Zodiac Characterization & Dialog Lesson

The student teaching days keep getting longer and longer. The girls in my carpool now joke about how we watch the sun rise on the drive to school and watch it set on our drive back. We’re hanging in there, though. And, I’m pleased to announce I survived my first observation. My observer came to watch my 9th grade class progress through our Romeo and Juliet unit. I taught a lesson on characterization and dialogue that I adapted from the Folger Shakespeare Library. I call it What’s Your Sign? Instead of using the old zodiac charts Folger provides, I used zodiac strips as a starting point for journal writing.

Procedure

1. Pass at zodiac strips at random or have one sitting at each desk as students arrive.

2. Ask students to read their strips and become the character described on their strip. Allow students 5 minutes to develop their character by journaling. You may provide this prompt:

“For this class, you will become the character described on your strip. Based on your characteristics, write personal information about yourself. Write in the first person to give me a full portrait of yourself. What is your name? Your age? What do you look like? What is your job? Where do you live? What do you do for fun? What are your hobbies? Who are your friends? Be as creative and accurate as you can.”

3. Pair students up, reminding them they should NOT share with their partner who they are or any details about their character.

4. Distribute a piece of white printer paper or a transparency and markers to each pair.

5.  On the projector present these three scenerios:

1. Two people on a blind date are sitting in a restaurant. They have just ordered their food. There is a long, uncomfortable silence. . .

2. Two people are waiting for a bus. One person notices that the other has been staring at him/her for a long time. . .

3. Two people are walking their dogs in the streets of a neighborhood. One person’s dog starts growling at the other person’s much smaller dog. . .

6. Tell students to choose one scenerio to create a dialog with their partner, remembering that they must speak and act as their character (as described on the strip and in their journal) would speak and act.

7. Allow 10-15 minutes for students to develop their dialogs.

8. Tell students write (2-3 minutes) at the bottom of their journal entry what kinds of character their partner was trying to portray. “What adjectives would descibe your partner’s character?”

9. Ask students to share dialogs (act them out with partner, share on the overhead project/smart board, etc.) with whole class. Ask class to describe two characters and press them to explain how they knew this (think about their inferences). Allow presenters to explain the kind of characters they were trying to portray.

Attempt #1

My students came up with some wild things to say. A class favorite was a dialog based on scenerio #1:

Allen: Why are you so quiet?

Melissa: (says nothing!)

Allen: Please talk to me.

Melissa: Hi!

Allen: Are you still in school?

Melissa: Yes!

Allen: What classes are you taking?

Melissa: My major is art!

Allen: My major is math!

Melissa: Are you quick at math?

Allen: It depends on what problem you give me.

Melissa: Ok!

Allen: (To himself) I wonder if I can get her to pay for dinner tonight. Maybe I should make up an excuse to get out of here and leave her the check.

Melissa: I hope you are not bored.

Allen: No. But I got to do more math. Bye!

Melissa: What about the check?

Allen: Bye!

After the had written their dialogs, I put their transparencies up on the overhead projector and I asked them to give me adjectives to describe each character. For Allen, they told me he was “not caring,” “bored,” “rude,” “cheap,” “selfish,” and “sneaky.” Melissa was “shy” and “focused.” We looked at a few examples and then we launched off into characterization and how Shakespeare’s characterizes through dialog.

They then did some worksheets that helped them get to know their character through their character’s own actions, their character’s words and the words that other characters speak about the character in question.  It was all very fun and they seemed to enjoy it.

I think this lesson is a keeper. Like the students, I like any excuse to turn out half the lights.

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