WANTED! Understanding of Characterization (Character Analysis Day 1)

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SWBAT identify and analyse the traits of Regional archetypes as presented in "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" by collaborating on a "Wanted Poster" for a character.

Big Idea

Now sit right back and you'll hear a tale of fateful trip. Six exiles sheltered in the woods, as the cold wind around them bit. Let's look at what got them there, and who each of them are.

Introduction & Welcome: It's "First Cow Milked While Flying in an Airplane Day!"

3 minutes

I open class with a welcome and introduction to today's daily holiday, which is just too unusual to pass up sharing with my students. 

As always, the Daily Holiday serves to draw students in, building student ownership and a sense of community in the class. 

Plot Points Review: "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" Reading Check

15 minutes

In order to ensure students have read the story, "The Outcasts of Poker Flat," we review some of the significant plot points in the story, citing textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1). I pass the "Outcasts of Poker Flat" reading check out to the students, project a copy on the board in the front of the room, and ask for a volunteer to copy the class' answers as we review. 

I chose to use an oral review in order to engage students who tend to participate passively; I can call on those who I am confident have read the story as well as those whose hands are up and willing to participate actively. As these review questions are drawn from the items I will use on the unit test, students end up with a text-specific study guide. Additionally, this serves as practice for the reading check quizzes I give throughout the semester, five to ten questions calling for textual evidence. 

Characters & Archetypes Artistic Analysis "Wanted Posters"

30 minutes

To demonstrate further understanding of characterization and of archetypal characters, students are asked to return to the study groups we have established during our mapping activity on Regionalism. I pass out copies of the Character "Wanted Poster" Project, and read through the directions with the students. I provide students with newsprint paper, markers, and colored pencils to complete their project.

I use the description "Wanted Poster" in class in order to relate to the local color of the Old West. 

Students will be providing an image of the character, and "the good, the bad, and the ugly" of him or her. For our purposes, the good is what redeeming quality the characters have, the bad is the reason they are an outcast, and the ugly is their fate. Students need to cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support their analysis of the character's traits (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.1), in order to identify, analyze, and include on this poster how the character interacts with other characters, advances the plot, and contributes to the regional, Western local color of Harte's writing  (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.9-10.3). 

For example, looking at this lesson's image, the students show John Oakhurst's "good" traits are drawn from his interactions with other characters: his language, his providing the horses for the Duchess, and his forgiveness of Tom Simson's gambling. John's "bad" is the Regional character archetype he to which he belongs, the gambler--so good of one, in fact the "vigilance committee" of Poker Flat runs him out of town (vigilante committees are another regional detail of the story). And his "ugly" trait is his suicide, choosing to take his own life, rather than freeze to death. For Uncle Billy, "good" is self-preservation, since he really does not have any redeeming traits; "bad" is his drinking and thievery; and "ugly" is his major contribution to the plot, as he steals the horses, mules, and supplies and escapes. 

Students are also asked to add at least two other examples of characters that meet the given archetype for each: John Oakhurst is a professional gambler, and students draw connections to famous Western gamblers, such as Wild Bill Hickok; Uncle Billy is a "Miner 49'er," and students draw similarities to Haymitch Abernathy from "The Hunger Games" and Stinky Pete from "Toy Story 2."  

By collaborating, students are able to share their reactions and understanding of the story, stimulating a thoughtful exchange of ideas (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1a). Working in collaborative groups, students have the opportunity to respond to diverse perspectives if they arise, qualify or justify their own views if challenged, and make new connections or reactions to others in light of their peers' perspectives (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1d), especially as they seek to understand the story and the characterization of each outcast. (In one class, students discuss the characterization of Peyton from "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Another class draws evidence to support analysis of The Correspondent from "The Open Boat" by Stephen Crane. While the Grade 10/ELA class has not yet read this, my Grade 10/ELA honors students have. I included this example as it shows the thought process of identifying and discussing traits.)

Due to the number of groups, I added Peyton Farquhar from "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," students have read the story, he shares a good (his patriotism and loyalty to the South), a bad (his willingness to commit and act of sabotage/terrorism), and an ugly (his hanging). As a Southern gentleman, he is a member of a notable archetype. 

Two-Minute Warning: Wrap-Up & Reminders, Homework

2 minutes

With two minutes remaining, I ask students to clean up, and let me have their attentions. I direct their attention to the homework posted on the board: if they are struggling, they are to research examples of the archetypes this evening, bringing that to class tomorrow to complete the project (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.9-10.7). This is intended to to get students into the habit of research, not giving up or guessing when they do not know something immediately.  

Additionally, inform them that once the posters have been completed, students will present their information, supporting evidence, and reasoning so that the class may take notes in order to develop a study resource for "The Outcasts of Poker Flat" (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.4).

Students are assigned to begin reading "Naturalism," Jack London's biography and "The Law of Life," looking for examples of how "The Law of Life" utilizes the characteristics of Naturalism provided in the reading.  This reading is due once we have completed the presentations. "The Law of Life" is a short story, and I feel confident students will be able to make time to "fit it in" on their own over the next few days.