Monday, October 19, 2009

Chester's Way

Chester's Way
by Kevin Henkes

Working with: Character Exploration and Including New Friends

Objective: Students will work with character exploration and development as well as skills/situations involving new students in a classroom setting.

Rationale: Since we're using stories instead of plays, significant information like stage direction and noted tones/intent are harder to discover. In place of these elements is illustration and a lot of description about events as they take place. In Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes, Oliver is a new student introduced on the last page of the book, after the two main characters have already encountered Lilly. Oliver is an effective character to explore because Henkes provides such little detail about him, thus leaving it up to the imagination/reader's interpretation. Oliver is also a new student in the story line, so by creating our own version of Oliver, we can accomplish thinking about both how a character is defined and how to deal with new students coming into the class.

1. Warm-up: Body Parts and Directions - instruct students to explore their hands, arms, feet, legs, torso, head, and neck to the fullest direction. Reccomendations from the text: "Let one hand lead your arm sideways into space. Let that hand bring your arm back to your side. Let the other hand lead your other arm sideways into space. Now let that hand bring that arm back to your side" (Washington Office, p18)

2. Read Chester's Way by Kevin Henkes

3. Main activity
  • a. (For ages 5-7) Split class up into four groups of 4-7 (depending on class size). Each group is assigned one of the main characters - Chester, Wilson, Lilly, and Oliver - and construct a character biography. The biography will be told through costuming, which is appropriate for the age group because writing might take too much time. The costumes will be what the group thinks the character would dress in, in the following situations: "dressed up," "school day," "playing outside," and "costume party." Students will present to the class, and will be responsible for explaining why that particular character would wear a costume.
  • b. (For ages 8-10) Students split up into groups of four, and construct an original monologue written from the perspective of Oliver. They will be prompted with one of the following situations, "the next three pages of the book," "when oliver gets ready to go to the park," "the next day in class," and "in one week after the book ends." Then, one student from each group will be asked to perform the monologue in front of the whole class. (Washington Office, p63-66)

4. Cool Down & Recap: Present the following information: "What a character does, how it is done, and why it is done reveals the character's uniqueness. A character is also developed by what other characters say," (Washington Office, p61)
  • a. (For ages 5-7) First, the students & teacher(s) will sit in a circle and discuss what they think the "characters" were and why. Students answers will vary. Using Oliver as a metaphor, students might feel more comfortable discussing first-day/new student experiences. Then as a class, we'll draft a list of things to keep in mind everyday to make sure that all students feel welcome
  • b. (For ages 8-10) Students & Teacher(s) will discuss how character exploration relates to understanding the "message" in a book. We'll then ask students what they feel the "message" of Chester's Way is, and how it applies to classroom life.
Assessment: Within the discussion is a lot of assessment. Another way for formal, solidified assessment would be to create a set of guidelines for new students or students that might not feel included. This could be a great way to start out the year - with a list of rules/guidelines/suggestions for "making friends," drafted by the students themselves. This way, you give the students the ability to create something original, that they will feel more responsible to stick to. 

Extensions:There are a lot of books about anxieties regarding the first day of school, but for students entering in the middle of the year - these books might make them feel even less included. Introducing a new class ritual after a new student comes in can help the student feel like they've become a part of a community. Below are some websites/videos/books to consider.
  • Poem about first day anxieties:
  • Arthur episode about meeting new students: and
  • First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg 


Henkes, Kevin. Chester's Way. William Morrow & Company, Inc. , 1997. Print.

Prutzman, Priscilla. The Friendly Classroom for a Small Planet: A Handbook on Creative Approaches to Living and Problem Solving for Children. Wayne: Avery, 1978.

Washington Office of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Olympia . "Spotlight on Drama in the Classroom, K-6." (1975): 1-91. Print.

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