We begin today with a question: how do authors create character? I give students a moment to ponder a response while I take attendance, and then:
"Based on people they know."
Not quite what I had in mind, but we can work with it. I acknowledge that these methods are likely how authors first think of characters, but how do they then make those characters come to life in a story? Blank faces greet me, so I move into my lesson knowing I will need to provide extra support.
Since students were not familiar with character development, I pull up a visual aid, the Story Elements PowerPoint, to share terms and examples with them. I explain that characterization and character development are the same concept: how authors develop characters over the course of a story or novel.
I also explain that we are looking at character development today to help us build toward a new standard, in which I will ask students to analyze the impact of authors' choices regarding how story elements relate to one another. We'll begin with a study of character because it will be easy (and fun) to chart how our characters change over the course of the novel. After we finish reading, we'll consider how this character development relates to the rest of the story, including themes and overall plot.
Armed with new terms and an understanding of purpose, students are now ready to begin analyzing their characters. We read through the Characterization Analysis assignment together, and I then break them into groups and assign sections of the novel to each group, saving time they would have spent dividing up on their own.
While students work, I meander to keep them on task and to answer questions; some wonder if what the character says means only dialogue. I ask, who is telling the whole story?
"Celie." Okay, do we only hear her when she speaks to others?
"No--it's all her thoughts, so that means we should include her thoughts, too?" Yes.
After 20 minutes of work, I ask each group to present their findings. After, I ask, how is our character developing?
"She's talking more."
"But she still thinks she is not as good as everyone else."
Indeed--I ask students to keep a close eye on Celie's self-esteem as we progress through the novel.
For a closer look at student work, check out this video: