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Character Discovery


Author:  Melissa Longhurst

Objective: Students will be able to explore character thoughts and physical choices, as well as their understanding of the language of poetry by acting out/as the character in a poem.

Theatre Standards:

TH:Cr.1.1.5.c. Imagine how a character’s inner thoughts impact the story and given circumstances in a drama/ theatre work

TH:Pr.4.1.5.b. Use physical choices to create meaning in a drama/theatre work.

ELA Standards:

Reading: Literature Standard 6: Describe how a narrator’s or speaker’s point of view influences how events are described.

Reading: Literature Standard 2: Determine a theme of a story, drama, or poem from details in the text, including how characters in a story or drama respond to challenges or how the speaker in a poem reflects upon a topic; summarize the text.

Lesson Plan:

HOOK:Slow Motion Fight (1-2-3)

  • Find a partner in the room. Find your own space in the room. We are going to play Slow Motion Fight
  • We are going to pretend to fight in slow motion. Imagine that you are under water or in space. Imagine that you are wearing heavy armor. Pull out your imaginary long sword.
  • Don’t fight yet! I will say 1-2-3, and each time I say a number you will make an action towards your opponent (such as a block, stab, strike, or prep). Let me give an example.
    • Remember to stay a good distance from your partner because of your long swords and to move slow.
    • Through the fight show a winner, looser, or if it ties.
  • Maybe have a few good examples show them to the class


  • How did their physical choices create meaning?
  • What did this teach you about theatre?
  • When fighting in an actual war what are the risks?
    • What do you think goes through soldiers’ heads?


  • Stand up and find your own space in the room.
  • Now let’s imagine you’re all sailors on a ship at sea. We aren’t pirates, but instead the Navy – fighting in a war and fighting for our country.
  • Let’s create a character- what family do you have waiting for you at home? Why are you serving your country? Were you drafted? Has it been your dream? Who are your friends on the boat? How old are you? How do you walk?

Ship coming into harbor.

  • Read Part 1 of the Poem
    • O CAPTAIN! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
      The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
      The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
      While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:


  • What does this part of the poem mean?
  • What prize did we win? Why are the people exulting?

You are “…singing a song that praises his captain for leading the ship and crew into the harbor after a long and dangerous voyage—without GPS, even. Everyone’s on shore celebrating the safe homecoming…”

POEM: Part 2

  • Before I read the second part of the poem think about and continue to walk around like your character. What emotions are going through your head? How does this information affect your physical choices? Walking fast or slow? Stop to think? Hunched over? Confused? Etc
  • I might hand you a paper with a section highlighted and you will help read part of the poem. Read it as your character with gusto!
  • But O heart! heart! heart!
      O the bleeding drops of red,
         Where on the deck my Captain lies,
          Fallen cold and dead.

Hand poem to student (with this section highlighted)

  • O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
    Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
    For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
    For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;

Student 2 (pass out to another student)

 Here Captain! dear father!
    This arm beneath your head;
     It is some dream that on the deck,
      You’ve fallen cold and dead.

Student 3

  • My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
    My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
    The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
    From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;

Student 4   

  • Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
      But I, with mournful tread,
         Walk the deck my Captain lies,
          Fallen cold and dead.

Let’s discover and dig deeper in what happened to the captain…

  • Pass out a poem to each of the students (that don’t already have one)
  • Read over the poem again and try to understand better what this sailor and leader is saying. Circle words you don’t know. Look them up with dictionaries
    • Write the words on the board
    • Review them with the students
  • 2ndread through: Underline thoughts lines that your character reacts to- write an emotion on the side.


  • What lines stuck out to you/and affected your character
    • Give an example
  • Pair share with their neighbor- have a few share with the whole class

“…when the sailor notices that the captain is lying dead on the deck of the ship…While the crowd on the shore is celebrating, unaware of the fallen leader, the sailor walks mournfully upon the deck where the captain has fallen.”


  • Get in groups of 4-5 and create a frozen image of your characters finding out about the death of their captain and their responses
  • Now let’s create a story through frozen images. You will create 3 frozen images that show different feelings and responses of your characters.
    • Example: One just finding out, next responding, what do they do now?
    • Can start before they know about the captain.
    • Practice for 3 minutes and then we will share them.


  • Create a Character Map for your character
  • Draw an example on the board for them to copy onto their paper (On the back of the poem)
  • Outside figure:
    • Write about your characters characteristics: name, job, background, physical features
    • Write what you do, how do you respond to the captain’s death? Help others? Look to shore at people?
  • Inside figure:
    • What do you feel?
    • What are you thinking about? Worried about?
    • How do you feel about war? About death? About coming home?