Here’s an activity for assessing characters in a novel. (We’ll be using Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich for this example.)
#1 Class reads a novel with several characters. This activity won’t work with The Old Man and the Sea, for example.
My __________ house is __________
My __________ sister is __________
#3 Number off students in to groups of three. (Larger groups will encourage social loafing. It’s better to have two pairs than one group of four.)
#4 Assign a character to each group. It’s ok for more than one group to do the same character.
Group 1—Marie Lazarre Kashpaw
Group 2—Nector Kashpaw
Group 3—Lulu Nanapush Lamartine
Group 4—June Morrissey
Group 5—Lipsha Morrissey
Group 6—Albertine Johnson
Group 7—Eli Kashpaw
Group 8—Lyman Lamartine
Group 9—Henry Lamartine Jr
Group 10—Gerry Nanapush
#4 Each group uses the novel to generate answers to the following questions:
a) What are four nouns that describe your character?
Example: Nector Kashpaw–Leader, Philanderer, Father, Indian
(Discourage students from going for the easiest, least revealing answers, like man, person, citizen, mammal.)
b) What are four adjectives that describe your character?
Example: Lulu Nanapush Lamartine—Unapologetic, Brave, Concupiscent, Rebellious
c) Explain how two passages (include page numbers) reveal something about your a character.
Passage: After two months were gone and my classes were done, and although I still had not forgiven my mother, I decided to go home. I wasn’t crazy about the thought of seeing her, but our relationship was like a file we both sharpened on, and necessary in that way (P 11).
Explanation: This passage demonstrates the tension in the relationship between Albertine, a strong-willed young woman, and her mother Zelda. Albertine is upset because her mother did not immediately inform her about the passing of her Aunt June.
d) What are two things your character wants? (Kurt Vonnegut informs the aspiring novelist to make sure your characters want something, even if it is just a glass of water.)
2. To see Shawn, his newborn son