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Lesson Plan Ideas for A Soldier's Heart: Write a Character Sketch

written by: Kellie Hayden • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 9/11/2012

Paulsen's novel, A Soldier's Heart, is set during the Civil War. Students can show the main character's development in a character sketch.

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    Civil War Era Lesson Ideas for Paulsen Novel

    The free lesson plan ideas for A Soldier's Heart by Gary Paulsen are suitable for upper middle school students or even ninth or tenth graders. A Soldier's Heart takes place during the American Civil War, one of the bloodiest wars in the United State's history. The main character, Charley Goddard, was only 15 when he enlisted as a Minnesota volunteer.

    Paulsen and the Realities of War

    Middle school students generally love anything by Paulsen, especially the boys. However, girls usually connect to Paulsen too because of his great writing skills.

    This Paulsen book deals with the horrors of war from a young boy's point of view. The novel was based on a real young boy's experiences, which are quite graphic at points in the book. People die in this book and some middle school students may not be ready to deal with the realistic details included. However, this historical fiction novel will allow students to learn some historical facts about the Civil War and see how war changes people.

    A Soldier's Heart

    Charley Goddard wants excitement and is quite confident when he first joins the Minnesota volunteers who fight for the Union. However, he finds out quickly that being a soldier is not easy.

    The realities of war bring out his insecurities. Charley grows up during his time as a Union soldier and ends up with "soldier’s heart" or post-traumatic stress disorder.

    Write a Character Sketch

    Students can write a character sketch or character analysis of Charley’s character development from a young boy looking for adventure to a young man with a "soldier's heart."

    The following is one example of how to organize a character sketch outline. Students can use this outline as a framework to develop their papers.

    I. Introduction of Charley Goddard

    A. Introduce A Soldier's Heart by Gary Paulsen

    B. Write one sentence that tells the focus of the character sketch about Charley. This is called a thesis statement.

    II. Describe Charley's physical, emotional and personality traits at the beginning of the novel

    A. physical -- give examples from novel

    B. emotions -- give examples from the novel

    C. personality -- give examples from the novel

    III. Describe Charley's physical, emotional and personality traits in the middle of the novel

    A. physical -- give examples from novel

    B. emotions -- give examples from the novel

    C. personality -- give examples from the novel

    IV. Describe Charley's physical, emotional and personality traits in the middle of the novel

    A. physical -- give examples from novel

    B. emotions -- give examples from the novel

    C. personality -- give examples from the novel

    V. Write a conclusion

    A. Summarize the paper

    B. Tell how the war affected the changes in his development.

    Once students have completed the outline, they can write a rough draft of their character sketch. Then, they can peer-edit each other's essays. Last, students will need to write a final copy.

    The free lesson plan ideas for A Soldier’s Heart show teachers how to guide students to write a character sketch. This character sketch will allow students to write about the Civil War and to write about how it changed one young boy.