Using the Facebook Concept for a Modern Character Sketch and Chapter Summaries

Using Facebook to Make Connections with Characters

If you want your secondary students to relate to a character from the novel you're teaching, try using a format you know they're familiar with: Facebook.

Facebook has never been more popular; it surpassed Google as the most visited website for 2010 (source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/30/AR2010123004625.html). Even if your students don't have a Facebook, almost all of them know what the site looks like and are familiar with it. My 12-year old insists he's the only kid in his class without one...of course, I know that's not true, but it is getting harder to deny the appeal the site has on teens. (Heck, I love the site!)

So it only makes sense to harness this appeal into a fun, educational lesson with your students. If they have to create a mock Facebook profile, wall, and news feed for a character in the novel, imagine how much learning will take place: not only do they have to know the physical description of the character, but they'll have to figure out what the character likes, what he/she hates, what they have said and done in the novel so far, and why they said and/or did it.  What motivated them? Those are higher-level critical thinking skills. Then they have to look at other characters, because even if someone isn't liked, they still have Facebook friends. So who would this character be friends with on Facebook? What kinds of things would those "friends" write on his/her wall?

I think this exercise really allows the students to get to know the characters even better than a traditional character sketch. And instead of chapter summaries, use the "news feed" concept and have students write as if they are a character posting a status update after that chapter. What would they say to the world? How are they feeling? Why? How would others respond to what they posted?

My students have MacBook Pros, so I just shared my Facebook Pages template via bluetooth and they used pictures from the internet and typed in the text boxes. Above is an example of my Katniss Everdeen Hunger Games Facebook that I made last year with my freshmen students while teaching The Hunger Games.  I used iWork Pages (Mac) to create it, but they don't have to be done on a computer. I have a template that can be printed & photocopied. Students can either draw the pictures or use magazine, newspaper, catalog, or printed internet pictures and paste them on the page. See how Amy Cobb's students created theirs below.

Students at Shorecrest Preparatory School in St. Petersburg, Florida created Hunger Games Facebook Profiles. See more of their projects here: Shorecrest Preparatory December E-Bytes Page 2
My Hunger Games Facebook Lesson can be purchased separately and it is included in my Hunger Games Unit (both digital & CD). The CD version comes with three formats of the file: Microsoft Word, Mac Pages, and PDF.

I also have a Facebook lesson to use with any novel, formatted in Word or PDF.  The other examples I have are for teaching The Tragedy of Julius Caesar and To Kill a Mockingbird.  Social studies teachers can use this activity when studying famous people in history. Even if you don't have time to have your students do an entire profile, wall, and news feed, have them do a quick status update. In less than five minutes they'll come up with some creative and thought-provoking responses.

Using the concept of Facebook pages for the characters helps your students make those important connections with literature. My sophomores made them as supplemental projects while studying The Tragedy of Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare.  Now, if they can find creative ways to connect with JC, pretty much any piece of literature will work for this activity.  (One of my students did a vegetable theme: JC was a head of lettuce and can you guess who was the butcher knife? Anyone hungry for some "Caesar Salad"?)
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