Character Development: Week Two

Week two of working with children from a primary school in Llanrumney on their Victorian project. Emma, their teacher split the class into six groups so that they could collaborate on a section of the story they devised last week.

The day was divided between writing, creating artwork, and drama, beginning with character development. The class made a table in their books and wrote some characteristics of the main protagonists of the story: Benedict and Dolores (orphans), Mr and Mrs Wasp (who run the workhouse), Mr Jeffries (leader of a gang of street children), Maple, Skipper and Connor, (the street children who help them to escape), Karen Bobbins, (a rich woman who helps them when they get caught pickpocketing), and Lucky the dog.

This exercise helped them to embody the characters later on in the day when they assigned a role to everyone in their group and tried out some dialogue and actions to represent their scene. (I wrote up a synopsis of their story and a brief outline of six scenes as a foundation for them to work with.) We allocated plenty of time to do some drama games to encourage movement, interaction and imagination.This also benefited children who struggled with the writing and reading aspects.

The children used watercolour paint to describe their characters and settings visually. I love how children manage to capture emotion and create worlds so vividly in their artwork. At this age they mostly haven’t yet become inhibited about their work. Only one or two were reluctant to get immersed in the process and needed encouragement. The paintings are illustrations to be included in the books they will be making in a couple of weeks.

The acting out of their story enabled the children to imaginatively explore the era they are learning about, helping to bring it alive for them. It also gave them space to see aspects of their own identity, identifying their strengths within the group, developing patience, listening and considerate responding to others so that they could come to agreements as a group. At the end of the day, each group acted out their scene for the others, who gave them feedback and suggestions.

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