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Character in Short Stories

Year 7 English

Learning Module

Abstract

Year 7 students develop an understanding of the concept of character. By analysing characters in an animation and in short stories, they learn that characterisation combines with events and settings to create narrative, use resources such as description and dialogue, and that characters may be complex, having a range of characteristics or be simple with one salient feature. They apply their understanding of characters through writing short pieces as well as an extended narrative.

Keywords

character, setting, events, description, dialogue, narrative, analysis.

Australian Curriculum

Australian Curriculum: English Year 7

LANGUAGE

Understand how ideas can be expanded and sharpened through careful choice of verbs, elaborated tenses and a range of adverb groups/ phrases (ACELA1523)

Understand how authors often innovate on text structures and play with language features to achieve particular aesthetic, humorous and persuasive purposes and effects (ACELA1518)

LITERATURE

Literature and context

Identify and explore ideas and viewpoints about events, issues and characters represented in texts drawn from different historical, social and cultural contexts (ACELT1619)

Responding to literature

Reflect on ideas and opinions about characters, settings and events in literary texts, identifying areas of agreement and difference with others and justifying a point of view (ACELT1620)

Compare the ways that language and images are used to create character, and to influence emotions and opinions in different types of texts (ACELT1621)

Examining literature

Recognise and analyse the ways that characterisation, events and settings are combined in narratives, and discuss the purposes and appeal of different approaches (ACELT1622)

LITERACY

Interpreting, analysing, evaluating

Analyse and explain the ways text structures and language features shape meaning and vary according to audience and purpose (ACELY1721)

Use prior knowledge and text processing strategies to interpret a range of types of texts (ACELY1722)

Creating texts

Plan, draft and publish imaginative texts, selecting aspects of subject matter and particular language, visual, and audio features to convey information and ideas (ACELY1725)

Edit for meaning by removing repetition, refining ideas, reordering sentences and adding or substituting words for impact (ACELY1726)

Use a range of software, including word processing programs, to confidently create, edit and publish written and multimodal texts (ACELY1728)

Year 7 Achievement Standards

Receptive modes (listening, reading and viewing)

By the end of Year 7, students understand how text structures can influence the complexity of a text and are dependent on audience, purpose and context. They demonstrate understanding of how the choice of language features, images and vocabulary affects meaning.

Students explain issues and ideas from a variety of sources, analysing supporting evidence and implied meaning. They select specific details from texts to develop their own response, recognising that texts reflect different viewpoints. They listen for and explain different perspectives in texts.

Productive modes (speaking, writing and creating)

Students understand how the selection of a variety of language features can influence an audience. They understand how to draw on personal knowledge, textual analysis and other sources to express or challenge a point of view. They create texts showing how language features and images from other texts can be combined for effect.

Students create structured and coherent texts for a range of purposes and audiences. They make presentations and contribute actively to class and group discussions, using language features to engage the audience. When creating and editing texts they demonstrate understanding of grammar, use a variety of more specialised vocabulary and accurate spelling and punctuation.

1. Viewing and Responding

For the Student

Learning Intention: To find out about characters in books and films.

Success Criteria:

  • Watch videoclip.
  • Brainstorm ideas.

  • Work in a group to come up with your group's favourite.

  • Write a short paragraph about your favourite character.
Media embedded August 23, 2017

Have you read any of these books or seen the film versions?  What are your favourite characters in books and films. Add ideas in a "Noisy Round Robin". As you work in your group to record them, look up more ideas on your phone.

Comment: Choose one character from your group's list. Write a short paragraph describing your favourite character from a book or film. What are the character traits that make him/her your favourite. Read other students' updates and comment on 1-2, explaining why you agree or disagree with them and/or adding other character traits that you know about that character. 

Fig. 1: Character Traits

 

For the Teacher

Purpose: This update engages students by valuing their prior knowledge about their favourite and other famous characters in literature and film. 

Teaching Tips

Use the videoclip of famous novels to stimulate students' thinking about characters. Then generate a class list of favourite and famous characters. This will value students' reading and viewing experiences. The class list can be generated as a Noisy Round Robin activity using paper and pen.

Noisy Round Robin and Tournament Prioritiser (See MyRead)

Students form groups of four. Ask students to brainstorm characters in literature and film. Allow three minutes to do this. Once the time is up, students should hand their sheet on to the next group.

When students receive the next sheet of paper they continue adding to the list. Allow 2 minutes for this. Determine the number of rotations based on student engagement and the flow of ideas. Three or four rotations might be enough in a class.

When the students receive their original sheet give them a few minutes to look over what has been recorded on the sheet.

Students then select 16 characters to add to a Tournament Prioritiser. They then come up with their group's favourite. 

Tournament Prioritising Template

Paragraph writing

Students can write their paragraphs in the comment box. If they would like to add an image of videoclip, they can include a link. Alternatively, they can create their own update in Scholar or discussion thread in Google Classroom where they can add an image or videoclip to make their posts more interesting. They become active knowledge makers adding information to their learning community. They then read and select 1-2 to comment on. Clarify what a character trait is and suggest extra character traits for students who require help.

Character traits are all the aspects of a person's behavior and attitudes that make up that person's personality. Everyone has character traits, both good and bad. Even characters in books have character traits. Character traits are often shown with descriptive adjectives, like patient, unfaithful, or jealous.

From Your Dictionary. See Types of Character Traits.

Comments in Discussion Forum

As students interact through their comments in the discussion forum, the focus is on active knowledge making, metacognition and contributing to the collaborative intelligence of the group.

2. The Structure of Narratives

For the Student

Learning Intention: To understand and revise how narratives are structured.

Success Criteria

  • Watch an animation of a short story.
  • Discuss it with a partner.
  • Complete the retrieval chart about the story structure.
  • Add your ideas to the comment box and comment on 1-2 other students' comments.
Media embedded August 30, 2017

 After watching Presto, discuss it with a partner. Consider:

  • Did you like it? Why/why not?
  • What was your favourite part?
  • What made you laugh?
  • What age group do you think this animation is for?
  • Who would you recommend it to?
  • Did you know it was nominated for an Academy Award? What makes Presto so successful?

Now look at the structure of narratives. Presto is a narrative and follows narrative structure.

Fig. 1: Structure of a Narrative

Complete the table by referring to Presto.

Narrative Structure Example from Presto
Orientation  
Rising Action/Complication 1  
Sequence of Events  
Complication 2  
Sequence of Events  
Complication 3  
Sequence of Events  
Climax  
Resolution  

Not all narratives follow chronological order in their structure. Other structures include flashback, flash forward, circular story (starts and ends at the same point) or parallel structure (more thn one character telling the story in different chapters).

Comment: Characters are important in how they affect the rising action, complication, sequence of events and the climax. Imagine how different "Presto" would be if the magician was kind and thoughtful and the rabbit was aggressive and selfish. What are some changes that could happen? Add your ideas in the comment box. Read other students' comments and comment on 1-2, extending or going further with their ideas.

For the Teacher

Purpose: Students revise their understandings of narrative structure by responding and identifying the structure of an animated film.

Teaching Tips: As extension, encourage students to think of titles of stories, novels and films that follow different narrative structures.

The metacognitive comment is important as it enables students to connect plot and character.

Narrative Structure of Presto Template

 

3. The Concept of Character

For the Student

Learning Intention: To understand the concept of character.

Success Criteria:

  • Brainstorm the character traits of the main characters, Presto Di Giotagione, the magician and Alec Azam, the rabbit in Presto.
  • Complete the STEAL Character Analysis Chart about Presto and Alec.
  • Write a PEC paragraph, analysing the characters.

Characters are important in narratives. Characters:

  • combine with the sequence of events and the setting/s to create the story.
  • can be complex or complicated with different character traits, or be simple with just one important character trait.
  • can change as a result of events or remain unchanging.

We can learn about characters from:

  • Speech - what they say, usually in dialogue
  • Thoughts
  • Effect on other characters
  • Actions - how they react to events in the story
  • Looks - description (adjectives and verbs in written texts/gestures, facial expressions, clothing in videos).

After the brainstorm in the Noisy Round Robin, complete a STEAL Character Analysis chart about the two main characters in Presto. Work with a partner and use the brainstorm and evidence from the video to complete the handout. 

  Presto Di Giotagione Alec Azam
Speech    
Thoughts    
Effect on others    
Actions    
Looks    

Comment: Write a PEC paragraph about the characterisation of either Alec or Presto. Are they simple or complicated characters? Do they change or remain unchanged? Give evidence for your opinion. Read other students' comments and comment on 1-2 that you found interesting, agreed with or disagreed with, explaining why.

Extension Option: Write a paragraph where you give an example using a character from another short story, novel or videoclip that you know of. Provide the title, the name of the character, and whether you think the character is simple or complex and whether the character changes or remains unchanged. Read other students' comments and comment on one that you found interesting, explaining why.

Fig. 3: Movie poster of Presto.

For the Teacher

Purpose: This update focuses on developing a deeper understanding of characterisation and how character is revealed in a text, moving beyond physical descriptions to inferring character traits based on what the characters say and think,  and how they act, interact with other characters, and react to events in the narrative.

Direct characterisation tells the audience what the character is like. As a video depends on the viewer, inferring the character traits, it uses indirect characterisation. While this is important, do not introduce it here. This will be defined in later updates where students analyse written texts. 

Teaching Tips

1. Repeat the Noisy Round Robin strategy but this time to come up with adjectives to describe the character traits of the two main characters in Presto. They can use dictionaries, a thesaurus and their phones to come up with as many words as possible. This is an important scaffold to the next activity. As it is a brainstorm, students may refine the character traits when they start to complete the table in 2.

2. Students then complete the STEAL Character Analysis chart.  As there is not really any dialogue (except for some aaahs etc), tell students to focus more on characters' thoughts than speech. 

3. Optional Extension: Students find another character in a short story, novel or animation and write a comment to demonstrate what they have learnt about character.

STEAL Analysis Chart Template

Background Information on Character

English Textual Concepts

CHARACTER: WHAT IT IS

Character is traditionally viewed as a description of a fictional person. As a construct, it is made up of verbal or visual statements about what that fictional person does, says and thinks and what other fictional characters and the author of the text say about him or her. The reader, listener or viewer fleshes out these statements to imagine a person-like character, sufficiently individualised and coherent to establish the sense of an identity. In this way, representation of a ‘real’ person invites personal identification and judgements about the character’s morality and value to their society. This kind of analysis can contribute to shaping one’s own sense of a moral and ethical self and so becoming a way of enculturation.

Characters may also be created and/ or read as representations of ideas, of groups of people or of types that serve a function in a narrative genre. Questions of characterisation then focus on the ways a character is constructed both by the responder and the composer and its function in the text.

WHY IT IS IMPORTANT

Character is an important concept in narrative as a driver of the action, a function in the plot, a way of engaging or positioning a reader or as a way of representing its thematic concerns. The way character is read is an indication of particular approaches to texts, be it through personal engagement or critical response.

STAGE 4 (years 7-8)

Students understand that characters are constructs that function differently in different types of texts and media.

They learn that these character constructs

  • combine with constructs of events and settings to create narrative
  • use resources such as description, dialogue, monologue
  • may draw on such devices as stereotype and generic convention to reflect values.

STAGE 3 (years 5-6)

Students understand that characters trigger an imaginative response through identification.

They learn that characters may

  • be complex having a range of characteristics or simple with one salient feature
  • change as a result of events or remain unchanging
  • have individual characteristics or be based on a stereotype

While this learning module is for year 7, students may not have focused on character before and so the Stage 3 (years 5-6) outcomes are included too.

4. A Short Story

For the Student

Learning Intention: to analyse a short story for how an author builds a rich character using indirect characterisation

 

 





 

 

For the Teacher

Activity:

Teacher reads Luke aloud to class.

Response:

Students respond through a think-pair-share:

What happened to Luke?
What is most likely to happen to him in the future?

Have you ever tried to reach someone about something really important but not been able to? Share the experience with your partner.

Activity: 

Highlighting Key Words about Character in Luke

Students are given their own copies of Luke and highlight words and phrases that demonstrate as many of Luke's character traits as they can think of. In the margins students write the corresponding character trait.
We use this activity to highlight how the author shows the reader what kind of a person Luke is, rather than telling us directly (indirect characterisation).

Activity: STEAL Analysis

Students now complete a STEAL character analysis chart on indirect characterisation in Luke

STEAL Analysis Chart -- Luke

Activity: Reflection

Students write a reflection/metacognitive comment about what they have learned or they write creatively, e.g. a paragraph about someone who is lost or stranded or in a situation where he or she needed technology and it wouldn't work.

 

5. Analysing the Short Story: Language Features

For the Student

Learning Intention: to analyse how the author has used indirect characterisation around the five senses to create a realistic character

For the Teacher

Activity: Analysing Senses

Completing the Senses Table on Luke Activity:

  • Students choose three of Luke's character traits and use them to complete a table (see below).
  • Through completing the table, we want to emphasise how the author focuses on Luke's senses -- what Luke sees, hears, feels, smells, tastes -- in order to create a realistic character. Finally, we want to underscore the importance of using well-chosen verbs to building a strong character.

Building Characters through the Senses

 
Character Trait Words/Phrases from Luke Sense Verbs/Participles
1. brave pain shuddering through his body feeling shuddering
2.      
3.      

Activity: Writing your own short story

Short Story Activity: The Accident

  • Students write their own 3 paragraph story.
  • The story should revolve around an accident of the student's choice.
  • The student should use their protagonist's 5 senses in order to build a realistic character.
  • This activity aims to give students a chance to apply what they have learned about showing rather than telling when creating a character, and how they can mobilise their character's senses to create an authentic depiction.

6. Character and Setting

For the Student

Learning Intention: to consider how character combines with setting and events in a story

For the Teacher

Activity: Considering how character interacts with setting

Changing the Setting Activity:

  • Students write 3-5 dot points on how Luke's story would change if he had had his accident in a bustling urban environment or some other contrasting environment.
  • This activity is intended to get students to notice how interrelated character and setting are. Some of Luke's character traits have been produced by and sharpened as a result of his life in the rugged outback. Then, too, his predicament is wholly dependent on being in a remote setting, where it is hard to call for help.

7. Short Story Jigsaw

For the Student

Learning Intention: To understand and become an expert about the concept of character in a short story.

Success Criteria:

  • Brainstorm the character traits of the main characters in a short story.

  • Complete a STEAL character analysis chart on the 2 main characters.

  • Share your expertise with your home/cooperative group and learn from them.

After you have formed an expert group of 4 or 5 students, you will be assigned a short story to analyse.

Then return to your home/cooperative group and share what you have learnt.

Comment: What was one important thing about character that you learnt in your expert group? What was one important thing about character that you learnt in your home group? Read through the comments of other students and comment on 1-2 that you found interesting and/or can add more information.

Fig. 7: How a jigsaw works

For the Teacher

Purpose: Students go through a sequence of activities to become experts about characters in a short story and then share their expertise with peers through a jigsaw cooperative learning activity. They repeat the STEAL Character Analysis chart that they used when analysing the story "Luke".

Teaching Tips:

1. Students form home groups of 4-5 students. 

2. Use a Numbered Heads strategy to form expert groups. Number each student 1-4. Then the 1s form an expert group, the 2s another expert group etc. A student who needs extra support can be in a group of 5 and paired with another student on the same story.

3. In expert groups, students read and discuss their allocated short story and complete the STEAL character analysis chart.

4. Students return to their home/cooperative groups and share what they have learnt in their expert groups. By teaching others, they develop their understanding further.

STEAL Character Analysis Chart Template

Suggested short stories:

  • Kate Constable: The White Boat (4 pages)
  • Gina Dillon: Winston (2 pages)
  • Graham Greene:The Case for the Defence (3 1/2 pages)
  • Elli Housden: Smelly Melly (2 1/2 pages)
  • Joan Rigby: 20-20 Vision (3 pages)
  • Extension: Richard Parker: The Wheelbarrow Boy
     

8. Direct and Indirect Characterisation

For the Student

Learning Intention: To understand direct and indirect characterisation.

Success Criteria:

  • Identifies direct and indirect characterisation in an excerpt from a short story.
  • Rewrites paragraphs using direct and indirect characterisation.

Direct Characterisation

An author can tell you "directly" what the character traits of a character in a narrative are. This is direct characterisation. In the following passage the author "tells" us directly that the main character is nervous, not feeling confident, a hard worker, determined, ambitious, hopeful, shocked and hesitant.

Against All Odds

I felt nervous as we moved into the auditorium and took our seats. I was not feeling confident. I had got to this position against all odds, because I was a hard worker, determined and ambitious.

I was still hopeful as the judge stepped up to the dais. He adjusted the microphone and cleared his throat before detailing each entry and its merits. 

Finally, he took a deep breath, and said, "And the winner is..........." I was shocked that I had won and I was hesitant as I moved towards the stage to accept my award.

Indirect Characterisation

The writer can also "show" rather than "tell" the reader about the personality of a character. The reader then has to infer the character's personality. This is indirect characterisation.

Read another version of "Against All Odds" where the emphasis is on "showing" rather than "telling" you about the character.

Against All Odds

We moved hesitantly into the auditorium and took our seats. I scanned the faces of the other competitors, sensing their self-assurance and confidence. I didn't belong here. I had got to this position against all odds, driven to work hard by the need to make a future for myself.

I had got his far.......maybe, just maybe. Any hope evaporated as the judge stepped up to the dais. He adjusted the microphone and cleared his throat before detailing each entry and its merits. My mother pressed my hand but I could not make eye contact with her, keeping my anxious gaze fixed on the judge.

Finally, he took a deep breath, and said, "And the winner is..........." The realisation that I had won was not immediate. I did not hear my name. All I heard were shrieks and applause, accompanied by pats on the back, suffocating hugs from my mother, and then being propelled towards the stage to accept my award.

Note that using the STEAL Character Analysis Chart helps you to infer a character's personality from their Speech, Thoughts​, Effect on other characters, Actions and Looks.

Think-Pair-Share: Authors use both direct and indirect characterisation in their narratives. Direct characterisation depends mainly on adjectives to describe a character. Indirect characterisation also uses strong verbs and adverbs so there is more variety in the language. Which version of "Against All Odds" did you like best? Why?

Text Transformation - Your Turn

Now return to your expert group and choose a paragraph from one of the four short stories that you are an expert on. The paragraph must describe one of the characters and be at least 4 sentences long. 

Then, as a group, rewrite the paragraph. You can choose to make it all direct characterisation or all indirect. 

Return to your home groups and share your new paragraphs. Discuss the changes you made. Is it better than the original? Why/Why not?

Comment: Find another character description in another novel or story. Add the paragraph to the comment box. Explain whether it is direct or indirect characterisation or a combination. Read other students' paragraphs and comment on 1-2 that you thought were interesting, explaining why.

Fig.8: I won against all odds!

 

For the Teacher

Purpose: Students work with definitions of direct and indirect characterisation to innovate on character descriptions. They also analyse the effectiveness of their paragraphs, noting the functions of adjectives, verbs and adverbs. This update will also prepare them for the next update where they create a character.

Teaching Tips:

Build on the Short Story jigsaw activity in the previous update with students working in their home groups to select a paragraph and create a text innovation. They then return to their expert groupos to share their new texts. The support of more able students will scaffold the activity for all students.

If needed, suggest the following paragraphs to each group.

1. White Boat by Kate Constable (New Paper Trails)

2. Kate Constable: The White Boat (4 pages)

3. Gina Dillon: Winston (2 pages)

4. Graham Greene:The Case for the Defence (3 1/2 pages)

5. Elli Housden: Smelly Melly (2 1/2 pages)

6. Joan Rigby: 20-20 Vision (3 pages)

7. Extension: Richard Parker: The Wheelbarrow Boy

The comment activity will extend students further to look for character descriptions in other texts. Provide some texts for them to peruse or they can check the internet using class computers or their phones. There are also some sample texts in the attachment below.

Sample Character Descriptions

9. Creating Characters

For the Student

Learning Intention: To apply what you know about direct and indirect characterisation to create your own characters. 

Success Criteria 

  • Develop a character profile. 
  • Take your character 'out for coffee' and interview them. What do they order? How do they respond to your questions? What is the tone of their voice and their actions? 

1. Think-Pair-Listen-Ask! Think independently for a few minutes about the kind of character and narrative you would like to develop for you creative writing task. You might like to write down some ideas in your workbook during this time. Pair up with another student to share your ideas. Take it in turns to be a Sharer and a Listener. The Sharer has three minutes to share their ideas about the character and narrative they are starting to develop. During this time the Sharer must try to use the whole time to explore aspects of the character and the Listener must only listen (and look encouraging!). At the end of the three minutes, the Listener must ask the Sharer 2-3 clarifying questions about the character. These questions might include:

  • That sounds interesting, tell me more about that aspect of the character? 
  • Why is the character so <angry/happy/sad> all the time? 
  • What is something that happened in the character's past which lead them to where they are today? 

After the Sharer has answered all the questions, switch roles! 

2. Character Profile - Create a profile of a character in your story. Share your characters age, gender, occupation, family, friends, location and use a range of adjectives to describe the character's appearance and personality. Include a drawing of your character. 

You may like to use this template or another creative method to make a profile. Here are some other examples of how you might like to create a 'profile' of your character: 

  • Short paragraph 
  • Comic strip 
  • Annotated image

<Insert Blank Profile> 

3. Share Your Profile - As you create your profile share aspects of your character with your table group and other peers. Ask for their feedback! 

4. Take your character 'out to coffee' - To take our characterisation even further, you are going tp take your character out for a coffee and interview them! 

Question

Dialogue 

What your character is saying

Action

What your character is doing

Monologue

What your character is thinking

Do you like coming to restaurants? 

     

What is your happiest memory?

     

What kind of people do you like?

     

What are your top three wishes?

     

What are your three favourite activities?

     
Additional Question: Come up with your own question to ask!      

 

For the Teacher

 

 

10. Creative Writing Project

For the Student

For the Teacher

Assessment Task: Creative Writing Project 

Task: Develop a short story which utilises the narrative structure and indirect and direct characterisation. 

Narrative Structure 

Orientation - Gives a description of the place, time and important characters using appropriate adjectives and sentence length

Complication - There is a complication which challenges the character/s (this might pose a challenge to their objectives, their interactions with others or their environment)

Sequence of Events

Resolution - There is a clear result in regards to the complication and according to the theme picked (This does not have to be a happily ever after ending)


Characterisation 

Character is developed through direct and indirect characterisation strategies

Grammar

Uses the senses in describing the character

Uses a combination of simple, compound and complex sentences

Uses correct spelling and grammar conventions

11. Going Further

For the Student

Learning Intention: To demonstrate your understanding of character through a creative work.

Success Criteria:

  • Write a short story or character description or create a concept map.

Extension Task:

What have you learnt about character? Demonstrate this through one of the following:

1. Write a short story. It could be on any topic you like or you could use one of the following ideas:

Changes

Shadow

The happy/sad tale of ..........

Glitch

2. A character description. Include both direct and indirect characterisation.

3. A story board and videoclip of a narrative or character description. Use the template to guide you.

4. A character concept map with words and images. Look at the concept map below on the writing process. Expand on "character" in the same way as this student has mapped the writing process. Be creative! Concept map guidelines:

  • A3 size
  • Include at least 10 relevant and related terms/concepts in ovals/circles/rectangles/shapes
  • Use colour and line to show relationships/connections between concepts
  • Include graphics/images
  • Have a title.

If you like, you can use mindmapping software such as Simple Mind, Poplet or Padlet.

Fig. 11: The Writing Process

For the Teacher

Purpose: The purpose here is to extend students to take their writing further. Students also have increased agency through the range of multimodal activities.

Teaching Tips:

While the expectation is that most students will complete one of the extension tasks, it will provide time to ensure all students complete the character profiles and creative writing project.

Story Board Template

 

12. Acknowledgements

Title and Fig. 1: (Source); Fig. 3: Available from Wikipedia under CC. (Source); Fig. 7: Jigsaw (Source) Fig. 8: Against All Odds (Source); Fig.11. Writing process concept map by a grade 5 student. In Bennet, B. (2011). Graphic Intelligence: Possibilities for Assessment and Instruction.Toronto: Bookation. p. 282.