Defining Moments: Charting Character Evolution in Lord of the Flies
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Help students analyze characters by noting the ways in which defining moments shape personalities. In this lesson, students chart the evolution of Lord of the Flies' Jack and Ralph in order to gain perspective on how life on the island affects them. Students will chart changes, note the “direction” of their characters, support their conclusions with textual evidence, and present their findings. The strategies that students learn in this lesson will be applicable to future novels, making it a great one for improving overall critical reading. As a post-lesson assessment, teachers can also use the essay reflection directions and rubric.
From Theory to Practice
Before students graph their characters’ defining moments, they must find appropriate quotes in the book that demonstrate these moments. Morache (1987) explains, “Junior high students can be introduced to the idea of backing one's statements with evidence through a character analysis activity” (p. 61). While Lord of the Flies is often a novel read in high school, high school students can also benefit from practicing this important analysis skill. Like Morache’s activity, this character evolution lesson similarly “… encourages subjective response to literature yet requires that opinions be validated” (p. 63).
By charting moments that are supported with quotes and written explanation, students are free to draw their own conclusions but must ground their thinking in evidence. This type of analysis is crucial in sound critical reading/thinking, and practicing it in this lesson will help students interpret future novels, as well.
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).
- 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
- Class set of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies
- One computer for every four students
- Before this lesson, students should have finished reading William Golding’s Lord of the Flies.
- Reserve the computer lab or library computers for one class session (students will need these computers for session three of the five sessions in this lesson)
- Create a list of student groups (four students in a group). Heterogeneous grouping is recommended.
- Divide list in half: one set of groups will investigate Ralph, while the other half will investigate Jack.
- Make class copies of Dynamic vs. Static Characters printout, or have the handout ready to project onto screen for students to take notes.
- Make class copies of Character Evolution Project Directions, Character Evolution Organizer, Character Evolution Chart Grading Rubric, Character Evolution Reflection Directions, and the Character Evolution Reflection Grading Rubric.
- apply literacy knowledge to identify defining moments for Jack or Ralph in Lord of the Flies and support their choices of defining moments with quotes from text.
- create a Graphic Map of defining moments and write individual reflections supporting choices.
- present findings and interpretations to the class.
- Begin the session with a short review of the main points and characters of Lord of the Flies, which students should have just completed reading. Ask students if anyone knows the difference between “static” characters and “dynamic” characters. Come up with a class definition and write it on the board/chart paper.
- Hand out the Dynamic vs. Static Characters printout, or project it onto a screen, asking students to write down definitions:
- Static characters: do not experience basic character changes during the course of the story.
- Dynamic characters: experience changes throughout the plot of a story.
- As a class, list the static and dynamic characters of Lord of the Flies on the board. (Example: the “littluns” are generally static, while Jack becomes significantly more aggressive.)
- Talk about the reasons that dynamic characters change. Explain that moments that change us significantly are “defining moments.” The moments themselves may be big or small.
- To check understanding, ask students to individually think of a single defining moment for Ralph or Jack and choose a few students to share these moments with the class. If time remains, challenge students to think of defining moments in short stories or novels they have read earlier in the school year.
- Hand out the Character Evolution Project Directions and the Character Evolution Organizer. Explain to students that this week they will chart the changes of either Ralph or Jack, first on paper and then on a computer. They will find five defining moments for a character, support it with a quote, and note if the defining moment was low, medium or high in the character’s evolution. (NOTE: Teachers may choose to give students this printout while they are reading the book--before the lesson is taught--to avoid having to go back to the book to find defining moments.)
- Explain how to fill out the organizers and remind students that all group members must participate.
- Model the organizer by using an overhead or projected computer screen to partially fill out an organizer. Allow time for students to ask any clarifying questions.
- Split students into their groups and allow them to begin working on their organizers.
- Circulate among the groups, guiding students and answering questions.
- Wrap up the session by asking each group to share one defining moment with the class.
- Ask students if they have any questions about yesterday’s activity. Allow time for students to finsh their Character Evolution Organizers.
- Return to the Character Evolution Project Directions and explain Part Two: Creating Your Chart to students so that they have a full understanding of the next step of their projects. Hand out the Character Evolution Chart Grading Rubric, explain, and allow time for students to ask questions.
- Explain to students that they will be using the Graphic Map interactive in the next session to create a chart based on their findings. Demonstrate the Graphic Map by projecting your computer’s screen onto the board. Show students how to find the Graphic Map, and explain how to fill out the appropriate sections. (Using pictures on the map is optional.)
- Tell students that they will get started on their personal Graphic Maps at the beginning of the next session.
- Remind students that they have only today to use the Graphic Map interactive. Ensure that students have their Character Evolution Project Directions and Character Evolution Organizers.
- Take students to the library or computer lab and allow them to begin their charts, refering to the Character Evolution Chart Grading Rubric as they work.
- Circulate among the students, guiding them and answering questions.
- At the end of the session, ask students to print their work (one copy for each student, and one for you). Students will bring these printouts to the next class to be presented to their peers.
- Explain to students that today they will present their findings to the class.
- Give students five to ten minutes to discuss their presentations with group members.
- Call up groups to share their moments with the class. Each group should give their quotes and explain the items on their charts. They should end their presentations by explaining whether their character moved in a positive, neutral or negative direction.
- If student presentations are not finished by the end of class, finish them in the next session.
Session Six (Optional)
- Explain to students that today they will begin to reflect on their findings.
- Hand out the Character Evolution Reflection Directions. Read the directions aloud and answer student questions.
- Hand out the Character Evolution Reflection Grading Rubric. Discuss the requirements of “excellent” papers. Take questions.
- Give students the rest of the session to brainstorm/outline their reflections. Circulate among students, helping as needed. (NOTE: Teachers may choose to build in more in-class writing days or direct students to finish reflections at home.)
- Reinforce students’ understanding of defining moments by using this same lesson with your next class novel.
- Aid students in brainstorming the defining moments of their own lives, and follow up with a unit on personal narratives, based on students’ defining moments.
Student Assessment / Reflections
- Students present their findings in groups in order to demonstrate their understanding of defining moment and textual support.
- Use the Character Evolution Chart Grading Rubric to further assess students’ understanding of defining moment and textual support.
- Students write an essay to demonstrate understanding of character and defining moment. Use the Character Evolution Reflection Grading Rubric to assess students' understanding.