Monsters in the ELC: Part Two

  • Learning
Gillian Larson, Early Learning Center Teacher

This is the second in a two part series on how ELC partner classrooms worked together on a “Green Monster” project. Read part one here.

The unique immersion program at Avenues features partner classrooms and teaching teams, who work closely together to develop complementary curricula in English and Mandarin Chinese or Spanish. The monster-themed curriculum in the Blue and LanSe nursery partner classrooms illustrates this effective educational practice. 

Three- and 4-year-old children have vivid imaginations and are still learning to distinguish between fantasy and reality. Consequently, fears about monsters frequently emerge at this developmental stage. While these worries may seem irrational to adults, many experts believe it’s a healthy way for children to make sense of their environment and express their growing awareness that the world can be a dangerous place. 

Reading Green Monster in English

One effective way to help children cope with their fears is through reading and discussion. After researching books about monsters, our teaching team decided to read the Caldecott Medal-winning book Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley. In the Blue classroom, we read the book in English and in LanSe (the Mandarin immersion classroom) the teachers read it in Mandarin. Emberley’s engaging and interactive story allows children to talk about monsters in an empowering way. The author uses clever cutouts and bright colors to make the green monster appear slowly, one facial feature at a time. By the time the entire monster face is visible, the children are comfortable with the image. The students then delight in telling the monster to go away one feature at a time. The story ends with the line, “Go away, big green monster, and don’t come back until I say so!” Thus, conveying the significant idea that children have agency to assuage their fears. 

Reading Green Monster in Mandarin Chinese

Our students loved this book! For weeks after we read it out loud at story time, the book remained popular in both classrooms. Observing the students’ excitement, the teachers decided to extend the learning with monster-themed projects in both languages. As described in Dorine Yang’s Open article, “Monsters in the ELC: Part One,” the Mandarin teachers created a green monster art project, which provided an organic opportunity to practice useful Mandarin vocabulary associated with facial features, colors and size. 

Making Green Slime

Meanwhile, in the English classroom, we planned a green monster themed STEAM (science, technology, art and math) project. The first step was to make green slime, a stretchy, sensory substance made with glue, water and an activator such as Borax or saline solution. Our students practiced their math skills by measuring the ingredients and practiced their target language skills by counting in Mandarin. Yes, we do speak Mandarin in the English classroom too! In fact, we actively look for opportunities to reinforce the knowledge acquired in the Mandarin classroom. Having a bilingual fellow, who works in both classrooms, and creating complementary curricula are significant methods for deepening our students’ knowledge in both languages. 

Exploring green slime
Lucas testing slime

While creating the slime, our young scientists made predictions and observations about the outcome of the chemical reaction. “It’s coming together.” “It’s harder to mix now.” “It’s so sticky and gooey.” “It’s turning green!” 

A student's monsterpiece
Monsterpiece and monster face

When the green slime was ready, the children used recycled materials to create monster faces. Some children carefully recreated the monster from Emberley’s book, while others created original monsters. When they finished their “monsterpieces,” we took photos of our students making friendly, silly or scary monster faces next to their creations. 

Monsterpiece and monster face
Monsterpiece and monster face
Monsterpiece and monster face

The emergent and interdisciplinary Green Monster project encompassed science, math, literacy, art and Mandarin. In addition to developing their academic skills, our young students gained important social-emotional strategies for handling their fears. Moreover, the Green Monster Project in the English classroom reflected the curriculum in the Mandarin classroom, thereby deepening our students’ learning in both languages. 

More Monster Books:

Bye-Bye, Big Bad Bullybug!, by Ed Emberley

Leonardo the Terrible Monster, by Mo Willems

Monster Be Good, by Natalie Marshall

The Gruffalo, by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler

Elmer and the Monster, by David McKee

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me, poem by Maya Angelou and art by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Monsters and Mold, by Asia Citro

  • Early Learning Center
  • Immersion
  • Nursery
  • Project-based Learning