Desk Vandalism Helps Students Analyze Conflicts and Types of Characters in Of Mice and Men

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SWBAT analyze how complex characters and conflicts advance the plot by brainstorming conflicts in "Of Mice and Men" and analyzing characters

Big Idea

Students temporarily vandalize their desks by using them as dry erase boards for categorizing and analyzing conflicts.

Do Now

8 minutes

At the beginning of this lesson, I will ask my students to work with a partner to make list of all of the conflicts they recall from Of Mice and Men. I will already have four types of conflicts on the SmartBoard, and I will ask my students to use their desks as a white board to categorize the conflicts as: character v. character; character v. self; character v. society; character v. nature. I am having my students do this because today we will discuss which characters serve to advance the plot (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3) the most.  My students love the idea of vandalizing their desks, so I am giving them that opportunity today as they use dry erase markers to categorize and list their conflicts.

This student work sample shows a student who simply could not bring herself to vandalize the desk, so she used one of my whiteboards instead as she listed her conflicts.

Application: Group Talk

20 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I will have my students turn and talk to a partner about the conflicts they think advance the plot the most. I am having them discuss these conflicts so that I can see how well they defend their viewpoints and respond appropriately to others. I can also assess whether they can cite evidence from the text to back up their assertions about the conflicts (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1a).

 Video 1  and Video 2 show students backing up their chosen conflicts.

After the paired discussions, I will transition my students to a whole-group discussion. I think they will benefit from hearing multiple viewpoints and I will encourage them to listen carefully to their classmates so that they can start their conversations with "I agree or I disagree." This is important because it encourages active listening rather than simply speaking. I'll even start my probing with statements like, "Who agrees with what________just said?"

Building Knowledge: Character Types

10 minutes

Now that we have discussed the conflicts between characters, we will spend some time analyzing the characters a little more by discussing character types (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3). I will refresh my students' memories about the ways that we get to know the characters in stories by giving them the following definitions:

1) direct characterization-the author or narrator tells the reader what a character is like

2) indirect characterization-the author gives information about a character and the reader has to draw conclusions

I'll also remind them about the significance of flat, round, static and dynamic characters. I will give the the following definitions:

flat-characters are simple and under-developed

round-characters are complicated and interesting

static-characters do not change or change very little throughout the text

dynamic-characters grow, change, or learn a lesson

I'm hoping that this is not new information, so I may ask students about these terms before giving them the definitions.

After these brief (or not so brief) reminders, I will have my students find examples in the text to support their ideas. I am having my students do this because their examples will tell me whether they are able to effectively analyze and discuss characters. I want these strategies to become habits of mind as they read other texts this year, so practice makes perfect.

Application: Finding Examples

15 minutes

For this part of the lesson, I will assign two characters to pairs of students and have them work together to find examples of indirect and direct characterization. They will also label the characters as round or flat, static or dynamic. I got this idea from a copyrighted literature guide, but I am just asking my students to jot down these notes on a sheet of paper with the caveat that they must be able to cite evidence from the text to support their ideas (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1). I am allowing my students to work together on this activity because I want to hear their discussions of the characters, conflicts, and events in the novel. I haven't given a formal test on Of Mice and Men, so this activity will be one of the ways that I assess whether or not they have read and understand the text.


10 minutes

To close out this lesson, I will do a quick check of the most selected conflicts from earlier in the lesson. I'll have my students do a quick vote to see if we can come to a consensus (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1b ) about the one conflict that most advances the plot.

After our quick vote, I will also do a quick oral check-in with each group to see which characters are round or flat; static or dynamic.

I am choosing these quick closure activities because they will help me to see if we have met our objective for today.

Homework: Newspaper Project Explanation

10 minutes

This lesson marks the end of Of Mice and Men, and we will be beginning a unit on argument and other informational texts. Since our next unit is about argument and we will be reading all sorts of informational texts (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.10), I am asking them to create their own informational text in the form of a newspaper. Today, I am introducing my students' SSR project for 3rd quarter. My students will be creating this newspaper based on the non-fiction self-selected reading texts that they checked out of the library a couple of weeks ago.

For the newspaper, I have selected the following Google template:

I will create a Google doc for each of my students, and they will be able to type their newspapers by editing the template. I have chosen to use Google docs because it is a great way of being able to give students feedback in real time as they work on the different parts of their project. I will provide a Newspaper Project Rubric and Newspaper Project Instructions for this project. This project will be a great hands-on opportunity for students to experience the type of writing that we will be reading over the next few weeks.