Studying Character Changes

As we finished the 3rd quarter my students completed a character study activity to showcase their understanding of Common Core State Standard RL.2.3 (Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges). I used this activity last year but I felt like this year I was able to give my students more voice and choice in this activity. Throughout this unit we read many different stories that showed characters responding to major events. Some of these books included: The Name Jar By: Yangsook Choi, Thank You, Mr. Falker By: Patricia Polacco, Those Darn Squirrels By: Adam Rubin, Those Shoes By: Maribeth Boelts, and A Bike Like Sergio’s By: Maribeth Boelts. All of these stories include strong characters that undergo a moral dilemma (some more serious than others). This year I allowed my students to study all of these characters after we read each book. Students had a characters “feelings” chart to help them describe how these characters were feeling. I wanted my students to use “strong” words to describe these in depth character dilemmas and feelings rather than just “scratch the surface” with them using words such as sad, happy, mean, etc. Having this tool immensely helped my students which elevated our conversations.

After we have read all these books, I wanted my students to be able to study a character more in depth. I decided to create a project in which they would have to: 1. Choose one of the books we read in class. 2. Study the characters in this book by creating a character timeline. 3. Showcase their character study by creating a puppet show. As soon as I introduced the project to students they were so excited.

This project usually takes about a week and I like to group my students into groups of 2-3. Below I have outlined how I implement the project in my classroom. Use this link to grab the resources I talk about below. 

Day One: Introduce the project to students. Explain to students that they will choose a story you have read in class and perform a puppet show explaining how the characters in the story responded to a major event (how the character(s) changed from the beginning of the story to the end). After I explain the project, I read the story Red: A Crayon’s Story By: Michael Hall. We then discuss how Red changed from the beginning of the story to the end of the story. We use our anchor charts to use “feelings” words to describe how Red changed. We then create a character timeline together using these feelings words and evidence from the text (see example on next page). I then put students into groups and let them choose the book they would like to do from the various books we read throughout the unit.

Day Two: Students get into their groups and fill out the “Character Changes Puppet Show Planning Sheet”. I display the timeline we created yesterday to remind students to use “feelings” words and evidence from the text.

Day Three: Students get into their groups and create the setting from their story using a poster board. I encourage students to fill the entire paper as this will be the background for their puppet show.

Day Four: Students get into their groups and create their puppets. Students draw/color their puppets then cut them out and glue them onto popsicle sticks. Students should also practice their puppet show today. Remind students of the criteria they need for the puppet show (on the back of the planning page).

Day Five: Today students perform their puppet shows! I like my students to record their skits on Seesaw (app and website) so it is easy to share once they are completed. If you do not have access to this technology I would have students perform in front of the class or rotate through groups performing their shows.

This activity allows students to collaborate and showcase their understanding of character changes in a creative way. This was my second year completing this activity in my classroom and both times my students had so much fun with it. Next year I would like to give my students even more choice in the character they study. I would like them to choose a book we have not read in class and then implement the same project using that story. I think this would peak student interest even more and allow students to showcase a book they want to share with others.

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