Six Word Character Sketches -A Teacher’s Post

23 May

When it comes to discussing characters in class, I do all sorts of things.  There have been times when I have created a life-sized version of a character and had the students write down traits and quotes from the story or novel “inside” in the person.  I’ve given kids colored paper and had them find evidence from the text about the methods of characterization:  exposition, speech, thoughts, actions, appearance (each method gets it own color).  But today, I tried something a little different.  Okay.  A lot different.

The memoir class I teach spent time yesterday writing our Six Word Memoirs.  I got the idea from NPR, and then after some more digging, Smith Magazine.  Tell your life story in six words.  Sounds hard, but as the kids proved in memoir class, a lot of fun.  I got to thinking, if they could write about themselves in six words, why couldn’t my other classes do that with the characters they are interacting with in the Catcher in the Rye?

I proposed the idea, and the kids LOVED it.  I haven’t seen them this excited about a class activity in a while.  We wrote down the name of each character on a blank piece of paper and passed them all around so that everyone could write their own six word character sketch.  They were all engaged – talking to themselves and each other, counting on fingers how many words they had, getting frustrated when they found themselves with seven words, and getting excited when they got it just right.

We made a list for every character in the book, even the cab driver and Mrs. Morrow, but I didn’t include them all in the photo.  Once everyone was done, we passed them back out so that each student had a character.  That student read all of the six word sketches and we all had to guess who it was based on what the kids had written.  It was awesome.  It gave me the chance to see who had done the reading, as well as the opportunity to see if any of the students were having comprehension issues.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Sally – Had my heart on my sleeve.
  • Jane – Makes Holden’s heart and knees numb.
  • Mr. Spencer – Menthol vapor rub and good advice.
  • Ackley – I lurk around to bother people.
  • Holden – Boy, most of life is phony.
  • Allie – I forever rest in Holden’s heart.

This was a fun and engaging activity that got the students up and moving.  I really liked it, and from the feedback they’ve given me, so did they.  Keep this one in your pocket; it’s a great (and quick to put together) activity that you can use for anything you read!

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11 Responses to “Six Word Character Sketches -A Teacher’s Post”

  1. bornattwentyfive May 23, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    What an awesome idea! I’m going to figure out what mine would be and then get back to you!

    • stacy1220 May 23, 2012 at 11:49 am #

      The kids had such a blast trying to figure out their lives in memoir class, and they even had fun with the characters in the novel. It’s cool to sometimes give yourself restrictions like that – makes you think about what’s really important!

  2. alundeberg May 23, 2012 at 8:53 pm #

    Love it! I’m going to have to create a binder and call it “Fantabulous Ideas from 30-Something and Fabulous!” for all of the stuff I’m stealing from you and sharing with my department.

    • stacy1220 May 24, 2012 at 6:56 am #

      I do what I can! Hahaha.. glad you like these activities. I love doing stuff like this. Tell your department that Stacy says hi!!

  3. gail the principal July 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm #

    Using Wordle or any other word cloud format would be great for these six-word sketches…or any other writing!

  4. Kecia August 13, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    I am a former teacher, current home school mom, future mom of a public school 10th grader, and I love your ideas!! My oldest daughter is in 9th grade this year, and due to budget contraints this year, I’m putting my own literature studies together for her. Is there any way you could send me a copy of your reading list? That would be so helpful.Thanks-

    • stacy1220 August 14, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

      Thank you so much! I’ll be posting at least one new idea a week once school starts (at least that’s my plan). I’m changing things up a bit this year, but I’d love to send you a reading list!

  5. Kerrie B. July 9, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    I love this idea; it really ensures the student understands the character! I teach a target (gifted) ELA class in middle school, and I think my kids would LOVE this! Thanks so much for sharing! 🙂

  6. jamieayres July 16, 2013 at 1:12 am #

    I’m making the transition from teaching 3rd grade to 7th grade L.A. this year and think I’ll try this with my Advanced classes and see how it goes 🙂 I’d like to steal 6 words for myself from the narrator in Charlotte’s Web: True friend and a great writer. How’s that? Thanks for the idea!

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