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Pros: Kids already love drawing and monsters, so it's easy to entice and challenge them to some real creative writing.
Cons: It's somewhat limited in scope, and there could be more follow-up activities.
Bottom Line: It's a really unique way to connect with another classroom and put kids' creativity and writing skills to the test.
Monster Exchange easily fits into units on English, writing, or even history, folklore, or culture. Kids can write to practice language skills, grammar, or descriptive writing, or to learn more about literature from an author’s perspective. You can read or assign books that contain vivid descriptions and discuss what makes the writing clear. Kids can draw pictures of worlds, characters, or scenes from books they read in class before taking their turn at descriptive writing. Try reading aloud from a book and have kids draw a mental picture of what they hear. Or, as a Monster Exchange lesson plan suggests, kids can explore popular folklore legends and draw, for example, Bigfoot or the Headless Horseman. They can practice within the classroom first to hone their writing skills, and then do the exchange through the website.
Editor's Note: Monster Exchange is no longer available.
Monster Exchange is a website that allows kids to use their writing and drawing skills. The site facilitates classroom exchanges that challenge kids to be creative and write descriptively about a very important subject: monsters. Teachers sign up, then choose a partner classroom from participating schools across the globe.
The process goes like this: Kids draw a monster, then write a detailed description of their monster. Kids keep the original drawing, but classes exchange descriptions and then attempt to re-draw the original monsters based on those written descriptions. The moment of truth comes when kids get to compare drawings, seeing the similarities and differences between the two.
It's a really neat way to get kids excited about writing and demonstrates the importance of the creative writing mantra, “show not tell.” Kids get meaningful feedback when they see the re-drawn monster. "Where is it different from the original? What did I do a good job describing? What could I have described better? Did I leave anything out?" Kids who love the challenge may be inspired to go through the process again to see if they can describe their drawing so well that another person can draw it perfectly.
Kids could also learn important lessons from the differences they see in the re-drawn monsters. For instance, something that may seem obvious to them may not be so clear to someone else, and different people can interpret the same thing in multiple ways. This lesson may come out especially because kids can exchange their monsters with peers from different backgrounds across the globe. A bonus: Monster Exchange can also be a special way for kids learning English to practice their language skills.
Problems: There seem to be many classrooms that sign up but don’t finish, suggesting that it could be a bit hard to match up with a classroom that will follow the project through to the end. And more suggestions for follow-up activities would really round out the site, including the addition of some non-monster challenges (why not a duck fireman, or an alien dog? There are lots more opportunities for creativity if the concept is expanded a little). But overall, it's a really fun idea with unique learning potential.