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English Online. Every child literate - a shared responsibility.
Ministry of Education.

Learning task 2: Investigating characters

Establish students' prior knowledge about plot and characters in the story. Ask open-ended questions.

  1. Discuss with the group that we can explore characters' personality and what they are like in a variety of ways. By:

    • their actions
    • their speech
    • their thoughts
    • the effect of their behavior on other characters
    • the type of language used
    • the environment or belongings of the character can provide information about them

    Discuss with the group that as they listen to the story they will need to listen for clues about the characters in the story.

    Read to the students the first part of Horton Hatches the Egg (up to where Mayzie leaves Horton sitting alone up in the tree).

    Discuss the story and clarify any language which may not be familiar to students.

    Zoom in on the descriptions of Horton and Mayzie.

    • What images do the words used create in their minds?
    • What has been "painted" in their minds?
    • What have students learnt about the character's appearance, and personality?
    • How did they behave in the story?
    • How did they speak? What did they say?

    Look closely and discuss these images, searching for details and clues which will tell the visible features (appearance) and invisible features, ie. personality, speech, behaviour (character).

    Discuss with students throughout the reading the language_features (RTF 22KB) of the text and the rich language the author has used. In-depth analysis may include:

    • focus on a particular language feature
    • the characteristics of a language feature and when to use it
    • during the reading stop at strategic places to discuss use of language feature(s)
    • explore other examples of the ways in which language may be used
    • students read independently/with a partner to identify language feature, share and discuss with another group.
  2. Teacher models an explosion_chart (RTF 309KB) detailing Horton's visible physical characteristics.
    Continue adding visible and invisible characteristics to the explosion chart throughout the readings.

    Encourage students to identify characteristics from interpretations of speech, actions, thoughts and the language used. Encourage students to justify their responses, ie. invisible characteristics. Students may need guidance to make inferences and connections.

    Throughout the reading of the text, focus on the clues and on the words used in the story and the images they provide. If possible, read the text to the students without displaying the illustrations, as they are an artist's interpretation. Students need to develop their own view of the characters.

  3. Students independently or with a partner make their own explosion chart of visible/invisible characteristics of Horton.

    Follow the same steps as above. Provide teacher support and modelling as necessary for your students. Students share their charts with another group and talk about their findings.

  4. Teacher models the identification of Horton's invisible characteristics by taking selected words from the story and relating concept_words (RTF 15KB) to them.

    • Students identify nouns from the story
    • Build a parallel list of adjectives (concept words) which are related to the nouns but not specifically mentioned in the text
    • Add thinking words (they are the justification for the concept words)

    This activity will need to be adjusted to suit the needs of the students.

  5. Small group discussion.
    Discuss the characters of Horton and Mayzie, the purpose being to reach a consensus on how the students view the two characters. Students report back to the class their findings. Encourage students to ask open-ended questions about any points that need clarification.

    Students illustrate their impressions of one character. In groups share, making suggestions for changes, eg. features. Using the picture build up a word bank which may be used to describe - nouns, adjectives, adverbs, verbs, imagery, figurative language (similes/metaphors), senses. Model the writing of a character sketch.

    Use the framework outlined above to motivate students to write a character sketch of one of the characters from another shared story.

  6. Teacher models discussing and planning interview questions to build up a picture of the main character.

    Students independently or in pairs plan and record their own interview questions. Students then work with another group to discuss their questions and decide which questions to use in their interviews with the character.

Assessment task:

In small groups students designate roles, ie. characters and interviewers. Some scaffolding will be necessary so that students realize they need to be in role and have knowledge of the character before they begin the interview. Record the interview using audiotape, video or digital camera.

Published on: 07 Apr 2009