- Mapping Strategies -
A literature map or chart is a structured way to have students address the language of literature by applying literary terms to a book they are reading. The structure of the map or chart may be adapted to focus primarily upon the elements of action, setting, atmosphere, tone, or mood. The literature map or chart can be structured to reflect the emphases that are most applicable to the work being studied. The literature map can be used in any type of instructional framework. Initially, it is probably advantageous for the teacher to take students through the process as a whole class learning activity. This is especially true if the students are unfamiliar with the literary terms or if they have simply had to memorize definitions previously. The value of this approach is that it give students practical application with the vocabulary to talk about their reading. advantageous for the teacher to take students through the process as a whole class learning activity. This is especially true if the students are unfamiliar with the literary terms or if they have simply had to memorize definitions previously. The value of this approach is that it give students practical application with the vocabulary to talk about their reading.
Character mapping is a useful tool to help students learn to understand the process of characterization in literature. In this process, students identify the character in a circle in the middle of their papers. They then identify characteristics and qualities of that character and list each one individually in boxes or other circles around the original circle. They will attach these new circles with each characteristic with lines leading back to the original circle.
They then find support or evidence for the characteristic in their reading. The evidence or support is placed in boxes or additional circles around the appropriate characteristic, with lines going back to it. Students should be taught to recognize that the evidence will be found in a number of ways, through the character's speech, actions, behaviors, through other's descriptions or comments, through events, through commentary from the narrator, or the evidence may be inferred rather than directly stated. The evidence may also demonstrate more than one characteristic. The following example is a variation on the above example. This approach focuses on the character's actions and the consequences of those actions. The actions and their consequences provide insights about the character.
Whatever variation on the character map that students complete, it provides them with useful insight into characterization. Once students have completed their maps, they should then write about what they have graphically represented. The most valuable aspect of character mapping is that it is the foundation for students to explore characterization in their own writing.
Students today are a part of the media generation, a generation that is used to being passive while vivid, exciting, and even outrageous visual images hook them and rivet their attention. We frequently hear from teachers how frustrated they are feeling that they need to compete with television, videos, and movies to entertain their students who complain about anything that they perceive as not being exciting. We have found that one way to hook students is focus initially upon the action or conflict in a work. We have developed the conflict map as an approach to capitalize upon student interest in the action. In using this approach students begin by identifying an incident of conflict that plays a significant part in the book. Once they have chosen an incident of conflict, they need to analyze and identify the cause of the conflict or identify the issue behind the conflict. At this point, it is impotant to help students to realize that causes and issues may be more complex than surface appearance. The next step is to identify the participants, the protagonist and the antagonist. We also ask students to identify the sources of support that each of these characters has. It is important to help students to see that these sources might not be limited only to other characters; the support might come from the situation that has spawned the conflict, or the ethical views or beliefs they hold, the influence of the times, or any number of other internal and external factors. Once these elements have been mapped then the resolution of the conflict is added. This tool is an effective focusing technique that can be used with any type of instructional format, but we have found that it works particularly well when learning partners do it because they are able to assume the role of one of characters and then compare reactions. Interesting insights about the issue or cause and the sources of support for it frequently result when you have students focusing on one character in the conflict because of the involvement that they achieve with that character
Christopher Collier (1982, p. 33) admitted that he and his brother, James Lincoln Collier, write historical fiction "with a didactic purpose--to teach about the ideals and values that have been important in shaping the course of American history." Based upon that admission, we began to look at historical fiction from the perspective of what are the ideals and values inherent in the work. As a result, we developed a strategy to explore the ideals or values in literature, especially in historical fiction. The process is for students to identify an ideal or value that is significantly explored in the work and place it in a circle at the center of the map. Supporting evidence is then placed in circles and attached to the center.
Brown and Stephens. Teaching Young Adult Literature: Sharing the Connection. Wadsworth, 1995.
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21 June 2007
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