Characters in Search of Authors
by Patrick R. Moran, Ph.D.
50 Photocopyable Faces
50 Characters Looking for Authors
50 Detachable Pages
5 Sets of 10 different people
What do you do with them?
These faces invite invention. It's up to you and your students, but Pat Moran (creator of Lexicarry) provides plenty of suggestions in the book. He gives detailed notes on creating and building characters inspired by these faces. Then he provides ideas for role plays, improvised dramas, storytelling and short stories, games and other interactive activities, and explorations of specific cultures and cultural identity.
Where do these people come from? Pat leaves that to your imaginations.
A beginning learner says, "This is Manuel. He is from Colombia. He is 18. Now he is studying economics. He likes music. His instrument is the cuatro. He looks like my brother."
An intermediate learner assumes the character suggested by the face saying, "My name is Jean, and I live in Lyons, France. Although my parents want me to become an engineer, my real passion is digital art. I want to make mixed media films about places around the world, lovely, magical places. Yesterday I met the most beautiful girl. Her name is Dalia, and she is a dancer. Perhaps tomorrow..."
This book looks simple at first, but it leads to ...
Using the faces as inspiration, learners create imaginary biographies and breathe life into the characters. Using their powers of imagination, learners develop a detailed life history for their characters, and conjure up stories of their trials, troubles, successes, failures, hopes and dreams - just as authors create characters in stories.
Once learners have created characters, they take on the identities of their characters and interact - through dialogues, conversations, discussions, and role plays. Role playing allows learners to explore new ways of self-expression in the language and the culture.
To create characters, learners need language - lots of language. Each chapter in a character's story leads to new vocabulary areas, new phrases, expressions, or slang. Stories move in time as well, from present to past to future, to real and unreal conditions, to possibilities, probabilities, obligations, and the like - all requiring language. And when learners role play their characters, all the language of social interaction and appropriateness enters the picture.
Characters are products of culture. To develop a character's identity, learners need to situate characters in concrete cultural circumstances - in families, places, social groups - with specific cultural practices, cultural products, and specific cultural perspectives. This calls for cultural research and analysis, and comparison with the learners' cultures.
Building characters, unlocking imagination, and unleashing creativity capture the powerful force of play in learning. When learners can engage a playful spirit with humor, laughter, and a shared sense of simple fun, learning language can become a pleasant, effortless experience.