There are many ways to build “fantastic” characters, but one of my favourites is for kids to pair known animals / elements together to create new ones.
In the White Forest books, Minq is described as a hairless fox with the face of a rodent. Gola is a “tree-woman” (who becomes more and more tree-like as she ages). There are dragons made of rocks, spiders with snake tongues, birds with teeth, and bugs with percussive appendages. There is absolutely no end to the creatures one can think up when combining elements.
Either of the exercises below may be used for a fun creative activity all on its own. Or, they may be used as a jumping off point for writing a story, song, poem. One of my creatures was used in a poem called “The Ballad of the Snakephant.”
ACTIVITY ONE – Animal Mash-Up
Have each student think of an earthly animal without telling anyone. Write it on a piece of paper. Wander around the room pairing the animals up to create new animals. Have them partner up, name their new animal, and illustrate it.
You can also do this activity with animals and inanimate objects. One side of the class thinks up inanimate objects, which the other thinks up animals, then they pair up and see what creation it makes. You might end up with a roller-coaster dog or a orange peel hamster.
ACTIVITY TWO – Mix and Match Creatures
For younger students, teacher prepares card stock strips and folds them so that each side opens up like double doors. Older students might be able to do this on their own.
Students draw an animal on the inside with the “doors” open and then on the outside with the doors closed. Have them pay a bit of attention to where the animal halves line up.
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