What Worked: Teaching Characterization in Difficult Texts

Teacher:  Eric Pollack
Class:  12th Grade AP English Literature
School:  CheongShim International Academy
Time:  50 minutes
Objectives (2):
1)      CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.
2)     CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful.
Essential Question: How are the characters we read in literature often like people we really know?
My students know my family and friends very well. Many of my lesson plans center around my family and friends. A few days ago, my activating activity was to show them how two characters are like my 2 friends Lou and Mark. I start with the descriptive phrases from the text, and highlight them and place them on a new page on the screen. Then I bring in the photos of Lou and Mark and place them under the phrases that I have highlighted. Then I look for more phrases and put them over Lou and Mark again until I have about 3-5 pieces if textual evidence to demonstrate how the characters in the story are similar or dissimilar to Lou and Mark.
Then I drew a Venn diagram, and placed another photo of Lou in one and Mark in the other.
I try as often as I can to get in a graphic organizer, even if it is the simplest of all, the Venn diagram. Then I take copies of the text that I just highlighted and move it into the circles of Lou and Mark and place some text within each union of each circle and some text in the intersection of the circles to show how similar the characters are. It takes about 5-7 minutes for me to do this while everyone takes notes, which I have showed them how to do.
Then at the end, I tell them they know my friends a lot better now, I have been saying that a long time. Then I have each group of two or three students do what I have modelled for them and find characters that are similar to their friends for 10-15 min from a section of the story we have read, as I walk around and note their textual citations and evidence and they at least find evidence from the section of the story we are going over. Then I choose another section from where we have not gone over, and I have them repeat the lesson without any direction from me at all. After 10-15 minutes I ask a few of the groups, randomly to tell the class their friends and how they are like the characters or unlike the characters from the new section. And then I give them a 5 minute formative assessment of a few simple questions, this time it was T-F. Other times, it can be any type of format. Then we reflect on friends and characters we know for the rest of the few minutes we had in class, until the bell rings and they exit the classroom. 

 Eric teaches at the CheongShim International Academy in Seoul, Korea and is also a mentor for MAT Teaching Credential Student Candidates at the USC Rossier School of Education. He is also the author of  The One Hour Student and creator of the Periodic Table of William Shakespeare.