Lesson Plan

The Relationship Among Character, Plot, and Theme

Objectives

This lesson builds on students’ understanding of how literature reflects real people, real conflicts, and universal themes. Students will: [IS.11 - Language Function]

  • analyze the development of character in a short story.
  • analyze how the conflict between characters advances plot.
  • explain the relationships among character, plot, and theme.

Essential Questions

  • How does interaction with text provoke thinking and response?

Vocabulary

[IS.1 - Preparation ]

[IS.2 - ELP Standards]

[IS.3 - All Students]

  • Characterization: The method an author uses to reveal characters and their various personalities. [IS.4 - All Students]
  • Plot: The structure of a story. [IS.5 - All Students and Struggling Learners] The sequence in which the author arranges events in a story. The structure often includes the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. [IS.6 - Struggling Learners] The plot may have a protagonist who is opposed by an antagonist, creating what is called conflict. [IS.7 - All Students] [IS.8 - Struggling Learners]
  • Theme: A topic of discussion or writing; [IS.9 - All Students] a major idea broad enough to cover the entire scope of a literary work. [IS.10 - ELL Students]

Duration

50–100 minutes/ 1–2 class periods

Prerequisite Skills

Prerequisite Skills haven't been entered into the lesson plan.

Materials

  •  “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker from In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women. Mariner Books, 2003. “Everyday Use” has strong main characters, a clearly defined plot (aspects of exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution are easily discussed), and a powerful main theme. The story elements are tightly intertwined, and it can elicit animated discussions about the meaning of culture and family heritage. Other examples with strong characters and interrelated theme include “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty,  “The Sky is Gray” by Ernest J. Gaines, and the novel The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.
  • “An Enemy of the People” adapted by Arthur Miller. Penguin, 1977. [IS.12 - All Students]
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. CreateSpace, 2009. [IS.13 - All Students]
  • three copies for each student of the Character Profile worksheet (L-L-7-1_Character Profile.doc) [IS.14 - ELL Students]
  • computer projection of the Sample Completed Character Profile (L-L-7-1_Sample Completed Character Profile.doc)

Related Unit and Lesson Plans

Related Materials & Resources

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  •  “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker from In Love & Trouble: Stories of Black Women. Mariner Books, 2003. “Everyday Use” has strong main characters, a clearly defined plot (aspects of exposition, rising action, climax, and resolution are easily discussed), and a powerful main theme. The story elements are tightly intertwined, and it can elicit animated discussions about the meaning of culture and family heritage. Other examples with strong characters and interrelated theme include “A Jury of Her Peers” by Susan Glaspell, “A Worn Path” by Eudora Welty,  “The Sky is Gray” by Ernest J. Gaines, and the novel The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.
  • “An Enemy of the People” adapted by Arthur Miller. Penguin, 1977. [IS.12 - All Students]
  • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. CreateSpace, 2009. [IS.13 - All Students]
  • three copies for each student of the Character Profile worksheet (L-L-7-1_Character Profile.doc) [IS.14 - ELL Students]
  • computer projection of the Sample Completed Character Profile (L-L-7-1_Sample Completed Character Profile.doc)

Formative Assessment

  • View
    • During the lesson, keep the focus on the analysis of character development and how the conflict between characters advances plot, as well as the relationships among character, plot, and theme.
    • Observing individuals as they complete their character profiles will reveal students who are having difficulty so that you can provide immediate support. It will also offer the opportunity to refocus students, if necessary, by reminding them of the significance of the story’s climax and asking if the theme they have chosen is directly related to the climax.
    • Use the following checklist to evaluate students’ understanding.

    o   Student demonstrates the ability to identify details from the story that are evidence of character development.

    o   Student understands and provides details from the story for each of the following parts of the character profile: physical appearance, actions, thoughts and words, other characters’ thoughts and feelings, and what the narrator tells directly.

    o   Student completes a profile for each of the three main characters.

    • Because the concepts build on one another, intervene at any point to help students refocus and review the concepts when necessary. Inviting students to change a single story element (the setting, one of the characters, one of the key events in the plot) emphasizes the way that all story elements work together and that theme is indicated through these relationships.

Suggested Instructional Supports

  • View
    Scaffolding, Active Engagement, Modeling, Explicit Instruction
    W: Model for students how to analyze character, understand how relationships between characters advance plot, and relate character relationships to theme.
    H: Encourage students by relating character development to real-life perceptions of people.
    E: Provide opportunities for students to explore and practice the big ideas through large- and small-group discussions of character development, conflict, and theme.
    R: Guide students to use their prior knowledge about both character and conflict to propose a theme.
    E: Encourage students to read with the intention of understanding how character, plot, and theme work together to create meaning.
    T: Adapt the lesson to a variety of interests and learning styles. For readers who seem less motivated, suggest a graphic novel to show the interrelationships of these elements. For less proficient students, use a story they have previously read to review the elements of fiction. Challenge more proficient students to write about the cultural aspects of quilts.
    O: After introducing character development, read a story with strong characters. Help students explore conflicts among the characters and then synthesize these elements into the story’s theme.

     

    IS.1 - Preparation
    Preparation: List ELL students and their instructional ELP score 
    IS.2 - ELP Standards
    Add ELP standard(s) to be addressed in this lesson.  
    IS.3 - All Students
    To present this vocabulary, consider using this video/rap called “5 Things” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c6I24S72Jps 
    IS.4 - All Students
    Consider, for all learners, reviewing the “Character Profile Worksheet” embedded in  this lesson.  
    IS.5 - All Students and Struggling Learners

    Consider this user-friendly definition:

    Plot-the sequence of events in a story

    Also, for struggling learners, consider using this graphic organizer to illustrate the elements of plot:

    http://jordanmccollum.com/wp-content/uploads/plot-chart-labeled.jpg 
    IS.6 - Struggling Learners
    Note: Struggling learners may need more support for the concepts of: rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.  
    IS.7 - All Students

    For all learners, consider the following user friendly definitions:

    • Protagonist—usually the main character, the “good” character, and the story focuses on this character’s conflict
    • Antagonist—usually is the “bad” character, or the person going against the protagonist.
    IS.8 - All Students

    For all learners, consider this user-friendly definition:

    Conflict-The struggle between two opposing forces.

    To support all learners, consider  using this video:

     http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szaWwIceU-4 
    IS.9 - All Students

    For all learners, consider using the following definition:

    Theme—the main idea about life.

    IS.10 - ELL Students
    ELLs will need many opportunities to use these words orally in meaningful conversation. Build oral development into the lesson activities.  
    IS.11 - Language Function
    Select a language function objective for oral development  during this lesson.
    IS.12 - All Students

    For all learners see:

    Project Gutenberg

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2446 
    IS.13 - All Students

    For all learners, see:

    Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library

    http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DicChri.html

    Project Gutenberg

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2446

    IS.14 - ELL Students
    In what way will the selected passage relate to the ELLs in this class? Use your answer to this question to activate prior knowledge. 
    IS.15 - All Students

    For all learners, to collectively address all questions below and in Parts 1 and 2, considering using a Socratic Seminar to ask and explore all questions, and to focus on identifying textual examples and the literary concepts of this unit.

    For information on the Socratic Seminar, see:

    http://www.pattan.net/Videos/Browse/Single/?code_name=socratic_seminar

    and:

    www.paideia.org

    IS.16 - All Students

    For Inference, tone and voice (literary and conceptual elements) :  Teacher selects a picture or photo and passage based on a theme from text  and models through use of a “Think Aloud” the following:

    •  What do I infer from this photo?
    • What do I “see” in this photo?
    • What do I think is happening in this photo?

    Then the teacher answers these questions aloud for students. Teacher then chooses a short passage from the selected texts and asks students the following:

    •  What do you infer (read between the lines) about text from this passage?
    IS.17 - Struggling Learners

    For struggling learners, consider providing a list of characters and mode one character and provide a one-sentence example.

    Use a “think aloud” to explain how you came up with the description, and under which category does the example fall.

    IS.18 - All Students
    See comment IS.3
    IS.19 - Struggling Learners
    For struggling learners, consider having them partner read this text.  
    IS.20 - All Students
    For all learners, consider using “Think-Pair-Share” to answer these questions.  
    IS.21 - All Students
    This is a good instructional practice for all learners.  
    IS.22 - Level 1

    Level 1

    Level 2

    Level 3

    Level 4

    Level 5

    Entering

    Beginning

    Developing

    Expanding

    Bridging

    Match key vocabulary with an illustration of it from the passage.

    Describe key vocabulary elements as they relate to this passage.

    Contrast literary elements from this passage to those in another recently-read passage in a small group.

    Explain how the story might be differnt if the setting changed with a partner.

    Discuss a profile of the main character that develops that character with a partner.

     
    IS.23 - All Students
    See comment IS.8
    IS.24 - All Students and Struggling Learners
    See comment IS.5
    IS.25 - All Students
    See comment IS.9
    IS.26 - All Students
    See comment IS.15

Instructional Procedures

  • View

    Focus Question: How does analysis of character lead to a deeper understanding of text? [IS.15 - All Students]

    Explain that we make judgments about people based on what they say and do. Ask, “What might you infer if you observe another student smiling at his or her report card? [IS.16 - All Students] What might you infer if you see the soccer team walking slowly after a game?” Discuss the clues students use to draw these conclusions. Ask students for other examples of how they use actions and feelings to make judgments about people’s behavior.

    Part 1

    Tell students to think of a memorable character from a book, short story, or graphic novel. You may wish to provide a list of characters that have been discussed in class. [IS.17 - All Students] Ask students to write a one-sentence description of the character. Then ask students to explain how they came up with this description. Discuss their responses and write samples on the board/interactive whiteboard. Guide students to see that their responses generally fall into three categories: what the character says, what the character does, or what the character looks like. Encourage students to be active readers by looking for clues to character development as they read.

    Review the elements of the short story: setting, character, plot, point of view, and theme. [IS.18 - All Students] Then have students read “Everyday Use.” [IS.19 - Struggling Learners] Ask students to describe where and when the story takes place. Then ask them to describe the narrator’s home. Ask, “What do you remember about the outside? The inside?” Say, “Picture how the events in the story might be different if they were to take place in a different setting.” Discuss why the setting is important to the events in a story. [IS.20 - All Students]

    Distribute three copies of the Character Profile worksheet to each student (L-L-7-1_Character Profile.doc). Explain that students will fill out a profile for each main character in the story and that the profiles will help to analyze how the author develops the characters. Using the Sample Completed Character Profile (L-L-7-1_Sample Completed Character Profile.doc), model for students how to complete the profile by first writing the name of a main character in the oval. [IS.21 - All Students] Tell students to refer to the story to complete each section of the organizer: physical appearance, actions, thoughts and words, other characters’ thoughts and feelings, and what the narrator tells directly. Ask students to look for specific details from the story that support each section of the profile.

    Part 2 [IS.22 - Level 1]

    Have small groups identify the conflicts in the story. [IS.23 - All Students] Students should use their understanding of the characters to help identify the conflicts. Point out that a story may have multiple conflicts. Have one student in each group record the results. Explain that the most important conflict is the one that drives the story’s plot and brings about the climax. Ask students to decide what the most important conflict is and circle it. If necessary, review that the climax is the turning point of the story, the moment when the conflict is most intense.  [IS.24 - All Students and Struggling Learners] Guide students to see that the climax occurs when Mama gives the quilts to Maggie.

    Ask groups to report their themes. [IS.25 - All Students] Record the themes on the board/interactive whiteboard. Ask, “Does one theme seem more important than another? Why do you think so?” If students have difficulty deciding on an important theme, remind them about the significance of the story’s climax. Ask if the theme they have chosen is directly related to the climax.

    Discuss the complexity of the relationships among literary elements. [IS.26 - All Students] Ask students to think about how the meaning of the story would change if one element was changed, for example, the point of view.

    Extension:

    • Have small groups choose a section of the story that includes dialogue and reenact the scene through role-play.
    • At the end of the story, Dee says Mama doesn’t understand her heritage. Encourage students to write a journal entry in which they explore what Dee means and how Mama interprets it.
    • Have students watch excerpts from a movie with a strong theme, such as Star Wars. Point out that the main theme concerns the triumph of good over evil. Discuss how the conflict between the main characters is related to the theme.
    • Ask students to role-play a meeting of two characters from other texts.
    • Encourage students to rewrite a chapter of a book from another character’s point of view.

Related Instructional Videos

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Instructional videos haven't been assigned to the lesson plan.
DRAFT 11/09/2009
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