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Lesson ideas

KS34: The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves are of central importance in helping us define our identities.

This suggests a useful way into discussing and writing about fictional characters. Begin with a plenary session in which you and the class try to deduce the story a soap opera character might tell about him or herself.

Little Mo from EastEnders would work well. Having disposed of Trevor and taken up with Billy, she was able to change her story from that of victim to that of happy wife, although recent events seem likely to make her revert to the original.

Now, in groups, ask pupils to take a character from the text they're studying and try to establish the story they might tell about themselves.

This works brilliantly with John Steinbeck's novel Of Mice and Men, William Golding's Lord of the Flies and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. In the latter novel the child characters, with the exception of Dill, haven't quite begun telling themselves their identity-forming stories. Dill's are spurious, self-aggrandising fantasies, but Scout, in particular, explores the stories that define the lives of others. She discovers, even if she doesn't fully grasp, the stories of most of the characters she meets. It's a good starting point for discussion about narrative technique and characterisation.

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