Friday, March 9, 2012

the other lion: monster art

I'm Erika from the other lion, a blog about my son, who has fragile x syndrome, a leading cause of inherited mental impairment and autism. I have been working as a Paraeducator with preschool children who have special needs for over seven years.
My coworker and I were sitting, catching our breath during nap time a few weeks ago, trying to think of some fun crafts for our class. She said, "I've always kind of wanted to give the kids a bunch of random materials and see what they come up with." And so we did that, in a way that was developmentally appropriate for our students. I wish I could show you what they came up with, but I simply don't have permission from their parents to publish their work. Instead I will show you my son's creation. He was charged with making a monster, although when I showed it to him a week later and asked him what it was, he exclaimed, "A PUPPET!"

I did this project with two (very) different sets of children. The first was the class I work with at school; the students there are aged three to five years, but are developmentally in the one to four year age range. They all have difficulty with fine motor work, following directions, attending to a task, and critical and abstract thinking. So for them it just would not be appropriate to hand them a pile of scissors, a box of glue sticks, and a bag of do-dads and expect them to create anything other than a bloody, sticky mess.

So we cut out triangles, squares, blobs, and circles from construction paper, and found colored cotton balls, pipe cleaners, buttons, and tongue depressors, and presented them with it, asking them to make a monster. And boy did they look awesomely silly. They had legs coming out in every direction, floating heads, and body parts I couldn't identify.

The other group was typically developing students who probably could have handled cutting and pasting on their own, but because there were 25 of them and they ranged in age from three to nine years, I ended up preparing various parts ahead of time as well. Their monsters wielded swords, had antenna, and were shooting basketballs -- it was much more intense. Their creations came alive; they had back stories that probably needed to be written down.

They all looked very human, though, which surprised me. Most of them, unless they were one of the few who couldn't get their hands on enough parts, had a body, a head, two arms, two legs, etc.  Honestly, I was delighted that my son's looked like a person because that's something we're working on, but a little disappointed that the rest of the kids were preoccupied with the monster's feet being the same size (until I told them it didn't matter because they're monsters) and with finding matching sets of eyes.

I honestly thought maybe I did something wrong. Why didn't they look goofier? But it doesn't matter. The kids made them the way they wanted and they had fun -- THAT'S what matters. 

I very much believe in tying together art and literature, so we also read Monster Manners. The other two are also favorites of mine.
Monster Manners 

Go Away Big Green Monster
If You're A Monster and You Know It


  1. I teach a fun monster unit with my K kids, I'm always looking for new books to go along with it...thanks for sharing :)

  2. There should be a monster genre for kids. Isn't it funny how kids humanize everything, even monsters? You did a good job teaching, do not worry about that part! Fun for everyone. Carolyn

  3. That's a great activity to go with monster books! It was very interesting to hear about the kids' responses to the project. I pinned your post to my Literature-Based Activities board at


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