Teaching Textual Evidence and Characterization — The Body Biography

A group's representation of Azar from _The Things They Carried_.

A group’s representation of Azar from _The Things They Carried_.

A group's representation of Ted Lavender from _The Things They Carried_.

A group’s representation of Ted Lavender from _The Things They Carried_.

My very first year teaching I discovered an activity that really helped teach students about characterization.  It is perfect for kinesthetic and visual learners; artistic students are also very engaged with this activity.  I have used it in all grade levels and tiers.  You can also use homogenous or heterogenous groups; you can have lower level students focus on more prominent characters and higher level students focus on minor or more complex characters, or you can simply differentiate by choice!

10RL3 10RL3 – Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
A group's representation of Mary Anne from _The Things They Carried_.

A group’s representation of Mary Anne from _The Things They Carried_.

A group's representation of Norman Bowker from _The Things They Carried_.

A group’s representation of Norman Bowker from _The Things They Carried_.

This is how it works.  Every group of three to four students receives (or chooses) a character from an extended text the class is reading (a play or novel works best).  One student lies on top of a piece of butcher paper or chart paper.  Another student traces the living model — this is why you may want to use same sex groups.  After the team has traced their model, they then put their character’s name at the top.  They use colors, symbols, and physical traits to decorate and represent their character.  They must include textual support (strategically placed) with a citation to further analyze their character.  They also need to think about how and when their character emerges and changes throughout the text as well as that character’s relationships, motivations, and interactions with people in the text.  I always give each group an assignment sheet as to what they must consider and include on their body biography.  Instructions are tiered to fit learner profiles.

Lt. Cross from _TTTC_

Kiowa from _TTTC_

Rat Kiley from _TTTC_

Rat Kiley from _TTTC_

This assignment could be adapted for increased rigor / expectations.  You could also add a gallery walk and presentation session; students could also give feedback to other students as well as use the body biographies as a prewriting activity for a character analysis or character study.  In addition to using this assignment in ELA classes from 6th to 12th grade, Social Studies, CTAE, and fine arts teachers could adapt this type of activity to a famous persons study for their discipline.

Lt. Cross from _TTTC_

Lt. Cross from _TTTC_

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