Analyzing Characters


ELAR-Grade-8 Literary Genres Analyzing Characters
Students read Jack’s London’s story “To Build a Fire” and note the character’s actions. Then, they explain the outcome of the connection between the character’s motivations and his behaviors. Finally, they choose a different short story and apply the same analytical process to it.

This learning experience is designed for device-enabled classrooms. The teacher guides the lesson, and students use embedded resources, social media skills, and critical thinking skills to actively participate. To get access to a free version of the complete lesson, sign up for an exploros account.

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Teacher Pack

The Pack contains associated resources for the learning experience, typically in the form of articles and videos. There is a teacher Pack (with only teacher information) and a student Pack (which contains only student information). As a teacher, you can toggle between both to see everything.

Here are the teacher pack items for Analyzing Characters:

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Overview

In this experience, students read Jack’s London’s story “To Build a Fire” and note the character’s actions. Then, they explain the outcome of the connection between the character’s motivations and his behaviors. Finally, they choose a different short story and apply the same analytical process to it.

In Scene 4, students will read a self-selected short story. You may choose to assign a story or to let them choose from a list of suggestions.

Objectives

  • Analyze how characters’ motivations develop the plot of a story.
  • Analyze how characters’ actions develop the plot of a story.

Duration

One or two class periods. You may choose to have the students read the short story (provided in the Student Pack) and the self-selected short story at home before beginning the experience.

Vocabulary Words Used in “To Build a Fire”

  • precept: teaching
  • prospecting: searching for gold
  • merited: deserved
  • boughs: branches
  • smote: struck


It’s not unusual for a teenager to hear this question: “Why did you do that?!”

Sometimes you know exactly why you have done something. Maybe you were excited or angry or bored. Other times you don’t necessarily understand why you act the way you do. But when you think about it—and figure out what makes you behave the way you do—you often feel better.

Analyzing why characters in a story do what they do is an important part of understanding character and the story as a whole. In this experience, you will learn how characters’ motivations and behaviors influence the plot of a story.

Objectives

  • Analyze how characters’ motivations develop the plot of a story.
  • Analyze how characters’ actions develop the plot of a story.


sign saying “Motivation” with a background of school supplies

Motivation refers to the reasons for action. You go to the kitchen to rummage through the cupboard because you are hungry. Hunger is your motivation. That’s a simple example. On a more complex level, you might choose to go into a certain career because you want to get your parents’ approval. The desire to please your parents is your motivation.

Some motivations are shared by almost everybody, while others are specific to one individual or a few. Here’s a chance to see what motivates eighth graders.


Write a word or phrase that describes your biggest motivation in life. If you can think of another important motivation or two, write them down, too. To list more than one, separate your ideas with a comma, like this: cat, dog.

Post your answer

Check out the word cloud! The result is a sample of the motivations of people your own age.

Remember: by understanding motivations, you will understand more about stories. And understanding stories is a way to understand people.


Invite a lively discussion, within your time limit. Possible questions include:

  • What are the motivations that most human beings share?
  • How do people fulfill their motivations?
You might point out that the most important motivation for most creatures, including most humans, is survival. Tell students that the story they are about to read—“To Build a Fire”—is about survival in one the most forbidding environments on Earth.


When everyone is ready to continue, unlock the next scene.

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The Complete List of Learning Experiences in Literary Genres Unit.
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