Monday, March 14, 2016
Character Development at Bowers Elementary
I am in the midst of a 3-Day Author Visit at a lovely school called Bowers Elementary. Representatives from the school contacted me in the fall and asked if I could come and talk about character development. At the time, I didn't have a character development program. But, since that's a useful one to have on hand, I created it to debut at the school.
I talk about character analysis, voice, consistency, and character choices. (Above) We are doing an exercise about Voice. I've given the four student volunteers a paddle. One side features Charlie Brown and the other side features Lucy. Because Charlie Brown and Lucy are such different characters, the way they speak is also very different. I post (and say) four different Peanuts quotes and the students have to decide - based on words alone, no context is given - if it's a Lucy line or Charlie Brown.
Whenever I try to teach students a lesson in a presentation, I always try to back it up with a game or a quiz. For one thing, I want the students to participate in a presentation with me. It's boring if it's just me going blah, blah, blah. For another, it really helps cement the lesson.
After the presentation, I did workshops in the classroom. For the Kindergartners, we focused on character analysis. I wanted them to think about the difference between outside character traits and inside character traits.
I read LOST AND FOUND by Oliver Jeffers, then we talked about the character BOY. For the inside part, I provided symbols they could use. A lightbulb for smart. A heart for caring. A lion for brave.
For the second graders, we worked on character development and voice. I had students create two characters with opposing character traits, e.g. a smart character and a dim character, or an energetic character and a lazy character. Then we'd pull a scene suggestions from a bag (which adds a bit of fun to it) and write a scene thinking about the way a character would express themselves based on their character traits. It was a tight 30 minutes for each session, but the kids did a great job. (Below) I am acting out a student scene in which my character explodes.
Then we did some dignified classroom shots, but the silly faced ones are always more fun!
I have two more days at Bowers Elementary and I can't wait to go back. The students were so kind, funny, and into it! I had a blast. And to top it off, I got an email when I got home saying that a teacher overheard two students talking about character traits as they walked to the bus. Doesn't get much better than that!