Character Suitcases!

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Crystal Ramos

Imagine your favorite character going on a trip. What would they pack? Is there anything in particular they would take?

This is an activity that I have used in my classroom that my students and I really enjoy.  I discovered it through the book Awesome Hands-on Activities for Teaching Literary Elements (Grades 4-8) by Susan Van Zile.  The book is filled with activities to get your students engaged.   Character Suitcases is the one activity my students really take pleasure in when it comes to analyzing characters. 

I have used this activity with the novels Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  There are a wide variety of characters in each novel, all ranging in character personalities.  In Because of Winn-Dixie, you have the lonely Opal, mysterious Otis, mischievous Dewberry brothers, and many others. Although my students’ personal favorites are the infamous Golden ticket winners to Wonka’s factory from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Charlie, Veruca, Mike, Augustus, Violet, and even Mr. Wonka.

Charlie_Chocolate_Factory because-of-winn-dixie

After completing a novel, in groups the students will choose a character to analyze.  This activity can be done individually as well.  They must create the character’s suitcase and the contents they (the character) will take on a trip.  The amount of items in the suitcase depends on the character.  The least my students have created have been 5, and the most being 10.  Before they can begin creating the items, they need to gather information based on what they learned about the character through their words, thoughts, and actions.  Once they have gathered all the information they can began to discuss the contents they will create.

Materials needed:

Small cardboard boxes for suitcases (empty Crayola crayon boxed used for suitcase above)
construction paper
markers, crayons, colored pencils
glue
scissors
stickers, clip art, etc.

Making the character suitcases allows the students to be creative.  This also allows them to place themselves in the characters shoes, and discuss with their group members the different traits of their chosen character.

Here is an example of one character suitcase:

miketeaveesuitcaseexample-Mike Teavee’s suitcase and contents: GameBoy, a remote control, and a pair of cowboy boots.
Mike Teavee is a boy who has his eyes glued to the television. His favorite shows are those of cowboys.  While watching TV he likes to emulate the cowboys’ actions.  Therefore, he is never seen with his toy guns, or his gun holster.

Once they have finished their suitcases, the students will write a brief explanation why the character would pack each item they created.  They may write it in the character’s point of view, or write giving justification with the character’s thoughts, words, and actions.  You may also have your students present their character suitcases to the class.

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