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Lesson Plan

Tracking the Ways Writers Develop Heroes and Villains

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Tracking the Ways Writers Develop Heroes and Villains

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Unit
Estimated Time Six 50-minute sessions plus reading sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



Everyone knows that Star Wars character Darth Vader is a villain. He ranks in third place on the American Film Institute List of Top 100 Heroes and Villains. This lesson asks students to explore how they know such things about the heroes, villains, and others they encounter in texts.

After examining how moviemakers communicate the villainy of Darth Vader, students examine a passage from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that describes the villain Voldemort, noting how Rowling communicates details about the character. Students then read novels in small groups, with each group member tracking a character in a reading log. When they finish their novels, students design posters and present details on their novels to the class. After the presentations, students make observations on how authors develop character and write journal entries reflecting on what they learned.

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Character Development Reading Log: Students can use this printout to list specific text references evidencing character development.

Persuasion Map: This online tool enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate.

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Character analysis represents one of the most common assignments given in literature classes. A successful character analysis demands that students infer abstract traits and values from literal details contained in a text. This lesson plan asks students to infer those traits and explore how they combine to build positive and negative characters in the novels. Incorporating well-known characters from both literature and popular culture not only makes the concepts more accessible to students but also increases their interest in the activity. As Dale Allender states: "Popular culture has affective and academic value. It should be used in a variety of ways as one would use texts generally in a constructivist, cultural studies classroom concerned with student achievement and transformative learning" (13-14).

Further Reading

This lesson plan was adapted from: Forsyth, John. 1995. "Through Characters' Eyes," Teaching Literature in High School: The Novel. pp. 16-17. Urbana, IL: NCTE.


Allender, Dale. "Popular Culture in the Classroom." English Journal 93.3 (January, 2004): 12-14.

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