MAKING FACES – Modeling Clay Magnets

Students use modeling clay to create face magnets and explore how facial expressions give us clues about how people are feeling.

Required Time

80 Minutes

Grade Level

Grade 1 to Grade 8


Language Arts
Social Studies
Visual Arts


colour contrast detail facial expression magnet modeling clay pattern shape texture


Crayola Modeling Clay 1lb, Classic Colours Various Clay Tools Plastic Placemat Canning Snap Lids Magnets

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MAKING FACES – Modeling Clay Magnets - Step One

Step One

  1. Choose a background colour.
  2. Flatten a small amount of it onto the snap lid.
  3. Smooth it out with your fingers to make a thin layer that covers the lid.
MAKING FACES – Modeling Clay Magnets - Step Two

Step Two

  1. Make a small ball of modeling clay in a face colour.
  2. Press it between your fingers to make a flat shape for the face.
MAKING FACES – Modeling Clay Magnets - Step Three

Step Three

  1. Press the shape firmly onto the background to make sure it sticks. 
  2. Repeat this process for the neck and shirt. 
MAKING FACES – Modeling Clay Magnets - Step Four

Step Four

  1. Decide how you want to make the eyes, for example,
    - Make two balls of clay in contrasting colours, one larger than the other.
    - Stick the large ball to the face. Place the small ball on top of it.
    - Poke the small ball with a pencil to join the two pieces and make the pupil of the eye. 
MAKING FACES – Modeling Clay Magnets - Step Five

Step Five

  1. Decide how you want to make the hair, for example,
    - Make several small balls of clay.
    - Pinch them into the teardrop shape.
    -  Stick them to the top of the head
MAKING FACES – Modeling Clay Magnets - Step Six

Step Six

  1. Decide what expression you want to make.
  2. Remember the cues that help express that emotion.
  3. Add enough details to make it easy to tell how your person is feeling.
  4. Add lots of pattern and texture to make the design more interesting.
  5. When you are satisfied with your design stick a small magnet to the back.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to:

  • recognize emotions by reading and replicating facial expressions;
  • create a small magnet that shows a face;
  • use texture and detail to add interest to the design;
  • build on their own and others’ discoveries to generate new ideas;
  • explain their process; 
  • express opinions about the works.


Have students:

  • display all the magnets with space for a text bubble;
  • write the thoughts their magnets are having and place them beside their own magnet;
  • build on their understanding of facial expressions to create and illustrate stories about problem solving that involve a variety of emotions;
  • work in small groups to create 3-dimensional modeling clay figures with a variety of expressions; 
  • write and perform an imaginary conversation the figures might be having;
  • video the performances and share them with others.


  1. Place students in groups so they can share modeling clay and tools.
  2. Gather plastic placemats one for each student.
  3. Gather various texture making tools such as garlic presses, skewers, toothbrushes, combs.
  4. Download and display the Elements of Design posters available on this website.
  5. Gather and make available books about emotions, for example, Mouse Was Mad, by Linda Urban; When Sophie Gets Angry, by Molly Bang; The Way I Feel, by Janan Cain; Today I Feel Silly & Other Moods That Make My Day, by Jamie Lee Curtis; My Many Colored Days, by Dr. Seuss; The Color Monster: A Pop-Up Book of Feelings, by Anna Llenas; and In My Heart: A Book of Feelings, by Jo Witek, and Christine Roussey. 


  1. Begin by playing a game with the students. Make a face demonstrating a particular emotion, for example, anger.
  2. Ask students to guess how you are feeling. Ask them to tell you what they see that makes them say that.
  3. Ask students to guess what might have caused you to feel that way. Encourage them to use their imaginations. Make it fun.
  4. Do several emotions inviting students to make some faces.
  5. Discuss how facial expressions give us clues about how people are feeling. Make a chart listing various emotions, for example, happy, sad, angry, surprised, afraid. 
  6. Have students practice drawing faces that signal each emotion on sticky notes. Have them place their drawings in the appropriate place on the chart.
  7. Discuss how they made the emotions evident, for example, by the angles and shapes of eyebrows, mouths, and eyes.
  8. Introduce the challenge.


The Challenge

  1. Create a small modeling clay magnet that shows a face.
  2. Show a specific emotion that others can identify.
  3. Use texture and detail to add interest to your design.
  4. Explain your process.
  5. Express opinions about the magnets.

The Process

  1. Ensure that everyone understands the challenge.
  2. Establish success criteria with your students, for example,
    I know I am successful when I have:
    - created a small modeling clay magnet
    - created an emotion that others can identify
    - used texture to add detail and interest to my design
    - kept the magnet in good condition
  3. Guide students through the steps outlined in this lesson plan.
  4. Part way through the lesson stop the class and demonstrate/share ideas about how to create texture with the various tools.
  5. Observe students as they work. 
  6. Provide individual assistance and encouragement.


  1. Place students into small groups. 
  2. Ask them to: 
    - Compare their work and describe to each other what they did to get certain effects.
    - Discuss the emotions of each face and what they see that makes them think that.
    - Talk about was difficult and what was easy for them.
  3. Share ideas with the whole class. 
  4. Ask them to tell how they felt about doing this activity.


  1. Observe students as they work – thoughtful focus, discriminating, seeking more information, elaborating, experimenting.
  2. Observe students as they discuss their magnets – speaks with a clear voice, looks at audience while speaking, holds artwork to the side, provides accurate information, answers questions from the audience effectively.
  3. Observe students as they listen – looks at presenter, asks effective questions, supports ideas with evidence found in the artwork.
  4. Use a checklist to track progress. (Download - FACES_tracking.pdf)
  5. Have students use the self-assessment form to evaluate their work. (Download - FACES_self-assessment.pdf or FACES_PRIMARY_self-assessment.pdf