Saturday, August 6, 2016

Teaching Characterization in the Secondary English Classroom

I've decided that I am going to start a new series of blog posts that discuss how I teach certain elements in my secondary English classroom. Today I am going to be talking about how I teach characterization!

Static and Dynamic
I always start teaching characterization with static and dynamic characters. I tell students that static characters stay the same like static on a T.V. set and dynamic characters change like dynamite would change anything. I then take Shel Silverstein poems (which the kids LOVE) and have the students discuss which characters are static and which are dynamic. A great example of a static character is "The Peanut Butter King" and really seems to drive the point home for the kids!

After working on the Shel Silverstein poems, I move on to my final whole group lesson. In this lesson students watch a short film and discuss which characters are static and which are dynamic. This is one of my favorite lessons all year!


I then have the students break out into their differentiated learning groups. I tell them that each group must read two stories and chart the characters within to determine if they are static or dynamic. I also let the students choose which two stories they would like to read. 

Some of the options I give are: 

  • “The Treasure of Lemon Brown”
  • “Us and Them”
  • “The Ransom of Red Chief”
  • “Raymond’s Run”
  • “Flowers for Algernon”
  • And my personal favorite "The Dandelion Garden" (A hard to find short story by Budge Wilson)

Since I am letting the students choose their own stories I differentiate in the following ways:

Character finding

  • For Lower Level: Give students two characters from each story that they must chart.
  • For Higher Level: Have students determine characters who are static and dynamic on their own.


  • For Lower Level: Read the stories as a class (or find a reading on Youtube).
  • For Mid Level: Have students read stories in partners and discuss chart answers.
  • For Higher Level: Have students read the story and fill out the chart on their own.

We finish up the static and dynamic unit by taking a test on the topic. 

Character Traits
After the static and dynamic unit it is time to start digging a little deeper into characterization. 

First, I have the students learn to define the most common character traits by sorting traits with their definitions. I have 5 different sets of these character traits matching activity, but sometimes my kids like the challenge of putting them all together. 

In one instance, my kids alphabetized the traits and then kept walking around the table to sort the definitions. There was a lot of great conversation and smart arguing, which I LOVE to hear!

After learning about the different types of character traits, I add an extra piece to the puzzle in which students need to match sentence examples to their traits. THEN the students need to decide based on the sentences, which traits are positive and which are negative. The kids love moving around!

The final activity that we do with character traits is going to the computer lab and working independently on a character traits activity. Instead of giving a test on character traits, I use this activity as a test grade. In the computer lab activity students take a few personality quizzes to determine what THEIR character traits would be. They then must read some short stories and determine static and dynamic characters. They also interact with some National Geographic pictures of the day and make inferences about character traits based on the pictures. 

And that concludes how I introduced characterization! 

If you are interested in any of the activities in this lesson click on the pictures below!

    Static Prezi    Static or dynamic      Traits lab 



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