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Lesson Plan

Developing Characterization in Raymond Carver's "A Small, Good Thing"

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Developing Characterization in Raymond Carver's "A Small, Good Thing"

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Patsy Hamby

Patsy Hamby

Dallas, Georgia


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • analyze static and dynamic characters in "A Small, Good Thing."

  • discuss character development in the short story.

  • compose a narrative of an incident involving one of the static characters.

  • share their work with classmates.

  • respond to a classmate's writing.

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Session One

  1. Distribute copies of Raymond Carver’s short story “A Small, Good Thing” to students. Have students take turns reading sections of the story in small groups of three or four students.

  2. Share the Dynamic vs. Static Characters handout with students. After the discussion, students should understand that dynamic characters undergo basic changes during the course of a story.

  3. Ask students to name the dynamic and static characters in “A Small, Good Thing,” and record their responses on the board. Students should note that in this story, the baker is a dynamic character who undergoes a change at the end of the story, after his confrontation with Ann and Howard Weiss.

  4. To develop discussion, ask students questions such as the following:

    • Why is the baker a dynamic character?

    • How would you describe his character at the beginning of the story? In the middle?

    • How did he change after his meeting with Ann and Howard Weiss?

    • Why do you think he changed in this way?
  5. Direct students to the Literary Elements Map, and have them use the Character Map Graphic Organizer option to map the three main characters: Ann Weiss, Howard Weiss, and the baker. Note that they will complete and print the organizer three different times.

  6. Next, tell students that Carver’s first version of this story is titled “The Bath.” For homework, have students read “The Bath” and note how the original version differs from “A Small, Good Thing.”

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Session Two

  1. Ask students the following questions about “The Bath”:

    • How is the ending of “The Bath” different from that of “A Small, Good Thing”? (Students should note that the original story ends with the lines, “‘Have you forgotten about Scotty?’ the man said. Then he hung up.”)

    • What do we learn about the baker in “A Small, Good Thing” that is not revealed in “The Bath”?

    • How has changing the ending altered the baker from a static to a dynamic character?

    • Why might Carver have altered the resolution to this story?

    • Which ending do you prefer as a reader? Why?
  2. Tell students they will now create an anecdote or incident involving the hit-and-run driver that will allow them to turn him into a dynamic character.

  3. Have students read through the “A Small, Good Thing” Characterization Worksheet and write responses after each step.

  4. After they have completed the worksheet, ask students to share their papers with partners.

  5. Next, have students use the TAG Writing Response handout as a guide for peer conferences. Using the sheet, students prompt their partners to:

    T—Tell how the hit-and-run driver has become more of a dynamic character. (Anticipated response: “He has changed from ____ to ____.”)
    A—Ask the writer a question about something in the story that needs clarification.
    G—Give advice about how the writer could improve this story for publication.

  6. Ask students to use their TAG Writing Response sheets and completed “A Small, Good Thing” Characterization Worksheet handouts to write an anecdote or incident involving the hit-and-run driver for homework.

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Session Three

  1. Ask students (in small groups or as a whole class) to answer the following questions about their anecdotes:

    • How has the hit-and-run driver in your anecdote changed from a static to a dynamic character?

    • How might this characterization alter Carver’s story?

    • What role do you think static characters play in a story?
  2. Call for several volunteers to read aloud their anecdotes to the class, or have students share them in small groups.

  3. Collect the anecdotes and provide feedback.

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