Introduction to How Complex Characters Change and Develop: Modern Examples

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SWBAT analyze how complex characters develop by viewing a teacher made power point and participating in student to student discourse in preparation for reading "The Birthmark."

Big Idea

To gain greater insight into Nathaniel Hawthorne's characters, students explore the question: "Why do people change the way they look?"


20 minutes

I ask students to read the vocabulary words on "The Birthmark" Vocabulary Starter worksheet to give them a basic understanding of the words they will be reading in the story and that the Common Core standards require determining the meaning of vocabulary words L.9-10.4. They work either individual or with a partner to complete the activity.  Next, for about 5 minutes I ask all students to pair up and quiz each other on each word by taking turns asking for its definition.  I circulate among the pairs keeping them on task. 

For the last 5 minutes I review the words with the class using a variety of mnemonics and associations to help them remember the words' definitions.  For example, I tell students to bring their hands slowly together and interlace their fingers saying the word "union."  I point to the beige painted walls and ask them to say "pale" or point to a small crack in the floor tile and ask them to say "imperfection" and so on.  

I know from my experience as a special educator that the use of mnemonics and association can improve memory. I also know my students often find learning new vocabulary words to be an arduous process.  I want to transform a normally dull lesson into a firm, fun memory activity.  I share with the students that all memory is based on association and that this activity will help them to remember the vocabulary words. I also know repetition is necessary for retention as well as pointing out contextual clues while reading the story.



Building Knowledge

30 minutes

The author Hawthorne's story focuses on a character's desire to make his wife perfect but in his obsession for perfection she dies. I use a Powerpoint presentation that I designed to illustrate physical changes people in the media often go through to achieve "physical perfection."  I ask students to look at the physical changes pop musician Michael Jackson went through over his years while living.  While I present the slides the slides, I ask students to identify the changes he made. 

I end the power point with two slides of an Ukraninian woman who felt the need to change her physical appearance to the degree that she looks like the cartoon character "Annime Girl."  This focus on modern people helps lead students toward understanding how to evaluate how complex characters develop,and how they will use that skill when they begin reading “The Birthmark”  because making the learning relevant to the students life is essential. The Common Core Standards require students to analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme RL.9-10.3.

I impress on the students that people have and always will obsess on their physical bodies and appearances and that this something to think about when reading and analyzing how Alymer and Georgina, two complex characters in the short story interact with each other and develop over the course of the story.

Student Learning Actvivity

20 minutes

Using the Reflection Questions handout, I ask students to think about people they may know or heard of who made physical changes to their bodies and why they may have done so.

I ask them to expand on why they think Michael Jackson and the "Anime Girl" went to such extremes to change the way they look.  Students work individually then share their responses with a learning partner.  I use these groupings because I want them to first reflect and write by themselves on the questions being asked before sharing out with another student W.9-10.10.  Next I pick a few students to share their answers with the class while asking for any questions or comments SL.9-10.1.



Wrap Up

5 minutes

Verbal Exit Slip 

To address the requirement in the speaking and listening standard SL.9-10.1, I use a verbal exit slip for The Wrap Up by asking students to think about one thing they realized concerning the motives for why people might change their physical appearance.  I then pick three students to report out.