The Important Book by Margaret Brown Wise is wonderful for reading aloud to young children. The value of this book does not stop there, however.You can also use it with older children.
It is the perfect template to use when your students write a character analysis. I think it works best with middle-schoolers, but you could adapt it to other age groups. Middle-schoolers are starting to work with more complex assignments (like character analysis) which require more abstract thinking, but many are still concrete thinkers, so this book provides a bridge. A secondary benefit is the extra practice with writing and figurative language it provides.
Read the book aloud and then discuss it with your students. Have your students follow along with their own copies of the book. There is no reason each student must have a copy. Groups of students could share books. You could even make this a group work activity.
Discuss the book. Talk about the rhythm and what the book does. (The book takes different objects and tells the more important thing about each one.) In my opinion, using the book does away with the “intimidation factor.” Many of my students were scared of writing a character analysis and thought they couldn’t do it. It was like pulling teeth! When I started using this children’s book, it became much easier.
Teach how to use the book as a model for a character analysis. The most important line is the first because it requires that students come up with one word that best describes their character. The first line of their analysis should be, “The Important thing about “x” is “xyz.”
For example, if you were writing about Harry Potter, you might say, “The important thing about Harry Potter is that he is brave.”
Example and Rubric
From this point you determine what you want each line to describe. This is an example of one way I use this activity in my classes:
The important thing about “x” is “xyz.”
1 line that describes a physical feature
3 lines that describe events in the book which are important to the character
2 lines that describe the character’s personality
1 line that describes something that makes the character either happy or sad
1 line that uses a simile to describe the character
The last line repeats the first line, “but the important thing about ‘x” is “xyz.”
This is just one example of this assignment.It varies according to my classes and what we have been studying. For example, if we have been learning about metaphors, I might substitute metaphor for simile. Depending on the skill level of my students and if I am using this as a group activity, I might require more or less information in the assignment. (For example, I might require five lines that describe events rather than three, or I might require two similes instead of one.) You decide what you expect from your students.
To make this assignment meaningful, students must use evidence from the text to support their work.It is not enough to say “Harry is kind,” to describe his personality, they must say how they know Harry is kind. For example, they could say, “Harry’s kindness is demonstrated when he befriends Luna, even though her eccentricities make her a difficult person to get to know.”
The rubric I use: (The numbers in parentheses are the most a student can earn for that particular component, take away points as you see fit.)
Accurate Character Description (25)
Evidence from Text (20)
Sophisticated Language (20)
Use of Simile (5)
I highly recommend modeling this activity for your students. The quality of work will be much better if students have read an analysis that you have written and seen the thought process behind your work.
Make sure your students know that after your read their profile, you should have an excellent understanding of the character they analyzed.
Need Another Lesson Idea?
If you’re looking for another lesson about character analysis, why not try a character acrostic poem?
- Teaching experience.
- The Important Book, http://www.amazon.com/Important-Book-Margaret-Wise-Brown/dp/0064432270