The Stick Figure Quotes strategy provides a creative outlet for students while engaging them in an intellectually rigorous activity of character analysis. Students collect and use evidence from a text, sorting passages or quotations from the text based on the degree of importance or relevance. This process of character analysis also fosters greater understanding and empathy as students identify how a character thinks and what is important to them. While this strategy is often used with literary characters, you could also have students create stick figures for a historical figure, using the figure’s own words as the quotes.
Tell students that they will now use the quotes they’ve found to create a stick figure representation of their character.
In the example located at the end of this strategy, a student has illustrated Dill from To Kill a Mockingbird. This is how the student explains the thinking behind the placement of quotes:
His spine: “ . . . return the hug at long last bestowed upon him.”
At his core, Dill wants to be noticed and loved. We see this at multiple times during the book, including this hug from Aunt Rachel after escaping to Maycomb.
His right arm: “Dill got him the third day when he told Jem that folks in Meridian certainly weren’t as afraid as the folks in Maycomb.”
Student’s explanation: Dill manipulates the world through his storytelling. It is his stories that win over Jem and Scout from the beginning, and his storytelling which he uses to move others’ opinions.
His leg: “It ain’t right, somehow it ain’t right to do ’em that way . . . ”
His left leg is lifted a little, because his response to the trial gives me hope that he will “walk” in the direction of social progress.
Evolving Stick Figures: You may want to consider creating stick figures at various points in the text to illustrate how a character changes. Ask students: Do this person’s core values change along the way, or do other aspects of his or her identity change?
Create a Record: Take a digital photograph of each stick figure and record the student describing why quotes are placed where they are.
A middle school teacher helps her class explore the moral universe of Maycomb in To Kill a Mockingbird using the concept of universe of obligation.
James McBride and Rick Bragg read passages from To Kill a Mockingbird on how historical realities of Southern life affect the characters in the novel.