Making a Movie: Getting into Character

Reading Character Description

Since the first week of school the Magical Minds have wanted to make a play or movie.  Finally, I have given them time to grant this wish.  We spent three weeks studying scripts, developing characters, brainstorming setting, drafting our own script, building a set and filming.

Step One: read and examine models of scripts.  Two of the girls brought in their script for the ISE musical, and I pulled some examples from our classroom library and the internet.  We chose to focus on making a folktale, this year’s theme for Book Week.  It didn’t take long for the kids to fall in love with the story of Stone Soup, which they quickly decided to retell using their own characters.  And, most importantly to this group of third graders – the setting: Candy Town. Thus the story of “Stone Cake” was born, because in Candy Town they don’t make soup – they make cake.  But before we let the project get away from us, I put my foot down and said, “We will first focus on character.”

Step Two: Writing Characters. This step began on the web, and the Magical Minds wrote their first character sketches on their kidblogs.  I was, unfortunately, not terribly impressed by their descriptions.  To help them get into their character, we had a puppet-making session.  And, when their puppets began to talk to one another I knew their understanding of their character was increasing.

Meet the cast of Stone Cake:

Lucia the Girl, Tricksy the Fox, Lilly the Rhino (later became a mouse), Lazy Dog, Gummy Bear, Candy Cane Cat

With a much stronger sense of character, we sat down together and added to the descriptions.  Bouncing ideas off each other, the class built up imaginative and detailed descriptions of their characters. To give you an idea of the change here is a before and after:

Character Description of Gummy Bear Before Puppets:

Hello my name is Gummy Bear.  Everyone says that I’m lazy, well I am kind of lazy.  I live in Candy Town.  During the day I play with Lazy Dog and Candy Cane Cat.

Characters Description of Gummy Bear AFTER Puppets:

 

What are other ways to help improve the quality of character description?
How do you use a writer’s notebook to bring out the detail in characters?
What are some of your favorite mentor texts for character description?

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