Clay Monsters

The first time I taught this lesson was one of the most nightmare-ish lessons I’ve ever had.

I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, and on the advice of another teacher, added ‘a little bit of water’ to the clay to keep it from drying out. I also gave out the clay to the kids with nothing to go between it and the desk…

Long story short, the lesson ended with the kids exiting through the emergency door, while I cleared all the tables and got three kids to attack them with a bucket of hot water and some old towels. We did (eventually) get the clay out of the tables, but I don’t think the cleaners ever forgave me for the mess we left on (in?) the carpet

I swore that day that I would learn from my mistakes, and since then I’ve had much better results!

My top tip, before I start on the actual lesson, is to invest in jay-cloths – one per child. You can re-use them year after year, and they do a fantastic job of stopping the clay from getting stuck everywhere. I always pre-cut the slabs of clay and fold them up inside a jay cloth, which makes it easy to distribute at the start of the lesson. I’ve also heard of people using mini-whiteboards or clingfilm, but personally I find jay-cloths to be a lifesaver.

Introduction, Stimulus & Revision

Start by explaining to the kids that they will be working with clay to make monsters.

Show pictures of sample projects, and discuss how the child/artist might have made them.

Revise some basic clay-making techniques – slipping and scoring, pinch pots, and pulling forms out of the clay. The video below does a pretty good job of revising the basics (if this is your first time using clay with the kids, you may need to spend some time teaching these)

Independent Work

After you gone over all the techniques, shown them samples, and completed a demonstration, you just have to sit back and let them work it out for themselves. Leave sample pictures on the board for inspiration, and showcase students who are making a nice design or are slipping and scoring really well. Other than that, the main thing to watch out for is that the pieces the kids have stuck on have been slipped and scored properly, and aren’t too thin, or they’ll just fall off or break when dried.


If you are using air-drying clay (this is what most schools will have) then you need to let the clay dry, preferably overnight, before painting. If you’re using a kiln, you’ll need to fire the clay twice – once before painting, and once after.


Once your clay is dry, it’s time to paint! Acryclic paints work better with clay, but you can use ordinary poster paint – you’ll just have to ensure each piece of clay gets 3 or 4 layers.

Once your monsters have been painted, take pictures of the best ones and splash them all over the school website. Send them to all your teacher friends on WhatsApp to show what a fantastic teacher you are, and then treat yourself to a tub of ice-cream and a night of Netflix – you did it!

Posted in: Art

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