Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How to Host Character MeetUps in Your Classroom: Get 'Em Moving - Then Get 'Em Writing

AHHHH!!! That’s the cry made by every ELA teacher who's ever tried to get students to write riveting character descriptions.

It seems no matter how many mentor texts kids analyze or how many sensory wheels kids create, they inevitably wind up defaulting to some variation of this character description:
John Doe is a 5'5" eighth-grade student with brown hair and brown eyes. 


Didn't we just spend three days talking about what makes a character intriguing, frightening, noble, irresistible, repulsive, and quirky? After all those epic discussions, how could I possibly be reading height, age, and hair/eye color descriptions...again?

This was the problem I faced every year with my budding eighth-grade writers. I simply could not figure out how they could find and discuss interesting characters in books but could not transfer those skills when writing their own character descriptions. 

But after doing a little investigating, I found out that this was happening in middle schools and high schools EVERYWHERE.

(At least I wasn't the only one feeling frustrated, helpless, and defeated.) 

Then one day, I read a Scholastic article called "Building Believable Characters" and these lines jumped out at me:

"Authors often create character sketches before they do any writing of the book." Their hope is that they can craft character descriptions which are so realistic that the authors - and eventually their readers - feel as if they could "step into their characters' shoes and predict what they would do next." 

Shazaam!  That was it. I had to figure out a way to get my students to step into the shoes of their own characters.

That's when I tried Character MeetUps. Thankfully, this would become the activity that put an RIP stone on the 5'5" brown-haired, brown-eyed John Doe descriptions forever. 

 Video Blog:

Video Demo

If you want your students to write descriptions which help readers put themselves in characters' shoes, click here to check out the materials used in this Character MeetUp lesson or here to access an entire bundle of lessons that help students craft killer descriptions every time they write.

And last (but not least) here's a set of quick start directions along with student notebook pages so you can try this in your classroom right away.

Step-by-Step Quickstart Directions: 

Meet Up Materials

 Sample Notebook Pages:

Left: Quick write, listing facts about my characters           Right: Notes about 4 people I met at the MeetUp

If you'd like to try more Get 'Em Moving - Then Get 'Em Writing active student engagement strategies, here are a few posts from that series:
That's it for now, so until next time…stay committed…teach with passion…and inspire students with who you are.


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