Empowering Writers

January 2014 Lesson of the Month

Wishes for a happy, healthy, and productive New Year from Barb, Dea, and the entire EW team!  After devoting most of 2013 to developing our online digital video support series we’ve finally come for air – and our first New Year’s Resolution, as always, is to continue to develop resources and workshops that meet all of your writing needs.  We love to hear from you, so keep the feedback coming!  In fact, our first lesson of the month for 2014 comes from an EW teacher and EW consultant in Calgary Canada – an idea she gleaned from an EW workshop that she really made her own…

Kids of all ages love monsters – and writing about them can be fun! In this lesson students draw and then write a vivid description of a monster – but here’s the catch. For homework the written description goes home and a parent, sibling, or other family member or friend has to draw the beast, based on all of the specific detail in the elaborative segment. Then there’s the big reveal! When the student finally displays her/his own monster drawing it should look dramatically like that of their family member’s or friend’s. And that is an indication that the elaboration was thorough, specific, and vivid! How much fun is that?

Teacher Background: Remember – using specific detail generating questions is the key to generating powerful, vivid detail. Modeling (as a regular part of the methodology) helps students apply these questions to stimulate creative thought. Also providing sentence starters.

Objective: Students use detail-generating questions to help them visualize a monster (story critical character). They draw their monster, and refer to it as they write a vivid description. The objective is for the level of detail to be sufficient for a reader to refer to in order to recreate a drawing of the monster.


1) Explain that they will be using some detail-generating questions to help them visualize, draw, and write about a monster. List the following questions:

  • How big or small is your monster? (Compare to something else)
  • What kind/color fur, feathers, scales, hair did it have?
  • What kind/color/size fangs, claws, horns, tail, eyes, ears did it have?
  • What kind of expression did it wear?
  • What kind of legs, arms did it have?
  • What sounds did it make?

2) Distribute a large piece of construction paper and ask the students to draw and color their monster, filling the page (as opposed to drawing a tiny monster in a setting – we want the detail to be clear and vivid. (A great idea is for you, as the teacher, to draw your own monster along with them.)

3) Referring to the detail-generating questions, MODEL writing a description of your monster. List the following sentence starters:

  • I couldn’t believe the monster’s_________________.
  • The beast was covered in ______________.
  • On its head were_____________________.
  • Terrified, I stared at__________________.
  • The sight of the creature’s__________made me________.
  • It stared at me with its_________________.
  • You wouldn’t believe_________________. Etc.

4) Next (this can be done on another day) engage students in GUIDED PRACTICE, writing their own vivid description of the monster they drew. Circulate, offering feedback and making sure their writing depicts all of the characteristics featured on their monster.

5) Finally, distribute the AT HOME CHALLENGE providing instructions for the cooperating family member or friend. (Monster Sheet) Have students bring back three items – their original drawing, their written descriptive segment, and their family member or friend’s drawing. Display to highlight powerful, accurate description! Make a bulletin board of “Monster Twins”!

Have a look at our Canadian star, Carla Thio’s samples. Amazing! Thank you Carla, for sharing!


Download Download the lesson
Download Student Sample: Cover and Segment