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Expressing Ourselves in Character

Context for this Lesson

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GENERAL TOPIC:  Exploring Characters  (Part 1)                         
GRADE: 9-12th Life Skills
FOCUS QUESTIONS: How does a character’s actions in a story reveal his or her character traits? How might a character’s feelings be affected by others’ or events occurring around him/her? How can we use our bodies and/or voices to portray a character’s feelings/emotions?

  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • A copy of Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
  • Sentence strips
  • Costume pieces (scarves)

§110.31. English Language Arts and Reading, English I
(6) Reading/Comprehension of Literary Text/Literary Nonfiction. Students understand,
make inferences and draw conclusions about the varied structural patterns and features of
literary nonfiction and provide evidence from text to support their understanding.
Students are expected to analyze how literary essays interweave personal examples and
ideas with factual information to explain, present a perspective, or describe a situation or
§117.64. Theatre, Level I.
(2)  Creative expression/performance. The student interprets characters, using the voice
and body expressively, and creates dramatizations. The student is expected to:
                     (A)  demonstrate safe use of the voice and body;
         (B)  analyze a character from a script, describing physical, intellectual, emotional,    
          and social dimensions;



The Truth About Me
Arrange the chairs in a circle. Invite students to come and sit in the circle with you.
"Today we are going to play a little game called The Truth About Me. Take a quick look around you and notice that you are all sitting in a chair and in a circle. One person will stand in the center of the circle and share with the class something about him or her that is a physical trait, which means that it is something that someone can know immediately when looking at you. After the person in the center has shared their truth, everyone else in the circle that also shares that truth or trait will move to another spot in the circle. The trick is to find an open spot. It’s very similar to musical chairs. If you are the last person who does not have a spot, you will be in the center to share your truth.  Now, lets think for a moment about what this activity is asking of us. Part of this activity involves moving around and “stealing” spots, who can give me some ideas about how to do this safely?" Allow for student response. "Great suggestions. Let’s all keep those in mind as we work through this. Before we jump into the activity, lets rehearse the correct way to perform the activity all together, much like we did with the opening check-in activity. I will be the one to stand in the middle for this first activity." The facilitator stands in the middle and says, “The truth about me is that I have ______ hair” - "Now, all of you who have ______ hair will get up and find a new seat, but remember that I am looking for a seat also." Students and facilitators switch seats; student left standing enters the middle of the circle. "Great job on the practice round! Does everyone see how that will work? Are there any questions before we go?" Students and facilitators engage in activity.

  • What types of traits do people usually notice first about you?
  • Think about physical traits, such as your clothes, eye color, hair color, height.
  • If someone walked up to you, what would they know immediately without you telling them anything?

"Excellent job, class. Now we are going to do that same activity again, but with a twist. Instead of telling the class about a physical trait that represents you, the person who is standing in the middle of the circle will share something about himself or herself that others might not know when first meeting that person. What are some things that someone may not know about you? Let’s brainstorm a list." Facilitator and students generate a list of possible categories that students can refer to (favorite things: movies, food, music, color, hobbies, etc.) "Now that we have a list that you can look to if you need it, take a moment to think about what that might be for you. I will begin the game again as the center person." Facilitator makes the statement - “The truth about me is that I have a puppy.” "Remember, if that statement also applies to you, you will move about the circle and try to find a spot." Students and facilitator participate in the activity until all students have had the chance to play the center person and share their truth.

  • Other than just physical traits like clothing and hair color, what else can someone tell about you without talking to you?
  • Think about things you like or things you dislike
  • What hobbies do you have?
  • Where are you from? Where is your family from?
  • What does someone’s body language tell you about him or her?

Reflection on Activity:

  • What did you notice about the first round of Truth About Me versus the second round?
  • Was it more difficult for you to tell/think about a trait that someone can immediately see about you?
    • Why do you feel that way?
  • Why might it be important to understand those internal traits and feelings about other people?

Transition: "Now we are going to dive into exploring characters now, and examine how character’s actions and experiences reveal information about them. If you will all please have a seat."
Read Aloud: Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
"Today we are going to be learning about a very influential woman. This woman’s experiences and actions shaped the person that she became. She experienced many hardships in her lifetime and was impacted by many different individuals. I am going to tell you this story, which is entitled Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. When I say the title, who comes to mind?" Allow for student response. "Rosa Parks is the main character of this story. As I tell the story to you and show you the detailed illustrations throughout the book, I want you to keep in mind the experiences that Rosa has throughout the book, the characters that she interacts with, and how all of those people and events impact her. We will be discussing those things following the reading, so be sure to pay close attention as I tell you this story." Facilitator reads story aloud.
Brainstorm story elements:

  • Characters
  • Setting
  • Mood
  • Conflict
  • Resolution



Role on the Wall
"You all have done a great job in helping me to identify the important components of the story that we just read. You also did a very nice job in recognizing the very difficult emotions that were felt throughout the story. As we continue, we are going to now focus on our main character, Rosa." Facilitator will draw the outline of a human body on a sheet of chart paper. Facilitator will write the character name on the top of the paper, so that students are clear about whom we will be discussing. "Okay, class. This drawn human body is going to be representative of our main character, Rosa Parks. Lets begin by exploring what other characters that Rosa interacted with in the story. Think about characters or people who helped Rosa and those who were against her." Facilitator writes down characters as students supply them, and categorizes them as characters who are helping Rosa (left side) and characters who are against Rosa (right side). "Now that we have a bunch of different characters that are all impacting Rosa in different ways, what are some messages that these characters are giving to Rosa?" The class will then brainstorm the messages that the character is receiving from those people. Based on those external messages that we brainstorm as a group, we will discuss how that character might be feeling on the inside. Facilitator will write the feelings in a different color on the inside of the character.
Side –Coaching/Questioning:

  • What did we learn about Rosa from this exercise?
  • Look at the variety of messages that Rosa received from different people throughout the story. How do you think those messages affect her?
  • Why might Rosa have felt conflicted or confused when receiving all of those messages from different people?
  • In what ways was Rosa’s personality shaped by her experiences?
  • If Rosa were to do our Truth About Me activity that you did at the beginning of class…
    • What are some physical traits that she might have told you all?
    • What are some internal things that she might tell you all?

Transition: "You all did a very nice job in making connections between Rosa, the characters around her, events that occurred in the story, and how those events affected her and shaped her into the person that she was. As you can see, there are many different things that contribute to how a character will act, what he or she will say, and how he or she might feel."
"Now, I want you all to imagine that you are newspaper reporters and you are being asked to write a story for the local newspaper about Rosa and her experiences. In order to do that, however, you are going to need to interview Rosa Parks. Lets think about what we might need to do in preparation for interviewing Rosa. If we are going to interview her to get a better understanding about her life and experiences, what are some questions that we might want to ask her?" Allow for student responses. As students are providing questions, the facilitator is writing them on the board as a list that students can reference while they interview. "Great job, I think these are all very solid questions, but if you think of others feel free to use them as well. Now, are there a couple of people who would want to act in role as Rosa Parks? If no one wants to be Rosa, I can be her." Students or facilitator will put on the costume and be in role as Rosa Parks for the interview process. Students will ask questions and interview Rosa. Facilitator (if not acting in role) will guide the interview and assist as needed. When interview questions are finished, student/facilitator will step out of role.
Possible questions:

  • Where are you from?
  • Why did you refuse to move when you were sitting on the bus?
  • Did you ever feel ________?
  • How did ___________ make you feel?
  • What motivated you to stand up for your civil rights?

"Nice job interviewing Rosa! The last thing that you are going to do as you prepare for your big news story is to think of a title for your news story. I am going to split you up into your groups of three from last week, and I want you to spend 5 minutes to all to think together as a group about what you might title a news paper story that you were writing about Rosa Parks based off of the information that you just learned from her! Think about what her experiences, emotions, and the events of the story. One example of a title would be_________." Facilitator will model for students how to write a newspaper headline. Once students have finished writing their headlines in a group, they will read them aloud to the class, so that everyone can hear the different headline articles that have been created. The facilitator will prompt their presentation of the title by saying: "And on the next day, splashed across the front of the newspaper was….”
Transition: "Excellent job, class. You all did a really nice job today in exploring characters! Lets reflect upon what we have learned."

  • What did we do today?
  • What influential character did we explore?
    • In what ways was the character of Rosa shaped by her experiences?
    • What feelings did she experience throughout the story?
    • What feelings did her story evoke for you?