Each day, I begin my ELA class with Reading Time. This is a time for students to access a range of texts. I use this time to conference with students, collect data on class patterns and trends with independent reading and to provide individualized support.
Even though this lesson focuses on novels by James Preller, the task itself can be applied to other novels in which students analyze how lines of dialogue reveal aspects of a character, which is one of the reading standards in the Common Core.
As part of our work with author James Preller coming to visit, I have students work together to dig deeper into his writing style. One way that helps with this is allowing students the time to understand character. If they are able to analyze a character, they can begin to make important connections with an author's writing style. Since this unit is a little informal, I have students work together for most of this work and today's lesson keeps that in mind. They will be working in groups to analyze the characters in the book by James Preller they have read.
I put the instructions on the board and take students throughout the process of the work they will be doing. Since they will be working in groups, I do not need to stop for each section of the directions. They are able to work together to understand these directions and answer any questions that may come up. I pull up the directions on the Smartboard an read out load each slide:
These directions are very straightforward. Students begin by making decisions in determining which lines from the novel their group is currently reading are important in understanding the main character of their book, but really these can apply to any book they are reading. These lines can be what the character said, what he did, or what others said about him. They then work together to figure out what James Preller is trying to say in creating these characters and how he creates these characters. They write these lines down in their notebooks then answer the questions in their notebooks as well. These questions force the students to think deeper about the decisions the characters make.
The rest of the lesson is devoted to students working in groups to try and come to an understanding of the author's purpose in how characters are revealed. They are able to think collaboratively about the author's decision in the way he creates the character. This collaboration helps them dig deeper in the text and this close-reading is very much prevalent in the Common Core. Even though this focuses on a certain author, we can easily apply this to other texts. This would be a great lesson that can be used for literature circles in which students work together to analyze and dig deeper into a shared text.
Students work together and first create a list of important lines from their books. They write this down in their notebooks. They then answer the questions discussed in the previous section in groups. The goal for the students is to be able to answer the question of what is the author's purpose. As these directions show: Characterization Directions 3. As students practice this skill, you can discuss that this is a skill that can apply to their own independent reading and by doing that, they will be able to dig deeper into the texts they read.
As students are writing down their notes in their notebooks, I circulate around the classroom to make sure students are on task and offer assistance as needed. Since they are working in groups, classroom management is incredibly important. The assistance needed may be to reword questions so students can fully understand them. I can also help groups look at certain passages and offer small group instruction on how to analyze the character if needed.
Here are two examples of students finding quotes from Before You Go that highlight character:
This video discusses the use of the quotes: Before You Go Quotes Student Work Explanation