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Harry Potter-Inspired Learning Activity:
Character Sketch for a New Wizard

Do your students love Harry Potter? Check out A Quest for Wizardly Efficiency and How Does Social Change Happen? as well as Design a New Wizard Sports Team.

In this Learning Activity appropriate for grades 5-8, students use the concept of a character sketch to create a well thought-out new character that would fit into the wizard world. This activity can be adapted to work with any book your students are reading in class.
 

Introduction

What is a character sketch?

A character sketch is defined as a description of a character that is created by writers so that they have a clear picture of who someone is and how he or she would react in varying situations. The character sketch should contain background information about the character as well as family information, emotional details and perhaps even some physical traits. Explain this to your class, noting on a blackboard or whiteboard the important components of a character sketch.

Other helpful terms:

Protagonist - The most important character in a story; hero, central character, leading role, “good guy.”

Antagonist- The character who opposes the hero, or protagonist, and provides the story's conflict; villain, enemy, “bad guy.”
 

Multi-Part Student Activity

The character sketch assignment is a multi-part process that can be completed over the course of a week in class and at home.

  1. The Name – How important is a character’s name? Very important. The naming of characters is a deliberate act, and one that a writer should be able to explain. The name should somehow reflect who he or she is, even if it’s subtle. Discuss as a class major characters in books and film. How do their names correspond with their roles? Make lists of protagonists and antagonists on your board. For homework, have your students start by choosing their character’s name and writing a one-sentence explanation for why they chose it.
  2. The Character Sketch – On the second day, talk about character sketches again. What should be in a character sketch? In class, have students write a draft of their character sketch, noting their character’s personal history and behavior attributes. Is the character a protagonist or antagonist? The sketch should be at least one page long. Have students share them with one another.
  3. Tweaking the Character Sketch – On the third and fourth day, it’s time to start revising the character sketch to include other important information. Have students review their character sketches and look for these things:

    The Character Flaw – Everyone has one, and for characters in books, it’s very important. What is their wizard character’s flaw? Why is it a problem?

    The Character Goal – What does the character want? This should be in direct conflict with his or her character flaw. Explain that selecting a character goal is what drives a story.

    The Character History – In addition to the history already written, the character sketch should have history that directly relates to the character flaw and goal.

    Then, have them review and revise their character sketches to reflect these components.
  4. Final Revision – On the last day, talk about the attributes that make characters special such as special abilities (e.g., being a potions expert), unusual physical attributes (remember Harry’s scar?) and preferences (e.g., the character absolutely hates magical frogs or has a fear of them). These attributes make the character more three-dimensional for readers. Finish off the project by having each student talk about his or her character.

     

Suggestions for Extending the Activity

Writing:  Have students write short stories about their wizard characters, drawing on what they know about Harry Potter (if possible) and using their character as a main character in the story. Help students review each other’s work and offer suggestions for revisions.

Art:  Ask kids to illustrate their characters and create a bulletin board with the artwork. Or, scan illustrations and create a digital presentation—perfect for sharing on Parent Open House night.

Technology:  Digitally record students speaking a line of dialogue (in appropriate dramatic voice) that they’ve written for their character. Again, parents will love hearing this played as part of a presentation during Open House.

 

Article by Sarah W. Caron, EducationWorld SocialMedia Editor
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Copyright © 2011 Education World

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