Empowering Writers

October 2014 Lesson of the Month

Halloween is a great time to engage kid’s imaginations with a fun, at-home project! Find an old book-bag, satchel, or suitcase, and get ready for some excitement! The idea is to fill the bag with all the makings for a class “Monster Field Guide” as well as other monstrous delights – a collection of monster books, a scary CD (You might consider: MONSTER MASH Party Songs & Spooky Sounds for Kids! or 26 Monster Songs for Children), a monster stuffed animal or action figure. Individual kids get to bring the bag home and complete their page (art and descriptive segment) of the Class Monster Field Guide. Let the spooky fun begin! Here’s what you do: Supplies: A bag, (spider webs and spider, scary CD, monster props – all optional) oaktag for book pages, cardboard for book covers, 3 hole punch, notebook rings, art supplies of your choice to go home in the bag – crayons, paint, feathers, glitter, googly eyes, yarn, glue stick, etc. several soft cover monster books.

  1. Gather your supplies – we used an old rickety suitcase and decorated the inside with spider webs, plastic spiders, etc. Collect several paperback monster books and any other monster props you might find and arrange them into your bag.
  2. Get a piece of 8.5x11ish oaktag for each student, plus 2 pieces of cardboard of the same size for the front and back cover. Triple hole punch all of them. Set aside notebook rings that will be used to secure your book.
  3. Prior to class google Monster images and select those you feel are appropriate to the ages of your students. Make a quick powerpoint, otherwise be prepared to project these in class. Also select a monster book to read aloud to them. Our favorite: Rotten Island by William Steig, but you might want to check out this site: http://www.notimeforflashcards.com/2012/09/monsterbooks.html
  4. Explain that the class will be creating a monster field guide. If they don’t know what a field guide is, there’s a little research project you can assign someone in class.
  5. Next. introduce the Monster Bag – plan a BIG REVEAL, opening it slowly and suspensefully, sharing all of the spooky contents – and the best part – letting them know that each of them gets to take the Monster Bag home for an evening. Their only homework that evening is to read the monster books with the family (perhaps listen to the spooky music) and take 1 page in the blank class book to draw their own monster. We like to create a sample, one with plenty of detail and that fills the page. You might include a monster checklist for them to consult, containing all of the specific details/features they can consider including: Monster Checklist: • eye(s) • nose/snout • mouth • arms/legs • fur • horns • claws • scales • fangs/teeth • tail(s) • feathers • hair • tongue • nails • whiskers
  6. It’s helpful to give parents the heads-up on the monster bag, as getting it to and from school might be challenging for younger students. We set a schedule for the month, so everyone knows when to be prepared. If a student forgets to bring the bag back, the schedule gets messy, so an email reminder to parents can be helpful. The next day the artist shares his or her monster and adds it to the book.
  7. Finally, when all of the monsters are in the book, explain that in class they’ll be writing an elaborative segment describing their monster. Be sure to MODEL this first, and then move to GUIDED PRACTICE. Use the following Video from our Online Video Support Series as a guide. (Click here for the Wild Thing Video). You can use the “Wild Thing” lesson plan from our Comprehensive Narrative Writing Guide to help with this. (Click here for the lesson.)
  8. Last – terrific learning opportunity – instead of having the artist/author pair her/his writing with the art work, spread them all out on the table (with names covered by a post it note) and allow the class to match the vivid description with the corresponding artwork. If they can’t do it, then the writing will need more detail! Once that’s accomplished, they can assemble the final book. Fun to share with other classrooms!

Don’t worry if these aren’t done before Halloween! The theme is so appealing to kids of all ages that they won’t mind extending the fun into November. And – one last thing! Scan us your best examples – EW will publish the best of the best, and student authors will win an autographed copy of one of Barbara Mariconda’s books as well as an inspirational note, author to author. Email entries to: barbaramariconda@empoweringwriters.com. Be sure to include student’s name, age, grade, and teacher. DEADLINE: Nov. 15th, 2014.