Odyssey of the Mind Curriculum Activity: Making of a Monster

Objective: Students will investigate literature to discover monsters and their characteristics.
Students will learn:
performing for an audience character development
creative writing debating skills
Prep Time
1 hour

-- Class
-- Groups

Items to use as props, backdrops, costumes, etc.
Discuss monsters from literature ranging from the horrific—such as Frankenstein's monster, werewolves, and vampires -- to the mythological -- such as Gorgons, Chimaeras, Cyclops, and so on. Ask students to identify the common traits that make them "monsters" and the traits that set them apart from one another and make them unique.

Explain that monsters exist in many forms and introduce students to human characters who are sometimes thought of as monsters because of their behavior, for example, Stanley Kowalski from A Streetcar Named Desire, Claudius from Hamlet, and Jack Torrance from The Shining.

Over a one-week period, have students record literary characters that are portrayed as a monster at one time or another. Students are to present their findings and explain how their perception of monsters has changed.

Explain that monsters can add horror and suspense to a story if their character is developed successfully. Original, unpredictable creatures and even seemingly predictable characters that do something unexpected and terrifying can provide shock value and captivate an audience. On the contrary, when a monster's character is poorly developed, the story often proves to be silly and uninteresting.

Divide the class into four groups and have each create a play that includes a new type of monster and a "twist" or surprise ending. Give the groups enough time to rehearse and to create scenery, props, costumes, playbills, etc. Conduct a "Play Day" where each group performs its play for the entire student body.

Explain that not all monsters are bad. Muppet® characters are friendly monsters that help teach children lessons. Some monsters seem "bad" simply because of our preconceived notions of what a monster should be.

Select a "bad" monster and put it on trial for being bad. One group will prosecute the case, one will defend the monster, one will be the witnesses (including the monster) and the last group will be the jury. Act as judge and ask the prosecution to make its case by presenting witnesses. Allow the defense to cross-examine the witnesses. When the prosecution is finished direct the defense to present witnesses. Allow the prosecution to cross-examine them. After the defense rests, allow it to make a final statement and then allow the prosecution to make its final statement. Direct the jury to deliberate and render a verdict.