Character in the Classroom
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University of Dayton School of Education
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We have just begun our literary unit of recognizing and identifying major and minor characters in a story and analyzing their character traits. As a Fifth-grade teacher, studying characters and their development throughout a literary piece is essential to expand the thought processes of my students. They may be 10, but their brains are rapidly developing to better grasp abstract concepts. We have been discussing many specific character traits, some admirable, and some not-so admirable. Throughout our study, we apply character traits into our classroom and discuss good character traits to model and character traits that we need to avoid.
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I decided on adding a twist to the curriculum and expanding our character study to include the ever-famous Macbeth. I also may be slightly ambitious for my own good- but don't stop reading just because I mentioned the names, "Shakespeare" and "Macbeth." I introduced Macbeth by discussing the characters and drawing a character web on our Mimio board. After summarizing and introducing the characters, we started reading the play. Yes, the first page was utter disaster. My students were looking at me like they had just walked through the wardrobe and landed in Narnia and desperately wanted to return to their 21st century classroom.
After day one, we made some headway through the old English and students were slightly understanding the thickening plot. For those of you who are not familiar with the tragedy of Macbeth, the play is written about the rise and fall of one man: Macbeth. The play is based on a true story from 1000 AD. The characters in this play are dynamic characters, meaning they change throughout the course of the play. As a class, we have discussed the lasting impressions that our choices imprint on our lives. Whether swayed by another or not, we are responsible and accountable for the choices we make.
Macbeth is symbolic of the biblical account of creation and the fall of man. Macbeth falls prey to his own wife's scheming plans after interaction with the three witches. Adam (the first man) falls to his wife's delusion after she was tempted of the devil in serpent from. The three witches prophesy that Macbeth will become King of Scotland. Then, as most women do, Lady Macbeth takes matters into her own hands and tries to force the issue by plotting her own agenda to attain the crown. Part of Lady Macbeth's agenda includes the murder of innocent people, including the king. Similarly, Eve tempts Adam to disobey the one and only rule that God had set in place in the Garden of Eden: to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve was tempted herself, by the devil, and in turn, tempts her husband. Macbeth and Adam are both hesitant at first, weighing the results of their actions. However, both Macbeth and Adam give in to their beautiful and persuasive wives. The result is detrimentally horrifying at the least. Macbeth and Adam are instantly overcome with guilt. Macbeth's sanity starts to slip away as he claims to see ghosts and be tormented by his own memory. Adam is forced out of the perfect garden that God made for him and is subject to hard labor for the first time in his life.
The story doesn't end here. My student's may never love Shakespeare as much as I do, and that's totally okay. However, I hope they will remember that Macbeth's demise was from consequences of his own selfish decisions. The class discussed how Macbeth would have been different had Macbeth chosen to exhibit the character trait of patience and kindness toward all. Adam's demise would also seem to be tragic and without hope, had it not been for the very same God who created the garden who chose to make a way for Adam and the rest of mankind to enter back into paradise. The fall of man and the fall of Macbeth have striking parallels, however, the fall of man has hope attached to the ending. God provided a way for His fallen men to restore their relationship. God sent Jesus to die on the earth to expunge the sinful record of mankind to provide a restored relationship with His creatures.
My students have started to soak in every aspect of Macbeth. How will the story end? Does Macbeth ever achieve true happiness and rest from his tortured soul of past failures and mistakes? My students ask these questions and many more! They are starting to draw conclusions and apply character traits to their own lives daily. We have started building our character trait of kindness and acceptance to all our classmates. Kindness and acceptance are difficult areas of relationships among pre-teens and upper elementary students. I have seen exponential growth in my classroom as I strive to provide security to all students and a classroom atmosphere of acceptance and worth.