Characters in Because of Winn-Dixie: Making Lists of Ten
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In Kate DiCamillo's book Because of Winn-Dixie, the protagonist, Opal, learns about her absent mother when her father shares ten things about her. Working as a class, students match items from the list of ten things describing Opal's mother in the novel with the basic elements of characterization. Next, they work in small groups to go through the same process with the list of ten things describing Winn-Dixie. Students then create an individual list describing another character in the book. Finally, students extend this process to another book they are reading by recording ten characteristics on a printable bookmark, ranking those characteristics in terms of importance, and then publishing them in a flip book format.
Three Elements of Characterization: This resource introduces students to the three elements of characterization, as well as some basic vocabulary terms related to characters.
Flip Book Interactive: This online tool allows students to type and illustrate tabbed flip books up to ten pages long.
From Theory to Practice
In her "Teaching Ideas" column, Diana Mitchell states, "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 provides fifty suggestions on exploring new directions and responding with greater depth to the books read by students. This lesson plan provides a similar alternative by asking students to identify key details from the book in a way that goes beyond the ordinary while still focusing on comprehension.
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.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
- 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
- Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
- Board/Chart paper and writing instruments
- Additional texts for students to read and analyze
- Before beginning this lesson plan, students should read and discuss Because of Winn-Dixie or listen to the text as part of a class read-aloud.
- Make copies of the Three Elements of Characterization handout, list of things about Opal's mother and Winn-Dixie, Bookmark Template, and Example Bookmark.
- Test the Flip Book on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tools and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page.
- discuss characters and characterization in a text.
- work in cooperative groups.
- use a bookmark to document their findings while reading.
- identify and analyze the listing technique presented in Because of Winn-Dixie.
- create a list of ten things about a character.
- Ask students to summarize Because of Winn-Dixie in whole-group discussion.
- Invite students to share the reasons that they think the title Because of Winn-Dixie is appropriate for the book.
- Once the important plot points and details have been established, ask students to name the characters of the story, and record their responses on the board or chart paper.
- Pose the question: "What are some of the ways the author describes the characters in this story so the readers can get to know them?" While student answers will vary, they should mention the list of ten things about Opal's mother.
- Revisit the section in the book where the list of ten things about Opal's mother can be found, or share the handout that contains the list.
- Provide time for students to discuss the kinds of things that are included on the list that the preacher shares with Opal.
- Pass out copies of Three Elements of Characterization or display an overhead transparency of the information. Discuss the elements with the class.
- Looking again at the list of ten things about Opal's mother, ask students to identify the elements of characterization that correspond to the items on the list about Opal's mother:
- how the character looks (physical description)
- how a character acts
- how other characters in the story react to this character
- how the character looks (physical description)
- After the discussion of Opal's mother, have the students find the list of ten things about Winn-Dixie that Opal makes during the storm or share the handout of the list.
- This time, in pairs or small groups, have the students identify the elements of characterization that correspond to the items on the list.
- Provide time for the pairs or small groups to share their findings.
- At the beginning of this session, ask students to share their thoughts about the lists of ten and the items they included.
- Introduce the assignment that students will complete: in groups, they will choose another character from Because of Winn-Dixie and create their own lists of ten. Refer to the list of characters brainstormed in Session One if needed to help students choose their focus.
- Allow time for students to form small groups, or assign them ahead of time.
- Provide time for the students to search through Because of Winn-Dixie looking for ten characteristics of their character. Remind students to list things that include all three of the elements of characterization.
- During this work time, circulate around the room, assisting as needed, and listening to the conversations of the groups.
- Provide time for groups of students to share their lists of ten.
- As groups share, ask students to justify their choices, and indicate where each of their items can be categorized in the elements of characterization.
Session Four and Additional Reading and Discussion Time
- Now that students have had some practice with characterization by making lists of ten, ask them to complete this assignment again for the next book they read independently, in literature groups, or a read-aloud text.
- Invite students to use the bookmark to record characteristics as they read.
- Share the sample bookmark to demonstrate how the tool is used.
- Using the items from their bookmark, ask students to create their lists of ten.
- When the list of ten has been completed, ask students to rank order their list: the first item on their lists should be the least important characteristic and the last item on the list should be the most important characteristic. This order will be important during the final session, when students publish their lists.
- When the list of ten has been put in rank-order, introduce the students to the Flip Book student interactive. See the handout on the tool for details on the instructions to give students as you demonstrate the tool.
- Explain that the rank-order of their lists of ten corresponds to the pages in the Flip Book student interactive. The first page is the shortest, so it should list the least important characteristic, which will require the least amount of space to explain. The last page is the longest, so it should include the most important characteristic because it includes the most space.
- When students complete their flip books, illustrating their list of ten, invite them to share their lists with the class.
- Allow time for questions from the class and further discussions .
- Invite students to look closely at the list of ten things that Opal's father tells her about her mother. Do these ten things resurface in the rest of the story? For instance, the preacher says that Opal's mother loved to listen to stories. Opal demonstrates the same characteristic as she enjoys listening to Miss Franny.
- If this lesson is taught towards the beginning of the school year, students can choose to write a list of ten positive things about a classmate. Then, to share, read the list aloud, but do not tell the name of the person. When the list has been read, invited the other students to guess who was described.
- This activity can be used in other content areas. Students can be asked to write a list of "10 things I know about ..." Weather, the Solar System, the Constitution, the Civil War, Habitats and Biomes, and so forth.
- Have students explore Kate DiCamillo's Website and create a list of ten things they learned about the author or the book.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- A great deal of knowledge about students’ understanding can be gained from listening to the students as they work together to create their lists of ten in cooperative groups.
- In addition, kidwatching is another good assessment for this activity. Circulate throughout the room while the students are meeting in their cooperative groups. Listen to their comments and observe their interactions. Take note of how they work together.
- Finally, assess the students’ bookmarks and their flip books to determine their knowledge and understanding of the characters in their texts.