change the paper on their own.

If the student is often sick, and regularly wears a mask, consider printing a set of mouth emotion papers and giving them to the student as a gift, or even assigning construction of the mouth emotion papers as homework.

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    6 thoughts on “What Do I Do When a Student Hides Their Mouth Behind a Mask?

    1. I’ve found that younger students react very positively to this, and will often wear masks even when not sick, just so they can use the emotion papers! The adults, on the other hand, sometimes refuse to use the papers and instead just take their masks off.

    2. I once had a student who refused to use the papers, so I placed a frown onto my own mouth to show him how I felt. To my surprise, he picked up a smile and I could have swore he maliciously delighted in how I felt! But then he flipped the smile upside down and created a frown, and placed it on himself. We both were sad, and expressing it with emotion masks!
      Needless to say, my frown became a smile, and so did his! It was really the breakthrough that the classroom needed.

    3. well if you cut a hole in the mask then the germs from sickenss like e.coli or whatever can spread from student to teacher. teaching sick sucks lol
      so, they cannot cut a hole in the mask otherwise they would be spreading germs all over the place

    4. I bet its weird having students always wearning the face masks when you teach them. Its probably like teaching Michael Jackson! lol

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