Character vs. Society

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SWBAT identify and describe how characters in a story conflicts with society.

Big Idea

How do characters' experiences affect their views of society ?

How does society influence characters in the story?

20 minutes

     Our previous "School Starter" lessons about community and the world we live in provide students with background knowledge about society and how it functions.  During our literacy meeting at our "Gathering Place" aka meeting circle, we begin a discussion about differences among people and how there are differences in our classroom community.  I like to relate abstract concepts with what is the real world to my students. They spend a lot more time in our classroom community than anywhere else, so why not begin there.  

     As expected, students are not shy about telling me how they feel differently about things than another student they know in class.  Of course, I draw explicit details from them by layering my questions as they speak.  For example, how are you different than your friend?  Why do you feel that way?  What anecdotes or examples can you give to prove your point?  Then, just for fun, I ask the other student that was talked about whether they agree or disagree with their friend's analysis of their behavior. Then, I ask students if they ever disagree with a classroom rule or school policy.  Why was this rule conflicting to them or their beliefs?  What did they do about this conflict?  This discussion goes on for a few minutes among other students as well.  I summarize by saying that characters have conflicts with society as well.  It is human nature.

     With this introduction, I show a Charlotte's Web Video Clip: Wilbur Meets Charlotte.  It is the scene where Wilbur meets Charlotte for the first time.  She informs him that she is a trapper.  She traps insects and kills them for food.  Wilbur had issues with this because he is unsure whether he can befriend someone who kills other animals.  Charlotte's defense is that she has to find her own food in order to survive.  Unlike Wilbur, she does not get her food served daily.  Wilbur struggled with this conflict afterwards. 

     I also read an excerpt from the Charlotte's Web book that relates to this scene.  We examine and analyze this chapter and movie clip together.  Then we  brainstorm our thoughts about other conflicts that relate to character vs. society.  One student said that sometimes there are two conflicts that happens with the same scene.  For example, when Fern first fought with her father to keep Wilbur alive, that was also character vs. society (Fern vs. Society's belief to respect parents) as well as character vs. character (Fern vs. Dad).  I respond by saying that dual conflicts can happen.  The student continues to say that when this conflict was resolved and the father agreed not to kill the runt, that was another character vs. society conflict (Dad vs. farming community).

Lesson Presentation

20 minutes

    I begin my lesson by directing students to read and interpret my Character vs. Society Confict Flip Chart.  Once students are given its definition, we explore all types of reasons that an individual might have conflicts with norms and rules of society.  

  Then, I use my document camera to project a Character Conflicts Graphic Organizer that plots out the character's feelings and actions during conflicts.  Another way to display this graphic organizer is to use a poster maker and create an enlargement.  If  I used a poster, I would ask students to write on post-its and attach them on certain areas of the organizer.  However, I chose to use the projected image because I have Promethean technology in my classroom.  I can just use my ActivPen and write what students dictate.  For this lesson, I chose to use the student responders and asked them to text me short answers to describe Wilbur's thoughts and feelings about his conflict with society.  The responders I have allow me to see the names or assigned number of the person answering.  So, I can read the response and ask the student more details about the text.  

     Furthermore, the response technology system allows me to conduct formative assessments along the way.  At this point, I was able to establish if students had a clear understanding of what defines character vs. society.  The depth of their knowledge was further explored as I asked students to cite from the book and/or movie evidence that supports their conclusions.

Recording Knowledge

20 minutes

     As a visual aide, I show students a Conflict Stapleless book.  I ask them how I can use this mini book to demonstrate my knowledge about character vs. society conflicts.  One student said you can pick different examples of character vs. society conflicts and draw it on top.  Then, you can write your explanation on the bottom of your picture.  Another student suggested to pick only one character vs. nature conflict.  Then, draw in sequence the different ways the character tries to resolve this conflict (one per page of the booklet).  Various other discussions occurred about what to do with the mini-book.  Then we voted the idea we liked best.  

     So, student decided it was best to draw a picture of one conflict, describe the character, the societal norms against the character, and its resolution using drawings and text. We decided to work independently on this project and share out afterwards.  Before disseminating them to work independently, we reviewed expected behaviors.  We wrote on chart paper what is expected during independent work:

  • Stay in one place.
  • Work the whole time
  • Focus on tasks
  • Work quietly.