Home » Ninth grade students bring a novel character to life in English class

Ninth grade students bring a novel character to life in English class

Student drawing a life-size outline of another student.

Ninth grade students in Ms. Distasio’s English class recently brought a book character to life in an innovative classroom activity. Over the last few weeks, the class has been reading the novel “Speak” by Laurien Halse Anderson, which follows the story of high school student Melinda. 

After seeing how her students related to Melinda, Ms. Distasio decided to design a hands-on activity that both engaged students and applied their knowledge of the story; she asked them to chart the progression of Melinda throughout the four parts of “Speak” by creating “life-size” versions of the story’s protagonist. 

Illustration created by a student.

Students were separated into small groups and began by tracing the outline of the shortest group member on a large piece of paper, which represented Melinda. Utilizing images and words from magazines, in addition to their original drawings, students created a collage that illustrated Melinda’s state-of-mind from each section of the book.

Ms. Distasio then hung each “Melinda” throughout her classroom so students could track the progression of Melinda’s dynamic character as they continued reading the book. The class is slated to finish the novel by the end of this week.  

Upon reflection, Ms. Distasio realized this group of students is most successful when they collaborate with their peers and do hands-on work, which is what inspired this activity. Students were thrilled they got to show off their creativity, while applying what they’ve learned in an interactive setting. Students were also able to better understand the psychological trauma the main character, Melinda, experienced.

“I loved watching this project unfold because it really helped create a visual for students of how Melinda changes throughout the course of the novel. It allowed students to demonstrate analysis of important symbols, conflicts, and themes through a creative lens,” said Ms. Distasio.