A Never-Before-Seen Creature

By Marie Tom, July 23, 2007

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Product Design

Subject Area

  • Arts
  • Language Arts
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Lesson Time

Three fifty-minute class periods


In this lesson, students will construct a never-before-seen creature called a Man-Droid that inhabits the earth and their city. This lesson will teach students about the differences among creatures and the consequences of not being able to fit into society because of these differences. By designing and building a never-before-seen Creature to inhabit the students’ city and by learning about bias and prejudice, students will learn about cause and effect. Students will then write an essay about prejudice and discrimination. The creature will also have to fit (size-wise) into a previously made shelter, enhancing students’ sense of proportion. *This lesson was used in a speech therapy class, but can be used in any class to learn about discrimination and cause and effect.

National Standards


Anchor Standards for Writing:

Text Types and Purposes1:


Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.


Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing:


Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Range of Writing:


Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:


Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.


Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.


Evaluate a speaker's point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

Anchor standards for Language:

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:


Demonstrate understanding of figurative language, word relationships, and nuances in word meanings.

National Standards for Visual Arts

Anchor Standard #10. Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.

Anchor Standard #11. Relate artistic ideas and works with societal, cultural and historical context to deepen understanding.



This lesson plan follows Doreen Nelson's methodology of Backwards ThinkingTM. Conventional wisdom suggests that learning begins with acquisition of skills and information...backwards learning reverses this learning process and starts with invention. The students first construct the creature and from it learn about the structure and organization of its parts to the whole. Students will:
  • learn about bias and prejudice
  • learn about cause and effect
  • understand that some aspects of society can change while others remain the same
  • learn about proportion in regards to the size of an object (their Man-Droid) in relation to its surroundings (shelters, city)
  • express their thoughts verbally
  • write an essay about their creature
  • write an essay about bias and discrimination
  • compare what they learn about the creatures to historic and present day situations of prejudice and discrimination


Doreen Nelson - the 61/2 Steps of Backward Thinking   https://www.csupomona.edu/~dnelson/methodology/6.5steps.html


  • beads
  • cardboard toilet paper rolls
  • yarn
  • rocks
  • sticks
  • pieces of fabric
  • paper
  • hot glue gun
  • glue sticks


  • never-Before-Seen: a phrase coined by Professor Doreen Nelson of Cal Poly University to describe a student’s original design. In the classroom, students are challenged to create something that does not exist, or Never-Before-Seen, before they look at that which already exists.
  • bias: an attitude that always favors one way of feeling or acting over any other; prejudice
  • discrimination: to make a distinction; judgmental
  • persecution: to oppress or abuse
  • prejudice: prejudgment opinion founded on bias
  • proportion: the size, number, or amount of one thing or group as compared to the size, number, or amount of another


  • Introduce the lesson to the class: Students will design and create a “Never-Before-Seen” creature. The creature must be able to move, see, and have feelings. It must have a way to protect itself and must be able to eat food. Students must also name their Never-Before-Seen creature. Encourage students to think about how the lifestyle of the creature will be exhibited through its body structure (for ex. If it eats very tall leaves, it must have very long arms or a very long neck to reach the leaves.) This will take one to two class periods.
  • Once the students have finished their creature, they should write a short essay about its history, where it came from, what it eats, where it lives, and who its enemies are. They should describe how the creature protects itself and how the creature’s body parts/build is adapted to its environment and its lifestyle (you could tie this part of the lesson into learning about evolution).
  • Next, tell the students that all creatures that have antlers, horns, or are blue cannot live in the future city. They must live in caves or in trees barely protected from the elements. This ties the lesson into the History-Science curriculum which asks that students in grade nine be able to compare the present with the past, evaluating the consequences of past events and decisions to determine the lessons that were learned.
  • Students may want to change their design to be more like the privileged creatures since theirs are being treated differently and denied privileges. Instead of letting students change their design, ask all of them to write an essay about their thoughts, comparing and contrasting their creature to the other ones in the class.
  • Students present their essays to the class when they are finished.
  • Go over the vocabulary words with the class.
  • Talk about the differences between the creatures and how differences between humans have caused prejudice and discrimination. Discuss what consequences can arrive from those feelings if they are directed against another person or group of people.
  • Compare this activity to historical and present day racial discrimination and discuss the historical cause and effect of discrimination.


Tape record this session and use the narrative to assess students’ speech in a highly emotional situation. This activity can be used to evaluate students’ grammar, word choice, enunciation, and pace of the expressive language skills. It can be used to evaluate the amount and type of dis-fluent speech stuttering students have. The discussion about discrimination and prejudice can be used to assess students’ understanding of the vocabulary words. The teacher can also grade the two essays written by the students. The students should use the following criteria list as rubric to evaluate each other. They should answer the following questions on a scale of 1-5 with 5 being the highest. 1. Was the creature in proportion? 2. Did it have a way to protect itself 3. Did the student tell or show what it ate? 4. Did the student tell where the creature came from or lived? 5. Did the creature’s body type and body parts reflect its environment and lifestyle?

Enrichment Extension Activities

Encourage students to become aware of their treatment of others due to small physical or mental differences. Discuss how students can make a difference in their school when they see another student that is being discriminated against purely because of a physical disability or being different.

Teacher Reflection

The students loved this design activity and were willing to come into speech for extra time to complete the assignment. The creature became a part of them because they owned it. The exercise was extremely successful. This activity proved that speech students liked to have and feel control over their learning. They talked about the differences between the creatures and us and how those differences caused prejudice and discrimination and what consequences can arrive from those feelings if directed against another person. They compared the prejudice the therapist placed on the few to present day racial discrimination showing the historical cause and effect of discrimination. When they became excited, the fluency students had more difficulty relating their thoughts verbally and were given more time to express themselves. The exercise showed that when the students are relaxed and interested in their activity, their speech becomes more fluent. When they do have a moment of stuttering they are more in-tuned to their speech and their body reactions. They accept and are able to immediately make corrections while having fun doing so.

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