Character vs. Self Conflicts

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SWBAT describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges.

Big Idea

Conflict may be internal or external. This lesson focuses on the internal conflict that characters have with themselves. Character perspectives are explored to understand this type of conflict.

How does a character show conflict with self?

20 minutes

I always try to view the lessons I teach from a child's perspective.  Seven to eight-year-old children are, after all, my target audience. When I was a child, I know that something has to appeal to my senses to get my attention.  So, I always try to find motivational hooks to launch my lessons. 21st Century learning has to entertain as well as provide relevant and meaningful information to students.  Savvy students of this era are immersed in a plethora of technological devices.  They also have many real world learning experiences they can draw on to connect lesson concepts. 

Previewing New Content:  In order to gauge the knowledge of my target audience, my students, I Activate Prior Knowledge.  My lesson begins with asking students if they have seen a cartoon character who has to decide between good and bad. Almost always, their eyes light up as if a light bulb exploded in their heads.  Then, they wave their hands at me anxiously to share the latest super hero movie .  For example, one student shares how Spider Man has to face his "dark side".  Then another discusses how on Bat Man's the Dark Knight, Bat man has to decide between good and evil. Movie creators have added depth and complexity to the once superficial cartoon characters. My experience as a child was more simply a popular technique in  cartoons where there is an angel on one shoulder and a devil on the other shoulder of a person trying to decide whether they should follow good or evil.  Students are so sophisticated today, that they even cite examples in their own experiences when they had conflicting thoughts within themselves and how they resolved these issues.  So, you see, these detailed discussions are great examples of what students already know.  

However, students do not know EVERYTHING.  So, teachers must introduce concepts and provide exact definitions of these concepts to keep students on topic.  After formatively assessing prior knowledge, I introduce Character vs. Self in stories with the following definition: Character v. Self is an internal conflict that takes place within a character's mind.

Now is the opportunity to redirect what they know from personal experience to a story or book. For example, I ask student s to identify character vs. self conflicts and cite examples in the book, Charlotte's Web. 

My next topic is to ask students how conflicts were resolved in the story. Again, reading passages from Charlotte's Web by EB White, I ask students to use Post Its to mark areas in their book that identifies character vs. self conflicts as well as how the conflicts were resolved.  In doing so, I show students that most stories follow the sequential pattern of conflict, then resolution.

I find that second grade students are predominantly visual in their learning.  So, I use a Graphic Organizer as a mind mapping tool to visualize character v. self conflict.

Motivation Hook Launching Activity:  Since I have predetermined 21st Century learners as technologically proficient, I attract their attention and keep students engaged by showing media clips.  To draw students into my lesson, I show a segment of the Video Clip: Wilbur Meets Charlotte, in which Wilbur has a conflict with himself because he was not sure whether he can rationalize being friends with Charlotte, who in his mind is a murderer of insects.  However, Charlotte defends herself as a trapper, who needs to kill for survival.  Have a Shared Inquiry discussion with students on their views about this friendship, citing examples from personal experiences or other sources, to defend their views.  Second graders are not shy about giving their opinions. However, it is a challenge for them to cite objective defenses from text or media source to defend their claims. Some modeling and role playing may have to be done at first to demonstrate this rather abstract concept of defending your claims.

Why do characters struggle with themselves?

20 minutes

     The meat of the lesson is a Flip Chart: Internal Conflict of Character vs. Self or slide show that I project on my Promethean board (an interactive technology teaching tool).  I like using interactive technology tools because students enjoy them so much and the tools keep them engaged throughout my lesson.  It's like that daze look they have when they watch television, except that this is not television. It is actually interactive learning in a classroom.  Unlike television, students are not passive, but active participants.  First, I introduce my content. Along with movie clips, I create games and allow students to use the Promethean pen to move things around or write on the board.  Graphic organizers are great to project on the flip chart so students can come up and write on each column.  I also use clickers or responders.  My responder has texting capability.  So, I ask them to text short answers to me. Students are both amused and excited to have a cell Phone like texting technology that they are allowed to use in class.

       In the book, Charlotte's Web. Wilbur has to make a decision that is very self-conflicting.  It is the ending of the story, so this is to be shown if you don't mind students knowing the ending at this point.  Otherwise, you can read another passage from the story.  I find that even when students know the ending, it does not spoil the entire story.  They still have missing parts if they have not read the middle of the story.  Curiosity will lead them to find out events that led to the ending. Also, reading  it together allows for fun discussions. Re-reading a story for different purposes, which is now known as the Close technique, will show students that there are details that can be missed during the first readings.  I show the Video Clip of Charlotte's Web: Magnum Opus and divide students into pairs.  Each pair has a graphic organizer to plot from the movie segment they watched.  After finding as many character to self conflicts they can in an allotted time (10-15 mins), we share out and show and tell our Character Conflict Graphic Organizer.  Students may also accompany their oral presentations with Character vs. self artifact to use as visual aide.

Response Journal

20 minutes

After a read aloud or silent reading activity, I ask my students to complete a Reading Response Journal called an Annotated Bibliography. The Annotated Bibliography consist of a citation, followed by a brief paragraph - the annotation - comments about the quality of that source.   I usually create one out of a Composition Book.  This journal always begins with the title of the story, type of genre it is, a reference to cite the source, a brief four to five sentence summary, and an opinion section (aka annotation).  Students are asked to justify their opinions by citing examples from what they have read or from personal experiences.

In the beginning, students will usually write the typical opinion, "I liked the book" or "It is a good story".  The difficult, but rewarding part when students develop this expertise, is to elaborate by justifying this simple opinion.  So, a lot of modeling needs to take place as well as individual "writing conferences".  Modeling usually involves me writing on the board or typing and projecting from a word processor (my preference) an example of what I expect to see in their journals. Students brainstorm ideas together and complete the summary with me as I model.  I present a Annotated Rubric and explain to the students that my target is a 3.  We discuss the rubric as a learning progression and that no one usually starts at a 3.  The rubric gives students a guide of what qualities are expected in their writing.

Yes, this does take quite a bit of time and patience.  However, this process cannot be rushed and there is no reason to rush.  Writing details takes time and a lot of thought.  Tying reading and writing together helps.  If students have "writer's block", I use books or articles as "mentor texts".  Mentor texts are literature pieces that students examine and imitate.  For example, the chapter book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid written by Jeff Kinney, is a great example of journal writing since the main character, Greg Heffley, documents his experiences in a journal.  Students can relate to Greg's experiences maybe from their own personal experiences. Likewise, opinion pieces are often justified by personal experiences.  By imitating Heffley's style of writing as it relates to writing and justifying opinions, students make a connection to their own writing.