Students laugh and enjoy this entertaining activity that establishes the importance of description in writing. This activity works best with students in grades 7 & 8, but every teacher knows her charges and this universal lesson can be used in many grades. Also, the element of surprise is vital to this endeavor, so do not tell students why they are doing something or what will happen next!
First, give each student a small box of crayons, a manila folder and lots of paper. (When they look at you askance, keep your humor and insist they do as they are told.) If you have the space, have everybody spread out in different areas of the room (or outside, if that is an option). In any case, students must keep their drawings private from the prying eyes of their friends – no peeking at each others’ pictures! Instruct students to keep their drawings in the manila folder you handed them.
Student must draw the most creative monster that they can imagine. Tell them not to hold back, but to be as original and inventive as they can be. They can be as silly as they want. Remind them to use lots of color.
Only after all of the pictures are complete, tell the students to write a paragraph or two describing their monster. Remind them to do their best to include every detail. No helping each other, no peeking at each other’s work!
When they have all finished, collect the descriptions. The pictures can remain hidden in the possession of each artist/writer, or you can collect the pictures to keep them safe. Now comes the truly fun part. Pass out somebody else’s description to each student. The students must draw the monster described on the paper you just handed them! The second monster will only resemble the first as much as the author was able to describe it.
Upon completion, collect everything and show the class each monster set. Have people read the description that goes with the monster set out loud. Getting to see what the second monster looks like is an effective way to show students what they did and did not include in their descriptions.
Afterward, I like to decorate the walls with each set: monster one, description, and monster two in a row. Give students the opportunity to take time to examine each set on their own. A good follow up to this exercise is to have the students go back and describe their own monster again, trying to fill in every detail that was missed the first time.
This exercise is a great way to start a creative writing unit. It cements the importance of good quality description in writing. It is also fun and can generate good natured laughter. Remember, learning happens when people are having fun!