Many middle grade novels published in the past 50 years focus on the personal experiences of a prominent fictional world individual age 10-14. This singular focus on one adolescent character, which is sustained for the full length of the novel, is most common in contemporary realistic or period novels. To explore the personal experiences of a prominent fictional young person with middle grade students, teachers will select novels whose exclusive focus is the lived experiences of one fictional world individual age 10-14 and guide students’ efforts to develop full and enlightened understandings about these individuals. Collaborative Explorations of Character Experience: Reading Actively in Middle Grade Language Arts draws on the personal experiences of eight fictional young people in an effort to answer three key questions: What can middle grade students learn about a prominent adolescent character in a middle grade novel by focusing on the personal experiences of that individual? In what ways do middle grade students benefit from reading assigned novels with a sustained focus on character experience and the personal experiences of a fictional young person? How can middle grade language arts teachers help their students to read assigned novels with a sustained focus on character experience?
Don K. Philpot is a teacher, teacher educator, and writer. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the topics of instructional methodologies, content area reading, reading and writing instruction, and children’s literature in Pennsylvania.
Chapter 1. One Crazy Summer: One Character’s Experience Briefly
Chapter 2. Character Experience Explained: Jesse Aarons in Bridge To Terabithia
Chapter 3. The Lived Experiences of Gilly Hopkins in The Great Gilly Hopkins
Chapter 4. The Lived Experiences of Brian Robeson in Hatchet
Chapter 5. The Lived Experiences of Lolly Rachpaul in The Stars Beneath Our Feet
Chapter 6. The Lived Experiences of Frannie Barnes in Feathers
Chapter 7. The Lived Experiences of Doug Swieteck in Okay For Now
Chapter 8. The Recalled Experiences of Katie Takeshima in Kira-Kira
Chapter 9. Classroom Explorations of Character Experience
About the Author
Dr. Philpot’s Collaborative Explorations of Character Experience: Reading Actively in Middle Grade Language Arts provides a framework for engaging in the analysis of fictional characters with middle school students (grades 6 – 8). He uses well recognized books and authors to illustrate the range of questions teachers and students may explore as they come to understand the characters. This approach makes the characters relatable as students build relationships and, most importantly, empathy with them and their situations. Students will connect their own stories to those of the characters as they come to understand people and places in deeper and more meaningful ways.
Collaborative Explorations of Character Experience will be of immense interest to English language arts and reading educators who are looking for ways to engage their students in focused, nuanced, and meaningful analyses of characters’ lived experiences. Don K. Philpot provides exemplar materials developed in response to eight popular middle-grade novels; educators could implement these resources in their classrooms or apply Philpot’s analytical framework to other novels of their choosing. Significantly, this book offers ways to support students in investigating the complex and socially, culturally, and historically situated experiences of fictional characters. Indeed, our world is in need of people who have learned to think beyond themselves and who actively seek to understand the stories, perspectives, and lived experiences of other people.
Don K. Philpot builds upon his impressive scholarship on the place and value of literature to support instruction. This book provides much-needed guidance for educators to elevate text conversations that focus on characterization. Philpot shares in-depth summaries, questions, and tools for planning engaging literacy lessons to extend the reader’s comprehension. Using a balance of classic and contemporary novels, Philpot provides practical ways to deepen readers’ engagement with characters by including thought-provoking questions and a framework to gain an intimate understanding of characters. Collaborative Explorations of Character Experience is a valuable resource for educators, literacy specialists, and all who care about supporting deeper literary connections with readers.
Collaborative Explorations of Character Experience: Reading Actively in Middle Grade Language Arts by Don K. Philpot gives readers a glimpse into the importance of helping middle school students understand character experience while teaching middle school novels in grades 6 – 8. Through his use of vignettes of fictional characters’ experiences and movements, Philpot provides educators with a framework to guide students through an intimate character study so that students may “better understand the experiences of others, the challenges young people face in their lives, the meaning of their own lived experiences, and the complexity of social worlds, real and imaginative”. As a college faculty member who teaches courses in adolescent fiction, I concur with Philpot when he suggests that educators need to focus on more than just character trait study during a novel study. This book will help educators focus instead on what Philpot describes as the “lived experiences” of characters, those things that provide substance and reality to a fictional being and will help teachers re-envision how they teach character within their young adult novels.
In Collaborative Explorations of Character Experience: Reading Actively in Middle Grade Language Arts, Philpot offers middle grade ELA teachers an argument for moving away from typical novel studies and toward sustained explorations and analyses of character experiences through award-winning and frequently taught middle grade novels. Specifically, he provides a range of novels, diverse characters, guiding questions, and example analyses, all of which can be adapted for unique middle grade classrooms and contexts. Ultimately, Philpot’s book offers relevant and tangible ways to use reading instruction to help students in the middle grades to better understand others and, by connection, to better understand themselves. This book is a helpful addition to any 6–8 grade ELA teacher’s resource library.
Collaborative Explorations of Character Experience: Reading Actively in Middle Grade Language Arts is a must read for middle grade language arts educators, practitioners, policy makers, and parents! This book is incredibly thoughtful, one of kind, and a special gift to help middle grade language arts’ classrooms with vivid examples, stories, and theory behind them. It offers lessons about reading development, school readings, and reading classrooms within and beyond the middle grades. Highly recommended.
Don K. Philpot offers unique and targeted strategies for teaching critically acclaimed books, encouraging teachers to instill higher-order thinking and promoting active involvement in the texts that middle schoolers read. The focus on the character experience provides educators specific ways to guide readers to identify with and relate to protagonists in complex texts—an invaluable resource for the language arts professional development library.