Book Report Alternative: Characters for Hire! Studying Character in Drama
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After reading a play, students create a resume for one of the characters. Students first discuss what they know about resumes, then select a character from the play to focus on and jot down notes about that character. Next, they search the internet for historical background information. Students then explore the play again, looking for both direct and implied information about their characters and noting the location of supporting details. Finally, students draft resumes for their characters and search a job listing site for a job for which their character is qualified.
From Theory to Practice
In her article "Teaching Ideas: Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report," Diana Mitchell explains "Students tire of responding to novels in the same ways. They want new ways to think about a piece of literature and new ways to dig into it" (92).
Mitchell's observation is supported by Jim Cope's survey of 272 high school seniors in five Georgia high schools. In the article reporting his findings, Cope states, "Book reports were listed as the third most negative school reading experience, and can be considered a subset of students' general disdain for assigned reading" (21). Like Mitchell, Cope suggests that teachers "move away from the traditional book report and consider more exciting activities" in order to raise students' interest and engagement in reading. The end result of book report alternatives, such as the one explored in this lesson plan, is that the activities "whet the interest of students in exploring new directions and in responding with greater depth to the books they read" (Mitchell 92).
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
- 2. Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
- 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).
Materials and Technology
- Copies of the play the class is reading
- Computers with access to the Internet and word processing software
- Have students read the selected Shakespearean drama. Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, The Tempest, and A Midsummer Night's Dream all work well with this activity and are appropriate for high school classes. Other plays that would work well include The Glass Menagerie, The Crucible, and Our Town.
- Determine whether this activity would suit your students best as a group or individual assignment. The activity requires a significant amount of inference and creativity, so students may benefit from a cooperative arrangement.
- Arrange for students to have appropriate computer access (Internet and word processing capabilities) for Sessions Two, Three, and Four.
- Preview and bookmark Websites from the Shakespeare and Resume Writing Web Resources as well as other favorites on drama and business writing.
- Test the Writing Resumes for Fictional Characters student interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- gain knowledge of the historical and social context surrounding the setting of the chosen play.
- apply information from other characters, noting the context in which the character is speaking and the reliability of the character, to discover additional information about their chosen character.
- compile disparate and/or unconnected information about the chosen character into a coherent format (the resume).
- learn appropriate resume techniques.
- Explain to students that they will be preparing a resume for one of the characters in the drama they have just read.
- Discuss resumes, perhaps using the Resume Generator Student Interactive as a guide. Be sure to cover questions such as the following:
- What is a resume?
- Why are resumes used?
- What information does a resume convey?
- How is a resume typically organized?
- What is a resume?
- Discuss with students whether this is an individual or cooperative assignment and proceed accordingly.
- Have students (in groups or on their own) choose a character to investigate and jot down preliminary notes they can recall about their characters.
- Begin the session by reminding students of the activity and sharing the Character Resume Rubric. Answer any questions students may have.
- Introduce students to the resources available for research on their characters, relying on both print and Internet materials. Direct students to the Shakespeare and Resume Writing Web Resources you bookmarked and provide a brief overview of each to guide students' use of the sites.
- If desired, use the Writing Resumes for Fictional Characters student interactive to highlight the requirements of character resumes.
- Give students the session to do background research to discover such information as the customary education of a Roman official or the type of women's education available for the time period when the play takes place.
- Discuss the difference between direct and implied information presented in the drama. To provide an example without exploring a character that students are using for their projects, you might talk about what is directly stated about the setting of a play and what is implied by the characters' comments and the stage directions.
- To prepare students for their search through the text, remind them of the notation system typically used for Shakespearean plays: act in uppercase Roman numbers, scene in lowercase Roman numbers, and lines in Arabic numbers (e.g., III.ii.3-6).
- Have students explore the text for supporting information, direct and implied, making note of what they find using the notation system.
- At this point, students have gathered enough information to create a draft of the character's resume.
- By searching the U.S. Government Job Announcements site, students can choose a job for which their character is qualified.
- By the end of this session, ask students to revise their draft into a final resume, tailoring the resume to meet the job description provided in the vacancy announcement.
- ReadWriteThink lessons that can extend and enhance the activities in this lesson include Preparing a Character for a New Job: Character Analysis Through Job Placement, Book Report Alternative: Creating Careers for Characters, and Help Wanted: Writing Professional Resumes.
- After students have completed resumes for the characters in the play, host a job fair in which students take turns interviewing each other in character.
- Compile all the resumes and have students review them to create a new company showcasing the combined skills and strengths of the characters they studied. Students can name the company, describe the work the company does, and create job titles and descriptions for each of the characters.
- Have students use the Character Trading Cards interactive tool to look further into the personalities of the characters they chose.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Assess students or groups using the Character Resume Rubric.