/educators/lessons/grade-3-4/what_a_character

What a Character!

An exploration of how characters affect the plot of a story and the techniques storytellers use to portray characters

Overview

Key Staff

Classroom Teacher

Key Skills

Making Art: Performance Skills and Techniques

Summary

In this lesson, students analyze how a character's personality traits, actions and motives influence the plot of a story. Students also learn how storytellers use their face, body, and voice, as well as the five senses, to enhance the telling of a story. Videos and scenarios are used for demonstration and practice.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Analyze and articulate how personality traits, actions, and motives influence the plot of a story
  • Recognize what emotions are being portrayed by characters
  • Apply storytelling techniques to add depth to a character
  • Respond to how different character traits influence the outcome of a problem in a plot line
  • Tell their own stories that relate to the stories of the characters
  • Use journal writing to record and reflect on their senses
  • Combine storytelling techniques-such as using facial expressions, voice, and gestures-when they tell stories

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discussion
  • Modeling
  • Hands-On Learning

Assessment Type

Informal Assessment

Preparation

What You'll Need

Materials
Resources
Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Internet Access
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

This lesson requires the intructor to act-out given scenarios. Student response will be affected by the instructor's level of enthusiasm.

Scenario 1

Character:
A shy, young boy or girl

Setting:
A school bus

Problem:
The boy has a puppy in his backpack that wants to bark.

Outcome:
The boy feeds the puppy his lunch to keep him quiet.

Scenario 2

Character:
A shy young boy or girl

Setting:
The scenario takes place outside of an alien spacecraft that is waiting for clearance from the mother planet to take off into space.

Problem:
Imagine that during an outdoor nature class in nearby woods, aliens have borrowed your teacher. They want to take her back to their planet to teach their children about the earth’s flora and fauna.

Prior Student Knowledge

  • Elements of a story
  • Character development

Grouping

Small Group Instruction

Staging

  • Open area in room for acting space
  • Screen or tv for videos

Instruction

Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Build Knowledge
Reflect

Engage

1. Tell students they will learn how storytellers use their faces, bodies, and voices to express emotion and enhance the telling of a story. Model expressing different emotions with your face and body and ask students to guess which emotion you are expressing.

2. Share video clips with students that express how storytellers use their faces, bodies, and voices to portray a character. Discuss how the woman in the video uses her face, her body, and her voice to express the character of a cat. Show the video clip of a woman escaping on a boat. Point out how Kuniko Yamamoto uses her body to show setting.

3. Ask students to select an animal or a character (real or fictional) and use their face, body, and voice to portray that subject. Have other students guess who or what the student is trying to portray. After the students have guessed correctly, ask them to share how they were able to guess the correct answer from body, face and /or voice clues.

4. Involve students in a discussion about how using the senses can help bring a character to life. Write these words on the board: smell, sound, touch and sight. Go through the senses one at a time and ask students to quickly jot down short descriptions of the person who comes to mind when they hear each phrase.

Senses

Sample student response

Smell

"my younger brother smelling of sweat and sandbox dirt at the end of the day"

Sound

"my father falling asleep in front of the television and snoring so loudly that he wakes himself up"

Touch

"the school nurse putting that stuff that stings on my scraped knee"

Sight

"the old man with the cane who is so bent over that his upper body is parallel to the ground"

 

5. After going through all the senses, ask students to use their faces, bodies, and voices to dramatize the content.

Build Knowledge

1. Act out the following scenario for your students:

Scenario 1

Character:
A shy, young boy or girl

Setting:
A school bus

Problem:
The boy has a puppy in his backpack that wants to bark.

Outcome:
The boy feeds the puppy his lunch to keep him quiet.

2. Invite students to tell the story from the point of view of one of the other characters listed below, and create a different outcome based on the new character. Possible characters include a mean bully, a conscientious bus driver, and a student who is terrified of dogs.

3. After a few students finish different versions of the scenario, discuss the following:

  • How did each character's qualities, actions, and motivations change the outcome of the story?
  • How did the storyteller's movements, gestures, voice, and expressions help develop the character?

4. Repeat steps 1 and 2 with the following fictional scenario:

Scenario 2

Character:
A shy young boy or girl

Setting:
The scenario takes place outside of an alien spacecraft that is waiting for clearance from the mother planet to take off into space.

Problem:
Imagine that during an outdoor nature class in nearby woods, aliens have borrowed your teacher. They want to take her back to their planet to teach their children about the earth’s flora and fauna.

Possible characters include a habitual liar, a clever, resourceful student, a student who is afraid of everything, and a classroom troublemaker

5. Select some of the stories from A Long Way from Chicago and share them with your students. A Long Way from Chicago is an enjoyable, sometimes outrageous book about what happens when two kids make their annual trek from Chicago to spend time with their eccentric grandmother in rural Illinois. Each chapter tells the story of a different summer spent with their Grandma Dowdel who is as "old as the hills," and "tough as an old boot."

6. Have students create a character sketch of Grandma Dowdel by responding to the Grandma Dowdel Character Sketch handout located within the Resource Carousel.

Apply

1. After the students have completed the character sketch, have students choose one of the stories and retell it from Grandma Dowdel's perspective. Remind students that they are the tellers of the story, and that while they are telling the story from Grandma Dowdel's perspective, they may include their own reactions to the story. To illustrate this point, share the video clip in which storyteller Kuniko Yamamoto tells the story of her grandmother. Point out how she switches between herself and her grandmother.

Reflect

1. Following the discussion of senses, ask students to keep a journal recording examples of daily encounters with people as they relate to these four senses: sight, sound, smell, and touch. Provide time for students to share one of their favorite entries each day. At the end of the three days, ask students to select one of the people from their entries and describe that person to the class.

2. After the student retellings of Grandma Dowdel’s stories, pair students and have them take turns telling personal stories to their partners that they were reminded of while listening to Grandma Dowdel’s stories. After each student has finished telling his/her story, the listener will answer the questions on the Listener's Response handout located within the Resource Carousel and discuss the answers with the student storyteller. After students have practiced telling their stories, have them share their stories with the class.

Standards

The Common Core State Standards Initiative seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment through a set of common learning goals and assessments. In 2010, Standards were released for English language arts and mathematics. Common standards have not yet been released for science, social studies, and other subject areas, including the arts. In addition, some states have yet to, or have chosen not to, adopt the Common Core standards.

During this transitional period, ArtsEdge will present all relevant state and nationals standards as they apply to our lessons.

National Standards for Arts Education

For the full text of the content and achievement standards in Arts Education, visit our Standards section.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Theater

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 1: Script writing by planning and recording improvisations based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 2: Acting by assuming roles and interacting in improvisations

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 6: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of literary texts

Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

Credits

Writers

Amy Heathcott
Adaptation

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