National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar
This material was presented and discussed by Susan Ruyle
of Saddleback College during one of the seminar's curriculum
of Fictional Characters, Historical Characters,
Authors, and Philosophers
The day before, ask for volunteers to role-play
the characters being studied. This works the best at the
end of a novel or unit of study.
Have volunteers review their chosen characters
carefully; authors may require extra research.
Assign the rest of the class 10 (more or fewer)
questions that they would like answered by these characters
On the day of role-playing, have the student
volunteers sit in the front of the room. Write their names
on a sign or on the board. They may wear costumes, use
accents, or gimmicks if you wish.
Let the students begin asking questions. (These
should be interpretive, e.g., "how did you feel when . . ."
"why did you . . ."). Encourage them to look through their
books for specific passages to ask the authors or characters
Students in front may ask one another questions,
debate, argue, etc.
For more advanced classes you may add literary
critics, philosophers, psychologists, etc. who may have a
specific interpretation of a book.
For review in a literature class, you may use a
panel of authors in front of the room. For a social science
class you may use a panel of historical personages. Try to
choose a group of six to eight, some with divergent opinions
Provide bonus or class participation points for
Be patient the first ten or fifteen minutes as
the students warm up. You can almost see their minds shift
gears into higher levels of thinking as the questions and
answers rise in complexity.
RATIONALE: This exercise
dramatizes the literature.
encourages individual interpretation (helps wean
the students from Cliff Notes).