Lesson 1: Character & Situation
The pupils are offered lists of characters, emotions, objects and places. There should be at least six options in each list.
For example, a character list might include: The Wizard, The Thief, The Child With Psychic Powers, The Ogre, The Scientist, The Detective. An object list might include: A Bag of Gold, A Photograph, A Knife, A Small Box, A Bunch of Keys, A Necklace. NOTE: Teachers should feel free to create their own lists of generic characters, emotions, items and places if they wish to. Each list should though be confined to six elements
Working in small groups of 4-6 pupils, each group is asked to select one character, two emotions, one item and two places at random. To make the exercise more engaging and to ensure randomness, a die could be rolled (hence the need for six choices in each list).
This process will produce some raw elements from which the pupils have to produce a short character description. This description should be an attempt to answer some basic questions about the characters:
- What does my character look like? Does he/she have a name? How old is he/she?
- Do the emotions I’ve selected belong to my character or are they other peoples’ emotions that my character is having to deal with?
- Do the items that were selected have any special significance? Do they belong to the character or is the character searching for them or trying to steal them?
- How does the character feel when placed in the locations selected? Does it feel like home or somewhere to get away from?
As an example, if a ‘wizard’ gets ‘love’ and ‘fear’ we could ask ‘who is afraid and why?’ ‘Is the wizard in love or is he attempting to prevent two people from falling in love?’ Or, if a ‘child with psychic powers’ gets ‘jealousy’ and ‘anger’ we would have to ask ‘who is jealous and why?’ ‘Is the character angry? And if so, can they control their anger?’
The pupils should produce one or two paragraphs of text only. Ideally, they should type their descriptions into a Word or Text document. Alternatively, an A4 template can be provided. If time allows, or if the writing skills of the class are somewhat limited, the pupils can draw pictures of their characters and simply add a few basic facts to their drawings such as name, age, likes, dislikes, hobbies, special powers etc.
These outputs need to sent back to the StorySpinner as soon as possible, by posting electronic documents to the Web site. Pupils' work can be uploaded either as individual documents or as a collated whole. If necessary, paper documents can be returned to the NAWE office by post.
The introductory StorySpinner trailer will need to be downloaded and installed on an appropriate computer. The assumption is that the trailer can be played to the whole class on a Windows system with a large screen and audio speakers. Worksheets and lists of characters, emotions etc may also need to be printed out.
KS3 Curriculum Points
- structure a story with an arresting opening, a developing plot, a complication, a crisis and a satisfying resolution
- portray character, directly and indirectly, through description, dialogue and action
- imagine and explore feelings and ideas, focusing on creative uses of language and how to interest the reader
- explore different ways of opening, structuring and ending narratives and experiment with narrative perspective, e. g. multiple narration