Responding to Literature: Understanding Character Analysis
- Grades: 6–8
Students will learn various literary terms and how to give a thorough analysis of a character within a piece of literature. Students will exhibit their ability to analyze a specific character by creating a "Character T-Shirt." Different locations on the shirt will be for different character traits.
- Empathize, for the purpose of understanding, the character
- Understand the difference between direct characterization and indirect characterization
- Understand the difference between a static and dynamic character
- Understand the various complications with which a character must deal
- Understand the difference between internal conflict and external conflict
- Understand the role of motivation within a character
- Understand how poetry elements are an important aspect of character analysis
- Teaching Literary Elements With Short Stories by Tara McCarthy or another collection of short stories that includes "La Bamba" by Gary Soto
- Short story or novel to use as an example
- Plain white T-shirts, one for each student (cheaper if you buy them in a package from the men or boy's department)
- Markers, puffy paints, or fabric paints
- Activity sheets, one per student
- Optional: Projector and computer for demonstration
- Optional: Iron transfer printer paper, if you have access to technology in the classroom. Students can create their character analysis on the computer, then print it onto the transfer paper. Be sure to assist students with the iron-on transfer.
- Optional: Iron and water for the iron-on transfer
Set Up and Prepare
- Create an example Character T-shirt before teaching the lesson to get an understanding of the time requirement based on the resources available and to have an example of the final product.
- Make enough copies of all handouts before introducing the lessons. Be sure to have any additional materials available.
- Make a class set of copies of the short story "La Bamba" by Gary Soto, which can be found in Teaching Literary Elements With Short Stories by Tara McCarthy or other short-story collections.
- Optional: Make a class set of copies of a second short story from Teaching Literary Elements With Short Stories or another short-story collection for Part II of the lesson. You can also have students use a book they have read recently.
Hand out all copies of the various worksheets before beginning each part of the lesson.
Step 1: Introduce the literary elements and definitions in the worksheet Literary Elements and Definitions (PDF). Have students read through each of the elements and definitions aloud.
Step 2: Using the short story "La Bamba" by Gary Soto, identify examples of the literary elements as a class. You may want to project the worksheet so the class can follow along as you complete the "Class Example" column of the worksheet. Conduct a class discussion and allow students to ask questions if necessary.
Step 3: Have students fill out the "My Own Example" column using characters from another story or book they have read recently. Assess understanding of the various elements by quizzing students orally.
Step 4: Using a designated short story from the collection or a book they have read recently and the Character Analysis Graphic Organizer (PDF), have students begin analyzing a character of their choosing. This may be facilitated in groups or as an independent activity.
Step 5: Introduce the Character T-shirt using your teacher sample. Show how an understanding of literary elements dealing with character was needed in order to create it. Hand out the Character Analysis T-Shirt Project Instructions (PDF) and go over with the class. Optional: You can also review the Character Analysis T-Shirt Project Rubric (PDF) at this time.
Step 6: Allow students to begin creating their Character T-shirts. This project may be completed in class or as an at-home assignment.
By extending the lesson, I integrate language arts and reading standards with the multiple intelligences. Any standards-aligned rubric or project rubric can work for the assessment of these activities.
- Hold a class discussion about the different characters that were chosen by students. Discuss their traits and qualities, then compare and contrast their similarities and differences. Allow students to support their opinions of the characters by conducting a debate. Challenge students to support their opinions with facts from the stories.
- Have a Character T-shirt Day, where students come to school dressed in their T-shirt and promote the story/novel from which the character comes.
- Make up flyers to promote daily reading.
- With permission from the teacher, act out a scene during lunch or class with students from the same class.
- During break or lunch time, orally read a passage from the story/novel.
- Post a picture of the Character T-shirt on the Class Homepage.
- Create a poem in the first person narrative about the character and read it in front of the class.
- Hang the shirts up in class as examples of the various ways to do character analysis.
- Did students respond to the way I introduced the literary elements?
- Did using Soto's "La Bamba" as an exemplar help students understand how to find various literary elements?
- Did I provide them with the ability to get started right away?
- Did students develop an overall understanding of character analysis? Was their understanding evident in their Character Analysis worksheet?
- Did students remain on task during various activities?
- Did students create Character T-Shirts that represented an accurate understanding of character analysis? Were students able to articulate their analysis of character in the extended lesson?
- Should I change anything in the way I model or teach this lesson?