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Friday, April 15, 2011

Discussing Character Traits in The Outsiders

If you teach The Outsiders as a class novel, here's an activity guaranteed to spark discussion, while focusing students on a deeper understanding of character traits through close reading.

The resource I'm providing is a Whom Would You Choose? chart which requires students to select which of the Greasers they would choose to take on a double date, back them up in a fight, teach them to drive, and so on. While at first glance it seem to be opinion based, students soon discover that they need to identify text-based reasons for their choices. (The chart is embedded below, and can be increased to full size using the fullscreen button in the lower right corner).

The chart relies heavily upon Chapters One and the beginning of Chapter Two of the novel, and accomplishes three goals at once. The chart
  • forces students to truly understand and differentiate between the traits of the seven boys,
  • requires students to reread the chapter in order to supply supporting evidence for their choices, and
  • illustrates to students that the boys, while experiencing a collective identity through their affiliation with each other as Greasers, are in truth individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses.
Before handing students the chart, I have them create a simple quadrant chart in their notebooks for each of the seven boys. Under the headings Looks Like, Sounds Like, Acts Like, and People Say, students create bulleted lists from the information provided in Chapter 1.

As students began to fill out the Whom Would You Choose Chart, they use both the book and their notes to make selections. (The blank line on the chart, by the way, was for students to add a category of their own). When sharing time came, I read each category, named the boys in turn, and had students vote by a show of hands. The real learning experience (and the fun!) came as students tried to explain their choices.

A similar chart could be created for any novel containing a large number of characters which could be easily confused.


See my Teaching Reading and Language Arts wiki for the Whom Would You Choose Chart, plus lots of other useful resources.


Anonymous said...

Wow! This looks great! Can't wait to use it in January when we start The Outsiders. Thanks so much!

Mrs. Shiflet said...

My students and I loved this activity!

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