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Invent a Character

Students will invent a new character to include in one of Beverly Cleary's books. Then they will write a scene in which that character interacts with existing characters on one of their adventures.

PROCESS:

  1. Inform students that Beverly Cleary was once asked which time period her books were set in. Her response: "Childhood." Discuss reasons why it would be difficult to write a book with no specific time frame in mind. Also discuss how this mindset has allowed her books to remain interesting and relevant to readers several generations after they were written.
  2. As a class, review a few of Beverly Cleary's books. If you wish, visit The World of Beverly Cleary site. Have students identify and describe some of Cleary's key characters. Encourage them to relate some of their favorite adventures. Challenge students to identify timeless qualities of each one.
  3. Instruct students to create a new character for one of Beverly Cleary's books. Tell them to write a description of the character and his or her key traits. Remind them that the character should be as timeless as those that appear in Cleary's books.
  4. Have students write about an adventure where the new character interacts with one or more of Cleary's characters. Challenge them to make the tale as timeless as possible.

ASSESSMENT: 

Invite students to read their stories aloud to the class. As they do, instruct classmates to be on the lookout for time-specific details. Have students rewrite their adventures in a more timeless fashion.

CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:    

Grades 3-4:
As a class, invent and describe a new character. Then have students nominate their favorite scenes from any of Beverly Cleary's books. Have the class vote to select one scene from the nominees. Challenge the class to rewrite that scene so it includes the new character.

Grades 5-6:
Invite students to nominate their favorite scenes from any of Beverly Cleary's books. Have the class vote to select one scene from the nominees. Then divide the class into small groups. Instruct each group to invent and describe a new character. Challenge groups to rewrite the scene that the class chose so it includes their new character. As groups read their scenes aloud, compare the results.

Grades 7-8:
Divide the class into pairs. Have partners invent and describe a new character. Then have them write a scene where their character interacts with those from Cleary's books. After partners read their adventures aloud, encourage classmates to evaluate both the timeless qualities of the story and how well the plot matches the tone of Cleary's books.

Grades 9-10:
Instruct students to invent a new character based upon themselves as an 8- or 9-year-old child. Then have them write a scene in which their younger selves interact with the characters from Cleary's books. Have students share their adventures in small groups. Instruct classmates to evaluate both the timeless qualities of the story and how well the plot matches the tone of Cleary's books.