My kids have had a great time working on the monster project this year. I really enjoyed how easy it was to make the project multidisplinary. You write the descriptions of the body part and read other children’s descriptions. You incorporate science in discussing the different body parts, and math and measuring them. We involved geography in finding the other participants’ locations. Not to mention the art skills and co-operation involved in building the monster itself. Whew!
I asked Liz to tell us in more detail how the project worked in her class:
Here are the steps we followed to build our monster and participate in the project:
1. We wrote a class description. (We did this orally with me typing and the kids offering suggestions.)
2. We voted for which part we’d like to describe.
3. Each child drew a possibility for the monster’s neck (our chosen part), and we voted for our favorite.
4. We decided on a written description for the neck and submitted it.
5. I made slips with each monster part and description and had the kids select one. Then we discussed at length what the description meant. This was by far the hardest part for them– some of the vocabulary was very challenging, and I had already edited the descriptions some already to make them more age-appropriate!
6. The kids drew what they thought their finished part would look like, and then made a mini-model with construction paper.
7. The kids filled out and order form for the various materials they would need. (Also very challenging, hard for them to conceptualize what their part would look like when done, even with the mini models.)
8. We began to build the parts themselves. Some got very hung up on the size of the part, and really struggled with this. Others forged ahead and lost sight of the description entirely. Oops. I will have to keep a closer watch during this phase if I do the project again.
9. We laid the parts out on the floor and assembled everything. I loved doing this with them and especially loved how none of us knew what it would look like when done.
I asked Liz what had worked well about the project and what didn’t work quite so well:
I teach 2nd grade (7 and 8 year olds) and knew this would be a challenging project for them. It certainly was! However, they love seeing the monster out in the hall now. I think they feel a real sense of accomplishment about it. My favorite part of the project was seeing the photos of the other classes and learning about their schools. This made much less of an impact on my class than I would have liked– too abstract for kids their age, perhaps.
Overall, fun! I will restructure the building next year by adding more oversight and maybe more planning as well. On the whole I feel like the kids did quite well, though, and I am very proud of them.
Liz mentioned the originator or the project, another member of the Classroom Displays flickr group, smithtk or Mr Smith as he’s better known His monster display from last year is great fun too:
This monster is one representation of the work of kids from 5 different nations, and 10 different states.
Each class selects a Monster part such as body, head, ears, tail, horns, etc. Then, each class writes a description of that part and sends it to the project web. When all of the descriptions are in, each class builds a single monster using the descriptions from everyone.
In this photo, the body came from Japan, hair from Taiwan, ears from Michigan,belt from Nebraska, knees from England, nose from Pakistan and so forth.
When all of the descriptions are in, each class builds a single MONSTER using the descriptions from the table below. Students discover that designing and building a monster together is a very big job. It is a major lesson in working together and learning to compromise in a group decision process. For example, the kid responsible for the head has to plan with the kids doing the eyes, nose, neck, mouth, ears and hair. So kids must collaborate to construct their class MONSTER . The result is satisfying proof that a team of kids can accomplish anything!!
Other activities include a wiki, monster videos, writing, teacher sharing, and a whole project vote at the end on the most appropriate monster name.
I think this project is a lovely example of global co-operation. You can find many more details on how to get involved on Mr Smith’s Monsters web site. The project isn’t new. It’s been running since at least 2000 but what is changing is that by using groups (like the Classroom Displays flickr group) and blogs to promote the project and display children’s work even more classes are getting involved. Have a look at this Our First Monster blog explaining one class’ monster project and see if it inspires you!
Some people have had less fruitful experiences with global projects and there certainly are some pitfalls. It’s a good idea to research your chosen project quite carefully before you get involved. The impact on children’s learning from participating in a successful project can be huge so it’s worth getting it right. If you want more ideas and advice for using global projects have a look at Jayne Krauss and Suzie Boss’ book Reinventing Project-Based Learning: Your Field Guide to Real-World Projects in the Digital Age (Paperback).
Disclaimer – you just might find a reminder to celebrate your class’ work by sharing your photos in the Classroom Displays Flickr group in the book 😉