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Understanding characters through adjectives
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The Adjective GameApplicable to Fiction/Drama
- One of the things I want students to understand is that words have temperatures (connotations) and that these differences are important. Sometimes when we use a word to describe someone’s character or actions, we don’t always mean the same things as others might. I tie this exercise in understanding language together with the student’s need to interpret a character and to justify that interpretation. Thus, “The Adjective Game.”
- It’s simple to play. We’ll use “The Scarlet Letter” as an example. I have the students write the names Hester, Arthur and Roger on a piece of paper, skipping about 10 lines between characters. Their task is then to write five (5) adjectives that best describe each character, their definition of that adjective, and at least one scene/happening/event from the novel that justifies the use of that adjective. When they are finished, we go around the room asking each student for the adjective they think BEST describes one of the characters (you can alter this depending on the size of your class). We do this without comment, allowing students to spend a few moments reflecting on their fellow classmates’ choices. (Each student must present a different adjective --- if their favorite(s) is/are “gone,” they have to go down the list to the first adjective that remains.) We continue until we have approximately 5/8 adjectives for each character.
- In the next round, we vote on the adjectives. Each student selects the one he/she thinks best describes each character. When the voting is completed, we have the 3 most popular adjectives for each character. I then ask the person who offered that adjective 1 to define the meaning he/she associates with the adjective and what event(s) in the story led them to select that adjective.
- And the discussion is on!
1 Of course, each students whose adjective is selected get some extra credit … and if we ever agree on one adjective as better than all the rest, that students gets additional extra credit.
About this Document
I have been playing "The Adjective Game" with students for many years. You can use it with any literary work that has characters, and I've used it with grades from 9 through college with equal success.