Character Analysis with Speed Dating
Don’t ever tell fourth or fifth graders that they will be speed dating during class. They would giggle nervously and then complain that they don’t want to do that. But, if you have them dress up as their favorite character from a book and bring a few things to talk about, they will love it. Character analysis with speed dating can be assessment at its best. Just don’t call it speed dating!
Kids come to love certain books and certain characters in those books. They know those characters better than they know some of the kids in their class. So when I told them to pick a favorite character and be ready to present that character in class they were ready! They don’t realize that this is truly in-depth character analysis.
The assignment went something like this: choose a favorite character and dress up as that character. Bring in 5 things that the character might have or might need – could be tangible or intangible. (I’m flexilbe on this as I never want a kid to think he/she has to buy something for my class, so sometimes they may just bring in a piece of paper with the idea written on it.)
When they came in to class, they thought they were going to stand up in front of the class and present. But no. The desks were rearranged into pairs of two, facing each other. Kids were assigned a desk and the “character” sitting across was their first partner. Now they are “in character.” I taught them that when you meet someone new, you should introduce yourself and shake hands. So that is how they started.
I asked them to bring in five items because those give them talking points. Deciding what to bring gives them time to figure out what they might say about each of these items. This way, everyone has something to talk about and no one is left out of the conversation. They can always talk about more, but these items give them a starting point.
I set the timer for 2.5 minutes. The kids know they have a very limited amount of time to chat with the other character and that keeps the conversation moving along. If they run out of things to say, I encourage them to ask each other questions, staying “in character.” When the timer goes off, the kids rotate to their next partner. And the process repeats itself, over and over, until they have met all the other characters.
While these conversations are going on, I am walking around the room listening to their conversations, taking notes and writing short ideas about what I notice. This is assessment at its best. Kids are showing their vast knowledge of characters, choosing symbols/items that represent them, and supporting that thinking with evidence (why did you bring this item?). I’m crossing off the standards and they are chatting about their favorite characters. Does it get any better than that?
What else can we do to make learning and assessing a seemless endeavor? How can we continue to engage kids in learning while we are assessing in new ways? That’s my mission!