Sunday, April 6, 2008

Monster Organization Needed for Project

I've been slowly working on the Monster Project that I wrote about back at the beginning of March. Here it is one month later and there has been significant progress on my end. The school in Florida was way ahead of us. So I've been playing catch-up.

Here are some lessons I've learned along the way for next time around.

Explaining the Project/ Creating the Drawings This part went very smoothly. I introduced the project to the students by showing them images from the student's work last year. We were not involved in that project. One of my favorite tricks with the Mac is using the Accessibility option (System Preferences - Universal Access - Zoom ON) to zoom in the screen (++<=> and ++<->). I zoomed in so the students could only see the description. Next I scrolled down the screen to show the original and two reproductions. I showed them at least three monsters this way. Next, I outlined the rules:
  1. Use KidPix to draw your own monster.
  2. You may only use the Pencil Tool (pencil, chalk, marker, crayon) or Wacky Brush Tool (paint option) to draw the monster.
  3. If you use the paint bucket, it can only be a solid color.
  4. No stampers or stickers.
  5. No blood.
When the drawing was completed, I wrote their name in 9-point and put it in an out of the way location on the drawing (upper or lower corner). I printed a copy to keep for myself. I saved the drawing as Child's Name Monster (SusyMonster) in the KidPix folder belonging to the student. I also File - Export(ed) the image to the desktop with the same name. When the day was done, I created a folder on my school file server and whisked all those files into one location. I'm realizing this naming convention may cause trouble over several schools, so I've been refining the naming convention.

Writing the sentences I am creating the project with one second grade class of 23 students and two second grade classes of 21 students each. I'm responsible for 65 monsters in all at this point. I asked the second grade teacher if she would have the students write the descriptions in her classroom. She was very happy to help out. I wanted to have them all done before our Easter vacation so that our partner schools could start drawing as soon as possible.

The classroom teacher's suggestion for next year is to ask the students to use a particular set of shapes to draw the monsters. She said it was a huge job helping the children to describe some of the monsters. I read the book,
Hairy Scary Ordinary, What is an Adjective? by Brian Cleary to the children during computer class, but there were some complicated monsters to describe. I took the handwritten descriptions and typed them into our wiki. I also made sure I kept the handwritten description with the printout of their monster drawing for easy reference.

The third grade accomplished all the writing on their own in Word in computer class. It took about a class period and a half (about an hour) to do all the typing. I had them print out their description and I matched up the printout with their monster drawing. They saved their description in the document folder on each computer's hard drive. We called each file as grade name monster.doc (e.g., 3aSuzyMonster.doc). At the end of the day, I gathered those files onto the file server to take home.

Getting the Work on the Wiki The original monster project from the previous year lived on a web page. I suggested we create a wiki instead so that each teacher could be responsible for updating information. I checked the availability of monsterproject and to my delight, it was available.

Anna, from Florida, created the space and added me as a member. Borrowing from the wonderful 1001 Flat Tales setup, I created a page for the participating schools.

We now have a page for each class with a space for the description, original drawing, and redrawn monsters.

It's easy to copy and paste from Word to the wiki. Before uploading the files, I take them through The Gimp (a free image manipulation program) and resize the images to 296 pixels wide.

Tips for Better Organization Going Forward/ Next Time I need to have a really good naming convention. I'm almost there. I used a variety of file names over the course of working with my three groups. I'm going to settle on [3 character school id Grade Name Monster.extension]. So, the files would be sms2aSuzyMonster.kpx, sms2aSuzyMonster.jpg, sms2aSuzyMonster.doc.

Redrawing Tips I copy and paste the descriptions from the other schools into Word. Each group (Mr. T, Mrs. Hug, Mrs. O'Mullane, Ms. Graham) has their own file on my machine. Each file has a footer with the teacher and partner school. When I hand out the descriptions from the other school, I hand write the name of each "artist" on the drawing and keep those in separate folders. Each child gets a crayon to cross out each line of the description as it is drawn in KidPix (thanks Anna). I save the file to the child's KidPix directory, e.g., sms2aFlaSuzyMonster.kpx, and export it again to the desktop with the same name. I think I will change the naming convention with the third grade from Fla (for Florida) to teacher name (Hug). Again, the files are resized and imported into the proper place in the wiki.

Next Up Discussing the differences in the description they read, the original drawing, and their recreation. I know they felt that there were details missing in the descriptions they received. I can't wait until they see their redrawings. They are going to learn a lot when they realize how many more details they could have included for their partner schools.


  1. What a great idea for a project! The little ones will love the idea and it will be interesting to compare results. You are certainly putting in all the ground work to get your project up and running. Congrats on your 100th post. Did you ever think you would be where you are today, when you first started. Will you write a celebration to your 100th post?

  2. The request came from @abaralt. All the credit goes to her for getting the ball rolling. It really does take a lot of thinking to make sure you don't lose all the files and that everyone gets a monster redrawn from them.

    I did this with my fourth graders last year within my school. It's a lot of fun to do it with other schools.

    I never thought about writing a celebration to my hundredth post. I certainly had no expectation of the wonderful relationships that would develop all over the globe. Thanks for the comment.

  3. Congratulations on your 100th post. You are right about it being a "monster" project. In the end it is all worth it to see the kids faces! It is also amazing to see how much their writing changes based on this one project.

  4. I am so glad that I was online when you posted the request for partners in the project. I think we had just started following each other on Twitter the day before. I'm lucky our school has gotten to know you!