Powerful Writing: Description in Creating Monster Trading Cards
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Students discuss types of monsters they know from literature, comics, cartoons, and trading-card games, generating a list of descriptive words and phrases to describe them. Students then use a template to create their own monster trading cards using "powerful," vivid language to describe their creatures. Descriptive imagery and word choice combine with visual elements to create a cross-disciplinary menagerie in your class.
Monster Trading Card Template: Students can use this template to create their own character trading cards.
From Theory to Practice
Word play allows students to learn language in a creative environment. Moreover, allowing students to play with the language opens up opportunities to increase their vocabulary and extend it to other disciplines. As Nilsen and Nilsen (2000) point out, "[W]e are suggesting that it's time to develop a process approach to teaching vocabulary. Because of international communication and new technologies, the English language is changing faster today than it has at any time since the Norman conquest. . . . We need to give students experience not just in memorizing words and their meanings, but in synthesizing, analyzing, and interacting with words" (32).
This lesson asks students to play with words by creating original names for monsters of their own creation while also stressing the use of vivid details in their description of their creations.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
General Classroom Materials (crayons, markers, pencils)
- self-edit to see what kind of details they currently use in writing and revise for clarity and creativity.
- give feedback to their peers on use of descriptive language.
- improve the amount and quality of description in their writing based on feedback from their peers.
- make the connection between graphical elements and use of details in writing.
- Begin with a whole-class discussion on the types of monsters students would know from literature, comics, cartoons, and trading-card games such as Yu-Gi-Oh!®. Ask them what characteristics they like or dislike about them, why, and how they might change them if they had the chance.
- Write on the board a list of the words and short phrases the class uses to describe their likes and dislikes. This should not merely be a litany of adjectives; note how they allude to active characteristics such as a monster's manner of speech, its weaknesses, how and what it eats, and so on, allowing for reference points for when they create their own monsters.
- Pass out copies of the template (have many extras on hand for those who want to start over) and tell the class that they have an opportunity to be the creator, both artist and writer, of an altogether new monster.
- Have the kids draw whatever type of monster they choose, giving it a name, type, description, etc., following the template. They should be free to go back and forth from the drawing to the writing, adding details to each to enhance their creature's uniqueness. This Example Monster Card could serve as a model to get them started.
- Have groups of three to four share their cards, giving feedback on how the details can be enhanced by adding more "powerful" (i.e., vivid and specific) words to describe each monster. You may choose to let each group use the Monster Trading Card Rubric to facilitate their feedback.
- Students then revise their written descriptions and drawings, if necessary. New templates can be used if the students desire, or if they are happy with their drawings but need to rewrite, they can cut on the fold and keep the drawing but tape or glue a revised description to the back of the original drawing.
- Students can create multiple cards, and their peers (or themselves) can give them "values" based on the Monster Trading Card Rubric or other criteria to trade or compete with each other.
- Have students write a fairy tale featuring their monsters. Encourage them to be creative with place names and other characters' names, employing similar strategies they used to describe their monsters in this lesson.
- Extend your study of descriptive writing using these Descriptive Writing Techniques and Narrative and Descriptive Writing Prompts.
Student Assessment / Reflections
The Monster Trading Card Rubric can be used to assess the students' final cards. Observation of small-group feedback and individual revision strategies could also play a part in the assessment.