Friday, March 13, 2009

Secondary School Topic: Writing Character Sketches

10-second review: Students begin with an adjective or adjectives and write a composition showing a character demonstrating the adjective. They do not include the adjective or synonym anywhere in the composition.

Title: “Writing Character Sketches That Show Rather Than Tell.” A Dodd. English Journal (May 1975), p. 74. A publication of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

Summary/Quote: Make up a list of adjectives that describe personality traits. Give an adjective to each student, but they are not to share it with anyone else. “Students should then invent a person who fits the adjective and write, showing the character in situations which serve as examples of the adjective. The adjective itself, or any synonym for it, may not be used anywhere in the paper. Encourage use of conversation and the interaction of the character with someone else.” p. 76.

“After students have finished their character sketches, have them read the sketches to the class. Tell the other students to try to guess what characteristic was emphasized.” p. 76.

Comment: Purpose? Have students as they read fiction note how the author has revealed character. Their attempts at characterization should increase their interest in how professional authors have done the same thing.

Give students a model of a character sketch that you have created. Tell them that the model is a starting place, but that they can feel free to deviate from it in any way they wish.

Finally, Be sure to have the students practice reading their character sketches before actually reading them. Reading aloud does not come naturally to everyone. Practicing reading aloud with expression helps the reader who usually stumbles, and gives confidence to readers who do not read aloud well. RayS.

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