Character Analysis: Let's Try This Once More

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SWBAT improve argumentative writing skills by editing a paragraph following a detailed process I modeled.

Big Idea

Struggling writers need explicit instructions, support, and time to pull in the variety of elements necessary for successful analytical writing.


Students’ first attempt at writing an analysis of the way Tayo was introduced to the reader was not very successful. In an earlier lesson I walked students through the first step, which is to select textual evidence and brainstorm analysis, meaning brainstorm what the selected evidence may suggest to the reader and explain it using analytical verbs. At that point, I thought that if I got students to do this first step, it would be downhill from there because the only thing left to do after that is draft a topic sentence, make complete sentences out of the evidence selected and brainstormed analysis, and organize them in a way that makes sense for one complete analytical paragraph. This turned out to be quite challenging for students. The process still has multiple steps and my students do not have enough writing experience nor enough control of language to handle the multiple steps on their own. They need more support from me and in today’s lesson I offer them more support. I want them to rewrite their character analysis.


20 minutes

I have a handout prepared for students titled Sample ¶ Analyzing How A Character Is Introduced. This handout includes the sample we worked on together in which we selected textual evidence and brainstormed analysis using a Leslie Marmon Silko poem. The handout also includes a paragraph I wrote using the evidence students selected and analysis students helped me brainstorm. This paragraph will serve as a model of what I want them to do in their analysis of the way Tayo was introduced.

I distribute a copy of this handout for students to keep as a model of what they are expected to do and announce to students that I suspect they all need to edit their paragraph. I explain the chart for students. First, I point to the left column of the chart in the handout and tell them that this is the stanza we highlighted together in the previous lesson, which is why I call this column “Evidence Highlighted.” I point to the right column and read the title of this. I spend a bit of time on this title because it is important that students understand that when they are asked to analyze textual evidence, they are essentially being asked to explain the effect the language has on the reader. This is how I explain this to students.

I then move on to explain the paragraph. Based on what they wrote the day before, it is clear they still do not quite understand the purpose of a paragraph and I want to explain it step by step. The vast majority of my students fail to write topic sentences for their paragraph and that easily leads to an unorganized paragraph with no coherence. I take the time today to explain what a topic sentence is and what it does as shown in this video.

Finally, I explain how to organize the rest of the paragraph. They have heard me explain it before but they can clearly benefit from hearing it one more time with a model that will be accessible in their binders whenever they need it. I explain that after the topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph is a combination of evidence and analysis, but that it should be heavy on analysis and light on evidence. Most of the paragraph should be their words and ideas, not the author’s. I tell them this because they tend to write paragraphs where they mainly paraphrase or summarize and do very little analysis. I also remind them that their analysis must support the idea established in their topic sentence and that this is what we call coherence, which is a word I have been trying to plant in their long-term memory. I explain how the model paragraph I wrote for them does all of this. It is not perfectly clear in this video clip, but I actually point to the "Verbs that help in Analysis" chart on the wall that we often use in class when we write. This chart is basically a long list of analytical verbs that I encourage students to refer to when writing. Students are now ready to write.


30 minutes

Before giving students time to go back to their paragraph and rewrite it following the model in the handout, I summarize what is expected in their paragraph. I let students write for the remainder of the period. During this time, I make myself available for questions. I mainly want students to work in silence as this is absolutely necessary in order to engage in the thinking needed to put all the different elements together. Students work at different paces so I allow them to finish it at home and turn it in the following day.