Students will select a character from a favorite book or story, fictional or nonfictional. They will create a list of the character's traits and explain how these traits helped the person or animal cope with adversities or hardships and how their traits helped them succeed in spite of difficulties they may have encountered.
Students will create two columns. In column 1 they will list the problems or barriers that the character had to confront. In column 2, they will write the trait that helped the character emerge as a winner.
After completing the columns, students will analyze the character's traits and determine whether they were a contributing factor. Students will then list their character traits, compare their list to the characters, and see if they possess some of the same traits.
Students will list some problems or situations they have experienced and write about how their character traits helped to solve those problems or deal with the situations.
Example: The Life of Frederick Douglass
Frederick Douglass was born a slave in Tuckahoe, Maryland. Because accurate records were not kept for slaves, it is estimated that he was born around 1818. His mother was Harriet Bailey, who died when Frederick was about eight. Like many slaves, he did not know who his father was.
Frederick had a quick mind and a desire to learn. He was taught the alphabet by his master's wife until his master, Thomas Auld, terminated the lessons. At the time, it was unlawful to teach slaves to read and write. However, this did not stop Frederick; he bribed other boys to teach him how to read. He taught himself to write by copying words. In 1838, Douglass escaped to freedom to Philadelphia, married Anna Murray, and moved to Massachusetts.
Frederick Douglass had character traits that helped him become a free, educated man. He knew that he wanted to be a free man and not a slave all of his life. But he also knew that in order to be a free man and make a living for himself he needed to be educated. Therefore, he found a way, in spite of the laws, to learn how to read and write. Without a belief in himself, his values, and his character traits, he would have remained a slave.
Students should be guided in the selection of reading selections for this activity. For example, if a student always selects a narrative story with fictional characters, then his or her next assignment should be to read an expository text that deals with real people and actual events.
Have the students read the quote by Virgil: "These successes encourage; they can because they think they can."
Excerpted from Beyond Rhetoric and Rainbows: A Journey to the Place Where Learning Lives ©1996 University of Illinois Extension.