This is an activity I use all the time to prompt students to consider different interpretations of character. I display a scare-o-meter (shown below) with a 0-10 rating. Using the text, students must select a quote about the given character, write in on a post-it note and place it somewhere on the scare-o-meter.
Once all students have placed their post-it note, you are left with a visual representation of how the character has been portrayed in that extract. If there are more post-it notes at 8, then the character is being presented as a villain or negative influence in the story. You can then interrogate the placement of quotes and other students can change placements they don’t agree with.
I have used this activity for the Warden in Holes, Sergeant Hanley in Private Peaceful, The Highwayman (as a villain-o-meter) and Lennie in Of Mice and Men (as a danger-o-meter).
- This activity can be adapted to analyse descriptions of setting.
- The scare-o-meter could be a sympathy-o-meter, power-o-meter, friendship-o-meter or anger-o-meter. You get the idea!
- Discussions over where to place quotes leads to analysis of language.
In class troubleshooting:
You may find several students selecting the same quote. To prevent this, split the class in three and ask them to select quotes from different parts of the text or that show different aspects of the character. It also helps if you reveal the scare-o-meter after students have selected and written quotes.