Plotting Character Change: It Takes Guts!

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SWBAT describe (visually and orally) how characters change as a novel's plot unfolds.

Big Idea

Life poses challenges. Will the protagonist sink or swim?


15 minutes

Students are in the midst of reading novels that have strong evidence of how a character changes and grows as the plot unfolds. Each group had some choice in choosing what book to read.

The agenda introduces students to the day's activities. To activate prior knowledge, we take a look at the first two slides of the Characterization PPT and the motives/actions, conflict, and direct/indirect characterization charts hanging in the front of the room. The information on the charts is included in the PPT, but the paper version allows for easy reference during the lesson.

Attached is a set of directions and planning pages for creating a Keynote or PowerPoint presentation. The resource for these materials is Instant PowerPoint Lessons & Activities: Literary Elements (Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2012). For this lesson, students come to class with slides 1-4 completed. Of course, this process can be completed on chart paper or by another means of your choosing.

Today students will introduce the main character in their novel to the class. They will include the protagonist’s name, age and other vital statistics, plus they will identify the conflict or pressing concerns that the character is struggling to overcome.


Mini Lesson: Direct vs Indirect Characterizations

15 minutes

Sometimes authors give readers insight to characters through direct evidence and sometimes evidence is provided in a way that requires the reader to make inferences. Before asking students to analyze how the protagonist in their story grows and changes over time, I provide them with some instruction on the process using slides 11-18 of the Characterization PowerPoint. Some of the important terminology that is introduced includes: implicit, explicit, direct characterization and indirect characterization.

Using the examples from the PowerPoint, students work in small groups to uncover what the passage says ‘between the lines’ about the main character and identify the actions that show it. The students catch on quickly so I assign one passage to each group so that they move through this activity with ease, which builds confidence with the skill.


Group Work

15 minutes

Now it is time for students to put into practice what they have learned. They continue work on their presentation by adding 3 slides that identify how the character grows and changes during the story. First they decide on the major character traits/qualities of the main character. I encourage them to consider the conflict in the story and how this shapes the character at the beginning, middle and end of the story. Each slide added to their presentation must include evidence from the text and an explanation of the indirect character trait shown.

To keep students on track or prompt their thinking when they get stuck, I ask some of the following questions:

  • What obstacles does the protagonist overcome?
  • How does the protagonist respond to different events?
  • Who is the antagonist?
  • How does the character grow/change during the novel?
  • What does the protagonist learn about him/herself?
  • Is the trait you selected supported by a quote?
  • What is implicitly revealed about the main character through his/her actions?


Share Out

15 minutes

To wrap up today’s class, small groups present the work completed so far on their presentations on characterization. A sample appears here.

The goal is to evaluate how well they demonstrate understanding of characterization through direct and indirect evidence. During the presentations I listen for the use of terminology related to this lesson: indirect & direct characterization, implicit & explicit evidence. At the same time, I evaluate the quotes chosen to demonstrate a particular trait and students’ ability to find what is implicit (not clearly stated) about the character in the quote. Subsequent whole-class lessons and individual student conferences are based on the content of the presentations and the student’s speaking style during the presentation.