How to Define Character Arcs and Themes with Twitter

For a while I've been using Twitter to test my acting students' ability to create characters. Then it finally dawned on me: Why am I not using this in English class? So I tweaked the Twitter strategy I use in theatre to help map character development in literature.  While planning for English classes, I realized I can translate my Twitter strategy from this post to my English lessons. Here's how I'm going to test the critical thinking skills of my students with Twitter. 

-Get the FREE WORKSHEET for this lesson here!-

Defining Character Arcs and Themes

Think of this exercise as taking on the persona of an announcer at a sports event. You're giving a play-by=play of the action with tweets. This makes it easy for students to make frequent notes on a story because of the shortness of a tweet. They also learn to quickly identify, analyze and summarize important plot points with this activity. Find the Free Downloadable Character Development Worksheet that goes along with this lesson here. Now, here's how to conduct it.

  1. Announce that you, as a teacher, know what Twitter is. Allow shock and awe to subside before continuing with your lesson.
  2. Split students into groups. I usually like to do a couple groups assigned to the protagonist and a couple for the antagonist, but of course, alter this to whatever piece you are covering in class
  3. Explain that students will be reading their assigned piece of literature and noting significant plot points or moments of character development with tweets. As they stumble upon these moments, they will be expected to tweet an update on their topic. The goal at the end of the activity is to be able to read their entire "feed" of tweets and to see a mapping of a character or story development. 
  4. Discuss the types of moments they will be looking for. Here's a few to use as examples: 
    1. A major piece of information is revealed
    2. A character has a change of heart
    3. Symbolism is used to tell the story
    4. A recurring theme is used 
    5. The climax of the storyline is reached
    6. Characters interacting creates a new conflict
    7. A character has a developmental moment in their journey
    8. Foreshadowing is used 
    9. A problem is resolved
    10. So on and so forth
  5. Let students complete the assignment. Then let a representative of each group tell their "timeline story" of that character. Compare and contrast each group in your discussion. 

When you download the Free Twitter Timeline Worksheet, you'll see three options at the top: Storyline, Character and Theme. These are the three topics I construct this assignment around. SImply get your students to circle whatever topic they're using and specify the character or theme. I like to revisit this activity multiple times in one unit of study. 

We'll use The Great Gatsby as an example. Students could use the storyline option to summarize the plot. They could then use the character topic to map the journey of Daisy, Jay Gatsby or even Nick Carraway. You could use the theme topic to cover the idea of new vs. old money, isolation or the falsity of the American Dream. 

Not too crazy, right? We;d love to hear how this worked in your classroom. Tell us all about it on Facebook.