Writing Sundays #10: Character Development

Just getting going on Writer's Workshop?  Seasoned pro?  I hope you find some useful tips in this series on Writing and that you feel free to comment on things you see or things you do in your own classroom.  I would love for this to be an interactive series where you feel free to ask questions or add to the discussion.  I love to teach writing and I am so happy you are here. I'd love it if you'd share this with your friends and/or colleagues.

Here's what we've been up to this week:

I am deconstructing the "beginning" of stories.  We spent some time already learning Great Words to use as descriptors for settings and this week, we dove into character development.  Students were told that they would be drawing their characters in their writer's notebooks.  I did not use any cutout this week and left it very organic.   We will revisit this again with a more "strict" focus.  As you will see, girls and boys tend to stick to their own types of characters.  Next time, I will do a role reversal.  More on that in a minute.   Below, you will see examples of girls and boys and their characters of choice.  It was open season on characters.  The instructions were:  go back to your seats and draw whatever character you want and label them with descriptors on personality and color your drawing.  Here is the girls' sample:

Here is the boys' sample:

What is the first thing you notice?  Of course!  The girls' illustrations are of girls and the boys' illustrations are of creatures/animals.  The girls have described their characters, not all the boys did.  Is there anything else you notice?

Then we got together in our A/B partners and each student was responsible for drawing the other person's character based on the description they were given by that student.  I captured these two shots of a girl/boy combination.  In listening to the students as I moved around the room, students found it a bit challenging to process the image in their minds and then duplicate it, ESPECIALLY if it was a girl/boy combination but they gave it their best try. Very eye-opening stuff!

The next time we do this in our notebooks, I will be ASSIGNING a character:  the girls will have to design a creature or animal as a character, the boys will have to design a person.  Stay tuned...

As my followers will know, I visited my friend Susanna from Whimsy Workshop Teaching at her classroom.  What fun!  I worked with her 1's and 2's on visualizing how certain "artifacts" from a story can go together to create a story.  I usually pick actual things from a story as a clue and pull them out one at a time and students draw them.  I had a shorter time period for this lesson and younger students so I differentiated a bit and gave the students pre-drawn clues.  Students could color and think about what the clues could have to do with the story - what will it be about?  Or they could color and write.  As I circulated, there were some creative ideas.  Here is a sample of what they came up with:  We used the Jillian Jiggs book Great Big Snow.

Students came back to the carpet and shared their own versions of the story and then we read the book.  Fun times!  No time for a new author this week but next week I will be introducing my favorite author, Nina Laden, to my students and we will also be having an author visit.  It's my friend and colleague who has just written two books.  Both books are about dogs so it will be great to compare and contrast the two authors because Nina Laden has dog stories as well!

If you would like a copy of the accordion book I used with Jillian Jiggs, you can grab your free copy here.

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