You are probably familiar with a school of fish or a swarm of bees, but have you ever of a raft of otters, a dazzle of zebras, or a knot of toads?
Animal collective nouns can be surprising and delightful. This Arts Integration idea uses scientific animal observational drawing and word definition/interpretation while incorporating visual art concepts such as illustration, texture, cartooning, and movement. These aligned standards can be compiled in a handmade book to be illustrated and shared by students.
A New Illustration Idea
Artist Mal Jones, an illustrator and designer from Alexandria, Virginia runs a creative services firm with his wife, called Rocketkoi. His personal website can be found HERE. He created an illustration project, playfully titled “Nomencreatures.” This project features animals acting out their collective group names. He wanted to highlight some lesser known and more hilariously ridiculous ones in an alphabetical series from A-Z.
After stumbling upon this artist in a “My Modern Met” article found HERE. His illustration mission inspired me to think of how I could incorporate this concept in my classroom. I began thinking of the term, anthropomorphism. This is when you attribute human form or behavior to non-human entities. This literary device can be used in visual art by illustrating animals with human characteristics.
Drawing animals in human-like situations with human-like characteristics is an interesting technique that students can readily accept, but may need practice in creating. This may include drawing clothing on animals, having them walk on two legs instead of four, or placing them in human situations such as going to work or cooking dinner.
There are many examples of anthropomorphism in illustration from children’s books to fables and fairy tales. The white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland is a perfect example of an animal demonstrating human characteristics, both in his actions and his appearance.
Just a Few Examples of Anthropomorphism with Animal Characters
- Teenage Ninja Turtles
- Brian the dog from Family Guy
- Sonic the Hedgehog
- Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and other Disney characters
Anthropomorphism Example Links
- Drawing Animals With Human Characteristics: A Primer in Anthropomorphism HERE
- Delightful Illustrations of Anthropomorphic Animals Wearing Clothes HERE
List of Animal Collective Nouns Links
- Introduce the art of Mal Jones in a slideshow or printed resources
- Examples of Animal Collective Nouns
- What Anthropomorphism is and how to visually demonstrate it
- Examples of Anthropomorphism in everyday life (books, characters, fables, fairy tales)
- How to illustrate these concepts visually. Provide an example of a collective noun and talk through possible illustrations that can be drawn.
- Ex. A Sneak of Weasels. What makes something look sneaky? How could you draw this? What clothes might these sneaky animals wear? What might be in the background?
- Students can select an animal and draw clothes on that animal that fit a job.
- Ex. Alligator Banker, Butterfly Artist, or Lizard Gardener
- Select an activity and have students practice drawing an animal doing that action.
- Ex. Monkeys playing basketball.
- Students can select their specific illustration from a list of collective nouns, draw the collective noun at random, or be assigned based on letter, if you want to make an alphabet book.
- Create sketches and create word lists for ideas.
- Begin illustration and write the collective noun of the book page.
Collect and Make a Book
- Collect the illustrations and compile them into a book.
- Students can create the book using artistic book-binding techniques.
- Donate the book to the school library or share it with another class.
It is common practice in Arts Integration to treat visual art as text, but it can be a reversed concept as well. We can allow text, or words, inspire creative art-making.
How do you use text as artistic inspiration? Let us know in the comments below!
Lauren Hodson is a middle school visual and computer art educator in Plymouth, Massachusetts. As a mentor teacher and professional development presenter, Lauren is passionate about creativity and making art accessible for everyone. Her passions in STEAM and Arts Integration are at the root of her goal to collaborate with classroom teachers everywhere.