I time this lesson for the period after the students have completed reading The Fighting Ground by Avi. In this engaging story about a single day during the American Revolution, a boy chronicles his experience in battle in hours and sometimes minutes. Although numerous (and significant) characters have their place in this novel, we do not know any of their names.
The students will be practicing Point of View writing using Venn Diagrams to compare and contrast characters. This skill leads to better reading comprehension as well as helping the students make connections within the literature. On the Smart Board I create a sample Venn Diagram Venn Diagram on Smart Board with Jonathan as one character and the other character a student choice Considering How to Compare. They decide if they'd like to compare Jonathan with his father, the Corporal, or one of the Hessian mercenaries. Initially, when I did this I expected that the character they chose would also be the focus of their Point of View paper. In actuality, many wanted to change their choice after the main assignment was explained. It really doesn't matter one way or the other. By creating Venn Diagrams, the kids were thinking further Creating Venn Diagrams about the characters and by sharing their Venns, the whole class benefited from this information. They really get into the comparisons and share with the class Sharing Venn Diagram Comparisons. Another Venn Diagram Share...Sharing Venn Diagram Information.
I begin this part of the lesson by asking the kids if they've noticed anything unique about the characters in the novel, Jonathan excluded. After numerous guesses, no one could figure out what I was looking for. Instead of telling them outright, I started naming the other characters: Jonathan's father and mother, the Bell Ringer, the Frenchman, the Tavern Keeper, the Corporal, the Snydertown Folks, the Women at the Well, the Hessians, the boy, the parents...it then dawned on them that no one else was called by a real name. They were truly shocked and even fascinated with this, now obvious, information. I then presented the application of the lesson. With the students focusing on the attributes and personality of a second character, they had the opportunity to use their Venn Diagram to supplement their Point of View paper Point of View Writing Utilizing the Venn. They may also refer to the book. Using the Book and Venn to Write
This paper The Fighting Ground POV Writing is a chance for them to show understanding Finding Information in the Novel of the novel, as well as an ability to transfer that information to the viewpoint of the second character. With a choice of three secondary characters: Jonathan's father Jonathan's Father's POV Writing and Jonathan's Father's POV cont, the Corporal's POV Writing and Corporal's POV cont, or one of the Hessians POV Writing and Hessians POV cont 1 and Hessians POV cont 2 who capture Jonathan, the students picked the one they wanted to identify with, and decided where that character's tale should begin. Jonathan's father is the character with the least amount of "novel time." Other than his initial appearance in the beginning of the book, we're left to wonder what's going on with him until he appears again briefly at the end. If this character is picked, students will have to make some high level interences based on the limited amount of facts in the text. They'll speculate about how he'd react to his son's absence when all his son was go into to town to get information.
I also told them that it would be their responsibility to name the character they would write about. The kids had difficulty coming up with German sounding names, so I wrote a few choice ones on the board: Frederick, Hans, Johannes, Carl, Kurt and Rolfe (I reverted to The Sound of Music as I got desperate to come up with different names.) They jumped right into this writing assignment with excitement I haven't seen with writing before. It was unexpected, but really wonderful to see.
After working very hard to create point of view experiences through one of the three characters, they are really excited to share them! Again, seeing their enthusiasm, I thought back to the planning of the writing assignment, I expected it to be recieved with groans, as writing activities sometimes are. Not at all. The kids were into the idea of the whole thing from the very beginning.
My original plan was to alternate the presentation between the POV: Jonathan's father, the Corporal, a Hessian Presenting a Hessian's POV evenly. What I found was that the Corporal, by far, was the most popular character to portray. In second was a Hessian soldier, and Jonathan's father was an anemic third place with two POV written. Most of the kids wanted to present their writing themselves, but some preferred for me to read their paper. All in all, it was a lot of fun, and the kids enjoyed hearing such varied ideas about the same character.
*A note about the Corporal's POV video presentation Presenting the Corporal's POV: she uses the word, "Damn." A few of the kids who wrote from his POV asked if they were allowed to do this, and it may seem strange that I said they could. My reason is The Fighting Ground is approved by our district, and the word appears numerous times in the heat of the battle. I told the kids who asked that they could use this word just once in their writing, and no other profanity.