Modeling A Written Character Analysis

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Objective

SWBAT engage in a process to help them develop a written character analysis by collaborating with teacher and classmates to produce a model.

Big Idea

Collaborating with teacher and classmates is a good trial run for a challenging task students are about to take on independently.

Overview

Students have read enough of Leslie Marmon Silko's Ceremony to be able to write a short character analysis. The plan is to use this task as another much-needed opportunity for students to practice the process I have given them for analytical writing. 

Modeling A Writing Process

35 minutes

I want to walk students through the process of analyzing a character. Because they have only read the first 20 pages of the novel, they will focus specifically on how the character was introduced. Students are good at selecting strong textual evidence. They are not so good at analyzing it. To help them, I model the process using Leslie Marmon Silko's poem, which we have already worked with in earlier lessons. In this poem, the central witch is introduced in the following stanza:

Finally there was only one

who hadn’t shown off charms or powers.

The witch stood in the shadows beyond the fire

and no one ever knew where this witch came from

which tribe

or if it was a woman or a man.

But the important thing was

this witch didn’t show off any dark thunder charcoals

or red ant-hill beads.

This one just told them to listen:

“What I have is a story.”

 

I project this stanza on the board and use it to model the process I want students to follow when analyzing the way Tayo was introduced. The process is modeled in collaboration with students. It is a lot for them to sit through so I involve them in the entire process so they can engage in it with my support. This is good practice for what they are about to do. 

  1. We select the most powerful words in this stanza, the words that will help us analyze how this character is introduced. Students suggest different words and phrases. Different students have different ideas regarding which specific words should be highlighted. I allow students to suggest a variety of things. This results in an excessive amount of the stanza highlighted, but I am perfectly ok with this because this offers a good opportunity to discuss and debate. There are different options in terms of selecting the textual evidence to analyze the introduction of this character. For instance, we could either highlight part of the second line, “hadn’t shown off charms or powers,” or part of the eighth line, "this witch didn't show off," because they essentially refer to the same thing. I want students to determine the final selection in collaboration.
  2. I tell students that we have highlighted too much and that we need to narrow it down. I ask them to suggest any words or phrases we should de-highlight and explain why. Students begin to make their suggestions. In this manner, students engage in a discussion, agreeing and disagreeing with each other, making arguments to persuade each other, and backing them up with textual evidence. I guide them back and forth and de-highlight words once there is enough agreement. The underlined words are the ones we ended up highlighting.

Finally there was only one

who hadn’t shown off charms or powers.

The witch stood in the shadows beyond the fire

and no one ever knew where this witch came from

which tribe

or if it was a woman or a man.

But the important thing was

this witch didn’t show off any dark thunder charcoals

or red ant-hill beads.

This one just told them to listen:

What I have is a story.”

3. We brainstorm analysis. I tell them that to analyze the evidence selected, we have to explain the HOW, meaning how the text introduces the character. I add that to do this we are moving above the text. I remind them of the questions they need to consider. Why did the author decide to introduce this character in this manner? This question leads to a basic question I have been trying to get them to address every time they analyze a text: So what is the author doing? This is a useful question because it is so basic and because to answer it, we need to use analytical verbs, which I have been pushing students to explicitly use in their writing. I have a chart titled Verbs that help in Analysis posted on the wall for students to reference and I refer to this during activities like this one.

I ask students to suggest what the highlighted evidence is doing, what it suggests about the character. Students begin to suggest things and I write them on the document projected. To do this, I ask students to identify the specific words that lead them to make the statements they are suggesting and I type their statements next to these specific words. Also, I explicitly ask them to use analytical verbs in their statements. In this video students are making suggestions and I am pushing them to use analytical verbs to formulate statements suggested. At the end of the process, we have come up with the following statements.

                        >emphasizing this witch was important

                        >trying to make the witch seem mysterious

                        >makes the reader wonder, and want to read more about this witch

                        >makes the witch appear unique

I tell students that these four sentences can be used in a paragraph that analyzes how this character was introduced. These sentences can be combined or reworded before being included in the paragraph. I point out that besides these analytical sentences and textual evidence, they will need to formulate a topic sentence. This is not unfamiliar to them as we have talked about all the elements of a well written analytical paragraph several times already. I tell students that they will be doing the same, but for Tayo, the main character in Ceremony

Independent Work

20 minutes

I give students the rest of the period to begin gathering evidence for their paragraph and to start reading the next pages. I am going to be out of the classroom tomorrow and the work we did today is meant to help students work independently tomorrow. The plan is for them to finish reading and annotating to the end of page 26, which is the total number of pages I plan on assigning from this novel, and to work on their analytical paragraph by the end of the period tomorrow. The rest of the period is perfectly silent, which is absolutely beneficial for my students since they have a difficult time making that happen at home.