Creating Character Maps

A good character map can determine whether or not a student “gets” a story. I have some students who are unable to picture a story in their head. Imagine trying to keep track of half a dozen characters and you can’t picture what they look like or visualize what they are doing. Some students are forgetful and forget important aspects of seemingly minor characters.

Why You Should Make Your Own

Okay, you don’t have to make your own. But from what I’ve seen available, you might want to. Most character maps I’ve seen are just names with arrows pointing to each other. A few character maps are just charts.

But as a teacher of your students you know them best. You know what aspects of the story or characters will trick them up. Here are a few examples of my character charts that I’ve made for my students in years gone by. I’ll explain in each some of the reasons for the decisions I made with the layouts.

The Crucible

Secrets, ulterior motives, and a whole slew of Goodys make this a tricky story to follow for some students. I started out with a character chart with visuals (still shots from the movie) and arrows with a few words to show connection.

After a few years it morphed into what is seen below. This is used in an interactive notebook and provides extra room for students to take notes. It also does not include arrows so students draw their own as they are reading.

I like to have students glue down all of the pictures first and takes notes as we go. I model on the front board depending on the class.

To make it more challenging, have students complete it after the first act to see what they come up with. Don’t tell them where any characters go and see how they organize it. It challenges them with determining what is important enough to include and which characters need to be placed near which other characters. Really, it’s like a puzzle. Solving it requires rereading and thorough analysis of the text. Keep track of all the ulterior motives, secrets, and Goodys with this interactive character map for "The Crucible." You tell students where to put each character or up the rigor and have students figure it out for themselves as part of an assessment for Act 1. Perfect for Interactive Notebooks!

Now, students have something to refer back to throughout the unit. Even if I’m not showing the movie, my students can have an image in their head when we talk about the characters.

If you want to give it a try, I’m attaching a copy of the worksheets here.

A Jury of Her Peers

This is a character map I include in my TeachersPayTeachers unit (I include answers there) for “A Jury of Her Peers.” Again, the students were struggling to remember how the characters knew each other and what their back stories were. 

Oddly enough, the person in the center of the character map is not even present in the short story. She is only talked about by the others. That in itself is a great discussion with the students when characterizing Minnie.

I included lots of room with each character for students to take notes about what they find, their motivations, their backstories, etc. The pictures are a bit rough, but I really only do that to help the students get an image in their head if they are unable to make one up themselves.

Oedipus

This isn’t even a character chart of the whole play. It’s just for the prologue since so much happens before the curtain even rises.

As we are going over the prologue I have students fill in the information by location. My students frequently get confused over adoptive parents and biological parents, and where each set of parents lives. To help with this I wanted to include an actual map.

Here’s an example of the Powerpoint slides I use to teach the prologue and to help students take their notes.

We read a little of the prologue, then pause to fill in some more information. I like going through the prologue slowly, together, so students can ask questions. Most of the questions I get are “How did he not know his own mother and father?” and “Why did he go back to Thebes?” For both questions it helps to refer back to the map to show how he grew up far away from his paternal parents and how the fork at the road led him to Thebes and to killing Laius. Again, this is referred to throughout the unit as students recall which set of parents is which, and who knows what.

If you want the whole resource, I have the entire Powerpoint and worksheets available at TeachersPayTeachers.

Happy character and plot mapping 🙂

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