If you're a teacher looking to engage your students while also sharpening their reading skills, don't overlook this important topic! Read on to find out five creative strategies that you can use for teaching character analysis.
When readers feel connected to the characters in a fiction story, they're more engaged.
The characters in the story become familiar friends. They help us to look at things in a different way. They amuse us when they're funny, they frustrate us when they make mistakes, and they can even help us to understand the people in our own (real) lives.
1. Let's Talk about Feelings!
Talk to your students about how just like humans, characters have emotions. These emotional reactions reveal important traits about a character.
Students can pay attention to what characters say, how they speak, what they do, and what they think. Once they notate these things, they can add up all the clues to determine how the character is feeling.
Often, students need to develop their vocabulary to pinpoint the feelings! Otherwise, you may find that some students call all feelings very simple terms, like happy, mad, or sad! Therefore, it can be useful to develop a feelings chart that the students can refer to when analyzing characters.
Talk through a feelings chart like this together as a class. Discuss real-life situations that might cause some of these emotions. Then, display it and refer to it throughout the year!
2. Read with purpose.
Before reading a book, or a chapter, have the students pay special attention to how a particular character's feelings change throughout the reading.
After the reading, create a simple timeline together! Map out how the character felt in the beginning, middle, and end of the reading. Discuss or write down the causes for why those feelings occurred.
3. Act it out!
Putting oneself into a character's shoes is a phenomenal way to really understand their perspective! After reading a book or a chapter, divide students up into pairs. Give each student the role of either director, or actor. Then, assign the students one character from the book, OR give each pair different characters from the book.
Have the students act out or replay a scene from the book. The director must give the actor instructions on how to "be" the character better. Maybe the actor needs to talk differently or convey a certain emotion! It's up to your students to decide! Once everyone has practiced a bit, it could be fun to call select pairs up to perform in front of the class.
4. Compare and Contrast
Thinking about a character in relation to oneself OR other characters is a surefire way to make characters relatable!
Help students to think in different categories when comparing and contrasting, so that they're stretched beyond just surface-level things. Prod with deeper questions like: How do they handle challenges? How did they change? What did they learn?
Help the students to map out their thoughts with a graphic organizer like a double bubble map, a Venn diagram, or a T-chart.
5. A Point of View Game
After reading a book or a chapter, assign each student (or groups of students) with names of characters. Have them keep their character a secret!
Give the students a few minutes to write several first person thoughts or quotes from the point of view of the character. Students will read their thoughts or quotes aloud for other students to guess which character they have!
Lastly, check out some of my novel studies below.
I am highlighting books that I highly recommend for teaching deeper character analysis, because the protagonists in them are incredibly lovable, and they change so much throughout the stories!