Have You Seen This Monster?

posted on May 7, 2019

Throughout time and across cultures, humans have created stories about monsters and mythical creatures to help them cope with things they fear or can’t explain. This lesson focuses on the naturally correlated connections between the visual arts and storytelling.

Have You Seen This Monster?Reagan Juhasz, grade eight.

The writing component of this lesson in which students create their own papier-mâché monsters or mythical creatures fits nicely with my school district’s initiative of writing across the curriculum.

Investigating Monsters
Taking their seats, students find a monster photo facedown at their table. I put a different image on each table. I like to use images from contemporary artists such as Dave DeVries and Dan Reeder. DeVries is inspired by children's drawings of monsters. Reeder has written books and made videos on creating papier-mâché monsters. I announce to students in a serious tone that the photo on their table is someone who has gone missing. I ask them to look at the photo as a group and write a description for an APB (all-points bulletin). Before I ask them to turn the photo over, I lead a class discussion about what makes a good description. After the descriptions are complete, each group shares their description with the class and asks them to visualize what the creature looks like.

Have You Seen This Monster?Savannah Mostellar, grade eight.

What Makes a Monster?
After this exercise, I ask students: "Why are we talking about monsters?""What is a monster?" "Why have people created monsters in the past?" "Why do people tell stories and tall tales about monsters and mythical creatures?" After this conversation, I inform students that they will create their own monsters. Not just any monsters, though; I want my students' monsters to tell a story and serve a purpose. Monster Criteria I require students to give their monsters a purpose and physical characteristics that support their purpose. For example, one student made a huge fishlike creature with a built-in net hanging from its belly and its purpose was to remove trash from the ocean floor. Monsters also must be at least 16" (40.5 cm) wide or tall, possess embellishments, and have a story. The monsters can be painted instead of using tissue paper to add color.

Writing a Narrative After students have completed their monsters, they write a narrative about them. On the last day of this lesson, students share their monsters and their monster’s story. Students take turns sharing their awesome creatures with the class. This engaging lesson is a wonderful way to highlight the connections between the visual arts and storytelling.

Kimberly Lopez is an art teacher at Exeter Township Junior High in Reading, Pennsylvania. kim4art@aol.com

Creating: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Dave DeVries: wwww.davedevries.com/comic.html
Dan Reeder: gourmetpapermache.com

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