For many literary works, especially novels, character development is quintessential. Literary characters drive the action and conflict; they create a reason for a story to exist. Mapping characters can be as simple as asking students to fill in charts that track important aspects of characters, or as complex as noting traits that categorize them as an archetype. Another great use for storyboards in character analysis is as three column notes: separate storyboards that detail a character's feelings, actions, and important dialogue in three different parts of the novel.
Because characters are crucial in almost every story and central to plot, it is helpful for students to map them out. The most important aspect of a character map is to assist students in keeping characters, traits, and motivations organized. When students misinterpret characters, they lose track of plot, and often make critical reading mistakes.
Students will be able to read, take away, and list important attributes of characters, in order to understand their impact on plot. They will also be able to infer and predict what a character might do, based on his/her personality.
Although this lesson can be used for many grade levels, below are the Common Core State Standards for Grades 9-12. See your Common Core State Standards for the correct grade-appropriate strands.
Before reading, it is good to introduce your students to a list of characters. This is especially helpful for novels or plays with multiple groups of characters and plot twists. Give students the character map worksheet you wish them to complete before reading, so students can familiarize themselves with character names and be watching for them as they read.
While reading, students should track the characters and fill in information about them. A great way to do this is to stop after each act or chapter, and ask them to fill in the new information they learned. If students run out of room on a printed worksheet, they can continue in their notebooks or on the back of the paper.
After reading, have students compare the completed storyboards with a classmate, recording any information they may have missed. This makes for an excellent study guide, and you could have students complete a writing assignment based on character analysis!
When filling out character motivations or attributes, students may need a refresher on how to analyze a character. Not all information about a character will be explicitly stated by the narrator/author; some information is learned through actions and dialogue. OSCAR is a helpful strategy for direct and indirect characterization.
All students can benefit from a character graphic organizer, but not all will need one with information already completed for them. A great option for those students is the blank character map template. This encourages the students to use their critical thinking skills to determine independently which information they feel is relevant. The students can also choose their own character or draw one by hand on a printed storyboard. This process incorporates a multisensory approach without having to do extra planning. Of course if beneficial to the students, this adaptation can be made in any of the other levels as well.
Some students will need a little bit more information and prompting when it comes to their character map. This may include already having a character representation and specific prompts of what information they need to know about the character. The Maniac Magee storyboard is an excellent example of this. It already has all the main characters with specific prompts relevant for each one. The student is able to see the names of each one and see what they needed to find out about each individual character. By being slightly more explicit, the students are not focusing on irrelevant information or losing focus on the main points. If valuable to the students or lesson, the teacher can easily remove the characters on the storyboard for the students to create their own.
There will frequently be at least one student who struggles with reading to the point where comprehension is difficult without some type of intervention or strategy. Storyboarding is an excellent tool to do this effectively without changing the format of the character map as a whole. These students typically benefit from more explicit instruction and in this case it may include examples of what should be included on their character map, similar to the first cell on the Of Mice and Men character map. To take it one step further, the teacher can either choose to provide more of the characters’ information and allow the student to use the storyboard as a reference guide rather than a graphic organizer. Or, the teacher can change the prompts to meet the students’ abilities.
Have students attach their storyboard to a paper requiring in-depth explanation of an element throughout the novel, or couple this assignment with a presentation. See our article on how to present a storyboard.