What I've come to realize in my years of reading and writing literary analysis essays is that all literary elements and devices come down to one primary element: characterization. This is where I would disagree with Aristotle's Poetics in that the plot is not necessarily the most important aspect of the story. Shakespeare would be on my side! He was a character guy. In my opinion, plot cannot happen without character. The plot is a factor of who the characters ARE because who they ARE dictates what they DO. So, which came first? The chicken or the egg? Well, that's still remains an unanswerable question. But which came first? The plot or the character? It depends on the writer, but for the literary critic, I believe we start our jobs of analyzing literature from the standpoint of character.
With this in mind, I have set out to create character-driven mini-lessons that can be used to analyze the characters of ANY text! The ultimate goal of any analysis is to, of course, synthesize that analysis into a literary analysis essay, and these mini-lessons are geared towards that end.
Originally, I compiled all of these character lessons into a single book. It was over 100 pages long, but what I am currently doing, is splitting them into separate mini-lessons that will all be bundled together to make them more accessible to teacher choice.
Here is one of the mini-lessons I just recently posted to my TpT store.
In this mini-lesson, students analyze character traits in the form of a star in order to analyze the many complex facets of complex characters. It culminates in the writing of an analytical paragraph, and this mini-lesson includes a paragraph-shaping sheet to help students organize their analysis into proper paragraph structure. This is a very easy mini-lesson to differentiate because as students become more adept at writing literary analysis paragraphs, the teacher can choose to give students the shaping sheet-- or not. This is an excellent tool that allows for sharing in small and large groups, and since students are "on the same page," so to speak, they can more easily make observations about how other students analyzed the character.
Here is what the paragraph shaping sheet looks like:
You will notice that the Common Core Standards are at the bottom of this page. All of the characterization mini-lessons are COMMON CORE ALIGNED to make your job much easier with guaranteeing that your students are working towards CC mastery.
Another awesome mini-lesson that I just posted on my TpT store is called "Relationship Rectangle."
I was SO excited to see that someone purchased this awesome mini-lesson from the store as soon as I posted it! This characterization lesson has students making observations about how a protagonist's relationships affect the plot and the characterization of the main character. Students map out the protagonist's relationships on a rectangular graphic organizer and then in chart form, culminating in another writing assignment that easily lends itself to the start of a literary analysis essay.
Stay tuned for more AWESOME characterization mini-lessons such as this one! Once I have finished updating and posting all of the individual lessons, I will be giving away a bundle of ALL 10+ characterization mini-lessons to ONE LUCKY TEACHER! These lessons will definitely help you get a head start on summer planning!!
About the Author
Meredith is the founder and creator of TeachWriting.org and Bespoke ELA. She has taught high school English for 10+ years in Dallas, Chicago, and New York City and holds a M.A. in Literature from Northwestern University. She has always had a connection to the written word-- through songwriting, screenplay writing, and essay writing-- and she enjoys the process of teaching students how to express their ideas. Meredith enjoys life with her husband, daughter, and sweet pups.