Writing What You Know – character actions

Character development can be enhanced when students write ‘what you know’ in taking their character out into the world. As characters are revealed through their actions and interactions, dialogue and appearance, students can create a fully rounded character by incorporating ‘real’ actions that are familiar.

Try this as a lesson:

  • think of a hobby or activity that you enjoy
  • create word banks under the following headings: nouns, verbs, emotions

My example was gardening and I completed these activities on the board

Nouns Verbs. Emotions
pebblesdigenergising
shovelweedsatisfaction
spademulchfrustrating
bucketplantcalming
mulchwateringjoy
glovesprune
fork
boots
  • continue building on each list of words – adding adjectives, phrases, images – as they occur

dig angrily old RM boots watering: thinking, brooding worn leather gloves

  • stop after 5 minutes and read over the lists: be specific, add more details
  • include adverbs and begin adding behavioural associations

turning the compost tumbler painfully mulching at day’s end

sweeping to and fro – lulling motion sweeping hastily time pressure visitors anxiety

  • read through your lists: is an object or noun emerging as a motif?
  • can you identify a metaphor that might be extended?
  • take a few minutes to look back through your journal – identify a suitable character

Read out the writing prompt (from The Great Gatsby)

I walked out the back way …

  • students write for 20 minutes, then break for 5 minutes and share with a partner, write for another 20 minutes then share for 5 minutes (pomodoro style)

Near the end of the lesson, students were asked to estimate the word count achieved – pick an average line, count the words and multiply by the number of lines on the page. This was to illustrate how many words might be achievable in an exam where the time allowed for each response in the HSC is 40 minutes.

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