Lesson Plan: Create Believable Characters
Stale characters too often characterize student writing. Isn’t it time we change the story to their story by characterizing their characters and untyping the stereotype? I think that you think so too. If you read me then read on.
ELA Common Core Standards
After teaching students how to organize and focus their writing, I felt good about myself until I took a look at the short stories they wrote. Littered with cardboard characters with unimaginative and unrealistic lives, their stories made me want to ram a lit cigeratte between my thumb and forefinger. Seconds before my skin caught fire, a thought came to mind. I put out the cigarette, canceled my poetry extravaganza, called my wife, and told her I’d be home late.
I had work to do. I had to find out about teaching characterization. Here are the ELA Common Core Standards covered.
- W.9-10.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach, focusing on addressing what is most significant for a specific purpose and audience. (Editing for conventions should demonstrate command of L.9-10.1-3.)
- W.9-10.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Procedures for Creating Characters
Most students already know the elements of characterization–direct description, dialogue, what others say, what the character says and thinks–but that doesn’t seem to translate into effective implementation of the elements of characterization. Teaching characterization requires something more. It requires basic grammar.
- Instruct students to fold a slice of paper lengthwise in fours.
- Draw a line down each crease and one across the top.
- Label each column as follows: adjectives, nouns, adverbs, verbs.
- Choose a character from a familiar literary source.
- Complete the character grid on the board and discuss.
- Discuss that characters in a story must come alive for the reader. They must first come alive for the writer
Create Characters with Peer Revision
Before beginning this activity, emphasize the connection between characters in the stories written by the masters and the need for them to duplicate the process in their own stories.
- Place students in pairs.
- Instruct them to exchange rough drafts.
- After reading their partner’s story, he or she should complete the premade grid on two characters from the story.
- Return the rough draft with the grids.
- Ask students if their characters demonstrated the characteristics intended.
- Ask students if their words gave a true portrayal of the character and if they know anyone in real life like that. If the answer is no, it’s time to revise.
- Instruct students to make the necessary changes, first, on the grid.
- Revisit the rough draft and add or delete necessary passages in order to convey the intended character traits.
- Suggest using dialogue if writers are stuck.
- After revisions, have partners read the revised version.
- Share good ones with the class and solicit comments.
*This lesson has been adapted from Susan Geye’s Mini Lessons for Revision, 1997.
Focus Your Writing Lesson Plans
Tired of reading blandness. These lessons may help.
- Using Imagery
- Create Characters
- Creative Writing Lesson Plan
- Use Sentence Structure to Improve Writing
- Using Sentence Structure Effectively