Art Lesson Plan: Monster in My Closet - Elementary

Monster in My Closet

Submitted by: Patti Caiola, Reynolds Elementary School in Toledo, OH
UNIT: Literature - Creative Writing - Fantasy Art
Lesson: There’s a Monster in My Closet! (photo below)
Grade Level: 3rd (adaptable for K through 3)



In this lesson, students will create their own monsters that may exist in their imaginary closets. Students will then write a short story describing their monsters. Inspired by the lesson "Nightmare in My Closet" from the Getty TeacherArtExchange List Serve.



Class example, Monsters Inc or Nightmare book prepared. McDonald Happy Meal toys, pictures of wooden doors.


Time Needed: Two one-hour class periods

COS: 3.4.4, and 3.4.6



- 18 x 24 (46 x 61 cm) dark brown Construction Paper.
- 12 x 18 (30.5 x 46 cm) white Drawing Paper.
- Scissors.
- Crayons.
- Drawing Pencils.
- Kneaded Rubber Erasers.
- White Glue.
- Lined writing papermonster



Texture, environment, and descriptive writing.



Monsters Inc. © Pixar/Disney, There's a Nightmare in My Closet. by Mercer Mayer.

For a fun treatment of monsters, look at the Monster Engine.



Students will be able to…

  1. Invent a unique monster creature.

  2. Develop their monster’s surroundings in a closet environment.

  3. Create a descriptive paragraph of their monster illustration.


  1. Read book or show movie clips to students that involve monsters, the sillier the better.  Ask how they might react if they were put in a similar situation as the main characters in the story.  Why are people afraid of things in their closets, under their beds, or in the basement?

  2. Students will take the large dark brown paper and fold it in half, horizontally (12" x 18" or (30.5 x 46 cm).  On the outside, students will use a white and black crayons to decorate the outside of their doors in the style of a 4 or 6 panel door.

  3. Students will draw their unique monster and its surroundings large on the white paper, then color it in with crayons.

  4. Students will glue their monster pictures vertically inside the closet door on the right hand side, as if they are opening a book with the picture of the door as the cover.

  5. With the lined paper, students will write about their creature’s environment, description, starting with "The monster in my closet has…"  Check students for spelling, grammar and accuracy.  Encourage students to fill the page with words using leading questions.  Use their picture for inspiration.

  6. Glue writing paper to a piece of construction paper to display beneath the students closet monster, or glue the writing to the inside of the closet door opposite the monster image.

  7. Have students share their descriptive stories with the class.

  8. Clean Up: Approx 5-6 min

Possible Adaptations: Make 3-D monsters, paint monsters, and sculpt maché monsters. Also Monster Exchange




Monsters, Inc. (Two-Disc Collector's Edition).



There's a Nightmare in My Closet. - "Childhood fear of the dark and the resulting exercise in imaginative exaggeration are given that special Mercer Mayer treatment in this dryly humorous fantasy." -School Library Journal.


The Monster in My Closet. - Every kid knows that monsters lurk everywhere in your house. But what if your monsters turned out to be friendly? With the proper attitude, they might even help you get dressed or fix things that break!


Disney's Monsters, Inc.. - Disney/Pixar's Monsters, Inc features the adventures of Mike, Sulley, and their friends. This is an illustrated storybook and audio CD. This Read-Along Disney classic provides word for word narration of the story encouraging independent reading.



Halloween Season



Did students follow project directions, complete objectives, give their best effort and follow posted classroom rules? 1=Outstanding, 2=Satisfactory, 3=Needs Improvement, ✓=Unsatisfactory


Evaluation after the lesson: Students loved creating and naming their own monsters.  Stressing the details of the monster’s surroundings (the closet) students got very creative using socks and hangers and boxes to really create a total environment for their beasts.  The writing part of the project involved much help and support from the teacher to emphasize spelling and writing complete sentences.  Overall, these were very successful and excited the children about writing.


5 Monster Exchange - Grade 4- 5

I had saved an email from Carolyn Bonomi about her monster exchange project. She was disappointed working through the web site... You could have your own monster exchange from class to class instead. It might be fun to do it via technology - learning the PC Paint software - teaching drawing tools, brush and fill. Have students write up their description using Word. Once descriptions are finished - exchange with another class and have them draw the monsters only from description.... You could set up a series of prompts - like "Has the head of a...." body of a.... tail of a... is patterned like... With the texture of.... colors of.... and so on.... You could even design some sort of template so you could create a flip book from the monster - really mix them up. Some of you are familiar with the flip book "Drawn and Quartered". What if students described the monster head and put that in a hat (can/box)- described the body and put that in a hat (can or box) - described the tail and put in a hat... then each student got to pick one from each hat/can/box. Write a complete description of the monster - then create a monster.... and do the exchange to create one from another class -- or create their original own descriptions.


Maybe do one with technology and one with traditional materials. Whatever you do makes for a fun writing assignment and creative project. Tie in middle ages beasties - and monsters in literature (Where the Wild Things Are. and other children's books).


DVD: Where the Wild Things Are. - Nine-year-old Max runs away from home and sails across the sea to become king of the land Where the Wild Things Are. King Max rules a wondrous realm of gigantic fuzzy monsters--but being king may not be as carefree as it looks! This is the film version of Maurice Sendak's celebrated children's classic.

Here is Carolyn Bonomi's post:
I just wanted to let you know about my participation in the monster exchange and how it went. The Monster Exchange ( is a program in which schools partner up with each other and exchange descriptive writings of monsters that they create. They are uploaded to the website for viewing at the completion of the project. it is a really cool project that ties in different curricular areas. (You can visit the website for further information) Anyway, I did this last year with a 4th grade class. I taught it with the classroom teacher (the writing part) and the students drew their monsters in art class. It is a lot of work for one person to do ( I had to submit the word documents, send them, scan the drawings and upload them to the web) so I plan to get the computer teacher involved next time.


You can see our completed monsters here...
Click on partner gallery to see our drawings of the partner class' descriptions and also their drawings.
Unfortunately, the school I partnered up with never uploaded the monsters her class did of my students' descriptions.

From Judy: Doing your own Monster exchanges would be much easier than doing all of this though the site.... although the exchange between two schools is nice.



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