For this week’s post, we’d like to share how Mrs. K – whose classroom we described in previous posts – is using Subtext to help her students understand character traits. The 6th grade students in Mrs. K’s class are reading The Great Gilly Hopkins, by Katherine Paterson, and the 5th graders are reading Blood on the River, by Elisa Carbone. The Subtext novels are supplemental in Mrs. K’s class, as Sandalwood Elementary School is under program improvement status and uses a required curriculum. Mrs. K takes the standard from the curriculum the class is focused on and applies it to the novel. This particular lesson on characterization was linked to Common Core English Language Arts Standards 5.RL.1 and 6.RL.1, which focus on citing textual evidence “to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.”
Mrs. K’s Character Trait Lesson
Mrs. K started out on paper for this lesson; iPads were closed on the desks in front of the students. She distributed a sheet filled with character trait adjectives and a character analysis sheet to each student.
She started by explaining that students would be working on character analyses of Samuel (main character from Blood on the River) and Gilly (main character from The Great Gilly Hopkins), but that their first step would be a self analysis. First, Mrs. K modeled how to do a character analysis on herself, using a few of the several words provided on the character analysis sheet (which had adjectives such as “sad,” “honest,” “aggressive”). She explained clearly why she used the words she selected and then asked students what they might add to their analysis sheets if they were thinking about Samuel and Gilly, keeping in mind that character traits can be physical and and “invisible.” Students offered adjectives such as “poor,” “mysterious,” “aggressive,” “cruel,” and “wise.” Following this, Mrs. K had students begin working on their own analyses of self as she circulated the room, helping students individually and answering questions. She told students to think of themselves in their roles as students at Sandalwood as they thought about their self analyses.
Using Text Evidence to Support Inferences
Following this character trait “warm up” activity, students were directed to go into the Subtext app to apply the same analytical processes to their main character. Mrs. K directed her students to highlight text that demonstrated the main character’s traits within the Subtext app. Once highlighted, students were to tag the text with the adjective from their sheets that most closely describes the character. Mrs. K told the students that they would be able to see each others’ tags, comment on the tags, and receive teacher feedback within Subtext. Categorizing traits with tags in this way may help students organize ideas in a quick and trackable fashion within Subtext (which they can later pull up by tag name). This is one interactive way to meet the College Readiness Standard from the Common Core that emphasizes using text evidence to support inferences.
Until next time,
Catherine and Jenni