Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oh, What a Character!

Oh, What a Character!

 Character, one of the seven elements of literature, is probably, the heart of their comprehension. After all, without some sort of entity-human, animal or a living being of some sort- would  a story even exist? Oh, a setting can exist, and certainly an author could create a tone and present a point of view, but what would create the conflict or symbols or theme?
Oh, What a Character!
Let's talk about Characters. When considering how to develop students' comprehension structures,

A story is not a, "Which came first-the chicken or the egg?" dilemma. If pages of words are to capture readers' minds and hearts, a Character must be born so it can breathe life into the setting and give a starting point for a Conflict, which leads to any symbols and themes. The author's tone and point of view create word pictures from these five elements. Aha! Now, we have a story, folks, and one with a solid structure.

Because we are readers as well as teachers, we know, though, that a character can be as flat and depthless as the piece of paper where it is first named, or as round as a soccer ball, with so many sides that few people, if any, ever see all the aspects of this being.

This character might be static, offering distinct physical, emotional and mental traits, but is someone who always remains the same, like the Big Bad Wolf (The Three Pigs), Tiny Tim (A Christmas Carol), Voldemort (the Harry Potter books), or Mollie, the white horse (Animal Farm).

Then again, the character might be dynamic, a being who shows emotional, mental and philosophical growth from throughout the story. Physical growth could occur, too, but this usually just happens without any choice. The other types of growth involve a personal choice due to circumstances and situations the person endures, or something they learn or realize as they move through their lives. The Protagonist and Antagonist must always be Dynamic characters if the story is to be multi-layered and keep the reader's interest.

A number of the secondary characters should change, too. In fact, sometimes these secondary characters seem more dynamic than the leads. Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet comes to mind.  Shakespeare had to make a "worm's feast" of this man because he was so vibrant that he well could have overshadowed his less flamboyant sidekick, Romeo.

We help students understand the Characters, primary or secondary, by teaching them that the author shows these people:
A. through what he/she says about them,
B. by what other say and think about them, and
C. by what they say, think and do.

Still, our students often have a difficult time understanding the inner person because the superficial dominates their media-driven world. We must help them to employ their critical, and analytic higher-level thinking skills so they can see below the surface to the richer, deeper person who lies under their skin, behind their public faces and in their souls.

This Freebie activity, What a Character, offers students a variety of ways to explore a character, to ferret out the inner person so this being becomes three-dimensional. Only some of the choices students will make will be plucked from the words the author wrote. Students will have to dig into the sub-text, to look behind what the character says and does and what others relate about this person to fill in the blanks. Their answers will be opinions, but they must be able to defend and justify them with the words and intentions that the author presented.

To meet any teaching needs, I preface the three-page activity with a Teacher Notes page that includes the Common Core Standards and Bloom's Taxonomy points that are addressed in this activity as well as the Who, What, When , Why and How aspects you need to teach this lesson.


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Happy Teaching,