Grade: 3 or 4

Subject: English

Length of Lesson: 45 minutes

Topic/Theme: Writing Scary Stories

Submitted by : Carol Jean Longworth


To have students examine the writing style employed in horror stories to describe monsters, and to have them emulate this style of writing on an individual basis.

Contents to be covered

  • Text: “Nightmare”
  • Class analysis of the descriptive style of writing employed in text
  • Brainstorming session
  • Individual writing exercise

Skills and understanding

  • Students should develop insights about the genre of horror stories by closely looking at the characteristics of the writing style employed in the text.
  • Students will be able to build a word bank of descriptive words that are commonly used to describe various characteristics of monsters (words will come from both the text and suggestions elicited from students in guided class discussion).
  • Students will emulate the style of writing used in the genre of horror stories by creating and describe their own monster using some of the key words or descriptions mentioned in the text or in the class brainstorming session.

Knowledge to be learned

  • At the end of the lesson, students should be able to identify some of the stereotypes and key words commonly used in this genre of literature to describe monsters.
  • Students should also be able to emulate the style and vocabulary used for character (monster) description in this genre of writing on an individual basis.

Materials, Resources, Methods, Classroom procedures:

1) Materials and Resources:

  • Short scary story: “Nightmare”
  • Blackboard or whiteboard
  • Paper and pens or pencils

2) Methods and Classroom Procedure:

Overall Method: Style Study

Read the text: Ask student to predict what the story might be about based on the title. What kinds of things appear in nightmares? Do you dream of monsters? Tell the students that you will be talking about describing monsters today. Ask the class to watch out for key descriptive words that are used in the text.

Analyze descriptive technique in text: First ask students to respond to text. What kind of story is this? What makes this a scary story, what are some of the key characteristics? How did the author describe the monster in this story? Write down the key descriptive words that the students recall from text. Offer prompts. Ask for reactions. Do you think this monster is scary? Why or why not?

Brainstorming Session: Have the class suggest other kinds of monsters that appear in scary stories (mummies, skeletons, blobs, zombies, vampires etc.). Ask students to give examples of words that are often used to describe monsters. (What do they look like? What do they feel like? How do they smell, move etc.). Encourage them to include all the senses they can when they describe.

Create Word Bank: Write all the words suggested in the text and in brainstorming session on the blackboard. Have the word bank organized into categories: types of monsters, appearance, how they feel, smell, move etc. Students will use this as a resource to refer to as they do their writing activity.

Writing Exercise: Students will use the example of the text, general stereotypes of the genre of writing, and the class word bank of key descriptive words to create and describe their own monster. This description should be two to three sentences in length (more if so desired) and should include at least one key descriptive word from each of the descriptive categories outlined on the board.

Background Knowledge:

  • This lesson will take place before Halloween and will be part of a unit devoted to the study of the genre of horror stories.
  • Most of the discussion will take place after the reading of the text and the knowledge will be derived from student’s previous exposure to this genre of literature.
  • Before reading the text, you will ask children what kind of scary things appear in your nightmares. You might ask students to describe some of the monsters that appear in their bad dreams or imaginations.

Body of Lesson:

1) Read “Nightmare”

  • Start by asking the students to predict what the story will be about based on the title.
  • Ask what kinds of things appear in nightmares? Do you dream of monsters? What kind of monsters? Do you think there will be a monster in this story?
  • Tell the class that today we will be talking all about how to make or describe monsters.
  • Ask students to watch out for key words that are used in the story to describe monsters.
  • Read the story to the class
  • Get reactions to story. Did they like the story? Who was the monster in the story? What kind of story is this? Why is it a scary story? What makes it a scary story? What are some of the characteristics of scary stories? (monsters, spooky setting etc.)

2) Set up Word Bank on Black Board

Divide board into sections for different categories.

Monster Making Word Bank!

My Monster

Is a It looks like Feels like Sounds like Acts like Smells like


3) Analyze descriptive technique in the story

  • How did the author describe the monster (or monsters) in this story? Ask students to mention some of the key descriptive words and phrases used in the story.
  • Start writing down words that the children recall from the text. Remind the students that several other types of monsters were described besides the main monster in the story, they can use those descriptions as well.

Under It Looks Like, students might suggest:






razor-sharp claws

dagger-like fangs

blood-red eyes

rough tongue

huge brain showing

tall / thin

scaly green




Under Sounds like, students might suggest:






Under Acts like, students might suggest:


lashes out

hides in shadows

has super strength


4) Brain Storming Activity

Tell students that we want to get more ideas of words that we can use to describe monsters. Ask them to think of monsters that they have read about or imagined and contribute ideas about different kinds of monsters, what they look like, feel like, act like, smell like and sound like. Write down all suggestions.

  • Start with kinds of monsters. Ask students what kinds of monsters they have heard about or know about. Examples: mummies, zombies, space aliens, mutants etc.
  • Ask students what these monsters look like. What colour are they? Do they glow? Are they decaying? What size are they? Do they look dangerous?
  • Ask students what these monsters might feel like. Are they rough or smooth? Are they wet? Slimy? Dry? Squishy? Hard?
  • Ask students what sounds monsters might make? Would they make loud sounds or soft, spooky sounds? Would they roar or moan?
  • Ask students how the monsters act? Do they sneak, slither, or slide? Do they lurk or do they charge? Do they float or run? Are they fast or slow?
  • Ask students what they imagine these monsters might smell like? Would they smell musty? Rotten? Greasy? Dead?

5) Demonstrate how you can use some of these descriptive words to make anddescribe your own monsters.

  • Reread the pre-selected, highly descriptive passage from the text (pg.50)
  • Tell students that you are now going to show you how you can use the examples in the text and the word bank the class has created to make and describe a new monster!
  • Example: The swamp monster was huge! It was covered with slimy, green scales that glowed in the dark, and it smelled like a dead fish. The monster slithered slowly towards us hissing loudly.
  • Underline the key, descriptive words in each sentence and point out the categories that they came from.
  • Ask students if they have a good idea of what the monster looks, smells, acts, etc. like, based on your description.
  • Repeat exercise one or two times, but this time have the students help select the features of the new monsters.

6) Writing Exercise

  • Once you feel the students are comfortable with the “monster making” process, tell them that it now time for them to make their own monsters.
  • Tell them to use the word bank on the black board to help them come up with ideas and check spelling. Tell them that they only need to make two or three sentences to describe their monster, but ask them to include at least one feature from each category: what kind of monster, how it moves, sounds, smell, looks like etc.
  • Tell them that you will be available if they need help or want suggestions for other words.
  • Make sure that everyone has the necessary writing materials and then let them get started. Monitor progress.

Note: Make sure that they know this is a rough draft only, that they will have the chance to improve it later on. Allow students to write as many sentences as it takes to include the features. Some students may have difficulties using more one or two descriptive words in each sentence. You can work on condensing their texts later.

Closure of Lesson:

  • Ask for reactions. Did they have fun making monsters? Are their monsters really scary?
  • If time allows, let volunteers read their descriptions of their monsters.
  • Tell students that in the next class they will continue to work on “improving their monsters.
  • Tell students that next class the students will be drawing other each others’ monsters according to their descriptions
  • Tell students that everyone will eventually get a chance to write a scary story about the monster they created today.


  • Assessment of the student’s comprehension of the task as well as their ability to integrate and apply examples and suggestions from text and word bank will be judged mainly by the writing they produce.
  • How many descriptive words did they use? Did the description seem complete, balanced? Did they only focus on one aspect (such as appearance), or did they integrate other categories of description.
  • Were the descriptions imaginative and original, or were they stereotypical?
  • Comprehension will also be judged by student’s participation and ability to contribute ideas to class discussion (either voluntarily or when prompted).

Source Used:Pierce, Q. L. Nightmare, More Scary Stories for Sleep-overs. Los Angeles: RGA Publishing, 1992. 49-57.

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