I love studying static and dynamic characters. I love this unit for the same reason I love all of my other favorite units, it’s empowering. The central idea of this unit is this:
Static characters don’t change. They’re boring and usually have negative characteristics, and readers typically don’t like them. More often than not, they’re the antagonists. Dynamic characters change as a result of conflict. They face their challenges and they grow as a result of them. Dynamic characters are the protagonists. A compelling story is centered around a dynamic character who grows as a result of conflict.
This message is empowering because it doesn’t stop with storybook characters, it continues in our own lives. We are always going to face conflict, and it’s up to us whether we will grow from conflict or whether we will remain the same. We are constantly faced with the choice of whether to be static or dynamic, whether we want to be part of a compelling story or not. In fifth grade, we choose to be dynamic! We are claiming our lives as our own compelling stories, and we will respond to conflict with growth.
I started this concept with a basic mini-lesson explaining static and dynamic characters. Then, we began one of my favorite readalouds, The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine. This book is incredible for so many reasons. It is set in the middle of the Civil Rights Movement and provides the most perfect examples of static and dynamic characters. To show whether these characters were static or dynamic, at the beginning of the book we chose personality traits from the main characters that we wanted to monitor. We created graphs monitoring the rate of change of these traits. We measured bravery, integrity, vanity, racism, and kindness. Because I had read the book before, and I knew which character traits I wanted to monitor, I coached the class through these selections a little bit.
We read this book over the course of a month or two, and about every 50 pages, or whenever something big happened, we stopped to plot a point on our graph. By the end, we had graphs that showed no change, and graphs that showed a high rate of change, therefore separating our static and dynamic characters in a highly visual, interactive way. Ms. Green also gets a gold star for being brave enough to teach math.
Our unit culminated in a narrative writing assignment. Students applied their knowledge of static and dynamic characters to write about how they are dynamic characters in their own lives. As always, our talented scholars blew me away. I promised to share two of their stories, so here they are. Audrey and Ahnsa worked exceptionally hard on these stories, and also worked exceptionally hard to respond to conflict with a growth mindset. Way to go, ladies!