< Back

The Consequences of Ignorance: Analyzing Character Action and Motivation in Contexts


I never thought I would be a teacher ... I certainly never thought I would use my teaching experience to guide my thinking as I begin to work on a Ph.D. in Learning Sciences, but here I am. I am the only one who is surprised. 

It has been evident from the beginning of my teaching career that my teaching style differs from those of my colleagues, and it was no secret that many disagreed with my inclusion of 21st Century tools and using discussion as a main form of  learning and teaching. But I could see that my methods were working, so I continued on. 

In April 2011 I had the opportunity to work with Indiana University professor and researcher, Dan Hickey, and learned that much of what I was already doing in my classroom aligned with a set of principles he and his team had outlined as a framework for developing curriculum.  We began to work together to create a module that I could implement in my own classroom based on these principles.

The next work of literature I needed to teach was The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, so that is the context in which the module was placed. The module focused on Common Core Standards, and used traditional and 21st Century tools to engage students and assess learning. A major component was reflection upon practice; my goal was not to test students on a specific scene or line Shakespeare's play, but rather to provide them with opportunities to use the tool that is character analysis to analyze and dig into the work. What a success we had!

Creative Commons Licence
<p>I’m also implementing this module and trying to make the experience as participatory as possible for my students. And since mine is a one-on-one computer classroom, I’m also trying to allow students to explore digital writing as fully as I am able to support them. The final assessment for the module will still relate to Common Core Standard 9 (“Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research”), and I’ve been looking hard at that standard for the past couple of weeks since I started the module. I’m thinking about having students do something different for their final composition. I really haven’t decided what for sure, but I’m leaning towards something like having students analyze possible criminal tendencies and character flaws of their choice of Tybalt or Mercutio or maybe parental damage done by their choice of any one of Romeo’s or Juliet’s parents. This would require that students do some research on criminal behavior and/or psychology (and it would be a way to get them practicing research). Possibly, students could produce two compositions in the form of criminal and/or psychological reports (these may or may not be print-based) that I’d eventually put on VoiceThread for students to comment around. My thinking is still kind of fuzzy about this final assessment. I would gladly welcome any suggestions or thought on the matter or ideas about how I could make this a really good final assessment. I am also varying the implementation of the module in that I’m not having students participate in a debate. Instead, we are having conversations about the characters, and students are creating artifacts and are engaging in activities (individually and in small groups) that explore character traits and motives of select secondary characters. The sorts of questions we consider are: “What does____want?” “How do you know this? What evidence is there for this in the text?” and “To what length will____go to get what he or she wants.” We have these conversations in a large group and will start to have them in our online classroom discussion forum, and in this way, I think my students are accomplishing something similar to debating the ignorance or wisdom of a character. Also, we are looking at various versions of the text—the text that uses Shakespeare’s language, contemporary language text, a graphic novel version, and two movies. And we’re looking at and thinking about how different people interpret the text and characters differently… I like the idea of having students create Glogster posters of characters, and I’m excited about exploring this with students, since I’ve never used this resource before…… And of course we are doing reflections, lots of reflections……</p>