I am learning to identify how authors make readers care about the choices characters make so that I can develop my skills with creating realistic characters.
- I can identify choices a character makes in a story.
- I can discuss how author’s make readers care about the choices their characters make.
- I can experiment with creating a character that is faced with a choice.
- I can make readers care about the choices my character faces.
- I can write a paragraph outlining the choice, the character’s fears, and the challenges they encounter.
Display the following two extracts:
1)Sangeeta had a decision to make. Play with Rosie at lunch or not. She chose to play with Rosie.
2) Sangeeta had a decision to make. Play with Rosie at lunch or not. If she played with Rosie, her best friend Ava, would be upset. Ava and Rosie didn’t get on. But Rosie was new to the school, and she didn’t have many friends. If Sangeeta didn’t play with her, she’d most likely spend lunch alone. She wrestled hard with the choice, Rosie or Ava, Rosie or Ava. She saw Rosie standing alone by the benches and felt sorry for her. She headed in Rosie’s direction. Ava called after her, “You’re supposed to be my friend.” Sangeeta felt upset. Ava and she had been friends since kindergarten. She looked back at Rosie. She was scraping her shoe on the ground, looking sad. No, she couldn’t leave her alone. Decision made. “Want to play tips, Rosie,” Sangeeta asked.
Inform students that both extracts show a character faced with a choice. Discuss which of the examples is most engaging. Students will most likely choose the second extract. Discuss reasons why this is more engaging than the first example. Ensure students conclude that the second example shows reasons for and against why Sangeeta should play with Rosie. It makes the readers care about her choice as they begin to see what is at stake (Sangeeta’s relationship with Ava vs being kind to Rosie who is new to the school). Tell students that this is called a moral dilemma.
Read Rat Boy. Collaboratively discuss the following:
- What is the first choice the character faces after holding Basil the rat? (Whether to accept Dreadlocks’ offer to buy Basil or not)
- What are the reasons the main character is unsure about whether to take Basil? (His mum does not like rodents, and he does not have the $20 he needs to pay Dreadlocks for Basil)
- What begins to sway the main character to take Basil? (Dreadlocks tells him he must get rid of Basil, and he offers the main character to swap something with him as payment for Basil)
- What does Basil do that further convinces the main character to take him? (He climbs up and nestles in the hollow of his neck)
Discuss how each of the elements that feature in the decision make readers’ care about the choice the main character faces, for example, it is revealed why he is worried about taking Basil (due to his mother’s reaction), readers understand why he is compelled to take the rat (Dreadlocks has to get rid of it and he enjoys feeling it nestle against him) and how one of the considerations (the lack of $20) is removed through Dreadlocks’ offer to swap Basil for the main character’s Doc Martin’s.
Inform students that authors strive to add tension to the choices made by their characters by adding challenges for their characters to face. Place students with a partner and instruct them to identify what challenges the main character faces next in the story (he has to work out how to get Basil inside without his mum discovering him).
Inform students that they will be identifying further examples of where the author has created tension by having the character make choices and by making readers care about the choices. Display the following questions for students to discuss with a partner:
- What challenges does the main character face while trying to hide Basil? (Mr. Spoons from next door tries to speak to the main character as he tries to sneak in with Basil, his mum comes to his room just after he has hidden Basil, Basil escapes from the drawer and stands on the top of the bookshelf where mum might see him)
- What fears does the main character have about keeping Basil? (He worries how long he can keep Basil a secret, he fears his mum will ask about his missing Docs)
- How does the author maintain the tension right up to the end of the story? (Basil is missing from his box when the main character wakes up the next day)
Discuss students’ responses. Inform students that they will be experimenting with creating choices for characters and with making readers care about the characters' choices. Display the following questions to be discussed as a class:
- What choice does the character have to make?
- What are some of the reasons against and in favour of each option?
- What convinces them to make the choice?
- What challenges do they face?
- What fears do they have?
Briefly discuss the extract examined at the beginning of the lesson in relation to these questions. Sample responses include:
- What choice does the character have to make? (Whether to play with Rosie or Ava)
- What are some of the reasons against and in favour of each option of the choice? (Ava is Sangeeta’s best friend and she doesn’t get along with Ava, but Rosie is new to the school, and she does not have anyone else to play with)
- What convinces them to make the choice? (When she sees Rosie standing alone)
- What challenges do they face? (Ava calls after her that they are supposed to be friends and Sangeeta feels torn)
- What fears do they have? (She is afraid of upsetting her friendship with Ava, but she doesn’t want Rosie to be alone)
Inform students that they will be working with a partner to craft a character together by answering the displayed questions. Tell students who are finding it challenging to think of an idea for their character that they can use a time when they themselves have faced a difficult choice. Instruct students to note their ideas in their workbooks.
Once students have discussed ideas, instruct them to compose a paragraph about the choice their character faces. Remind them to include the reasons for and against the choice they face, what convinces them to make their choice, the challenges they face and their characters’ fears.
Allow time for students to compose their paragraphs. Once complete, instruct students to swap with another pair and read each other’s work.