Character Foils--That's a Wrap!

Thursday, September 12, 2013
brought to you by Lori

Last year, I was talking to a teacher and she said that she would be covering character foils. Excited, I asked her what activity she was going to use. She said they were going to talk about them. Just talk. 

The problem is that when teachers say, we're going to talk about...whatever, the teacher is typically the one doing all the talking and the kids don't absorb as much as they could. Sad day. 

But here's the good news. The brain loves novelty. It is engaging and [gasp] fun. When teaching character foils last year, Suzanne wrapped it all up nicely...with legitimate foil. Inspired by all of the fun, I turned it around in my own class last year. Now, in my awesome job as the English specialist, I get to take cool strategies like this one and share them with other teachers. 

The 9th grade team recently taught character foils with The Scarlet Ibis. A few sheets of foil and Sharpie markers for a T-chart make studying character foils engaging. Try it! You put a sheet of aluminum foil in front of a kid and give him a Sharpie marker, he will go to town! (We did other English-y stuff on the foil, but you are a smart English teacher, and can think of lots of ways to extend the critical writing component here).

Two GREAT things happened with this lesson. 
Doodle is definitely the class favorite.
  1. We way of our Dean of Instruction...that it would be great fun to take the finished foils and have kids pick their favorite character and make competing foil balls. It's silly, but also a GREAT physical reminder about character foils throughout the year. The teacher in the featured room hung the balls from the ceiling using pipe cleaners and paperclips. (I think teachers are the best kind of geniuses).
  2. To close the lesson, teachers asked students how character foils can make a plot interesting. The kids got it. Many students said that character foils can create conflict. 
There it is. You can't argue with that. It's hard to get that kind of result when you just talk about it. Is it crazy to spend a day writing on foil? I think not!


  1. Too fun! I love this. I'd love to hear more about what you did with the writing component. I'll definitely be sharing this on my Monday Mash-Up for the week.

  2. Okay, so I loved it so much I'm commenting twice! : )

    I'm hosting a teacher linky party, "Better Together," this week. I'd for you to join us!

    1. Oh, we're in! Thanks for the invite!!

      Lori is comin' atcha with more details about the writing component of the character foil lesson.

  3. Hi Megan! Lori here...The foil lesson really is so fun. For freshmen, my team decided that a simple T-chart would suffice, so that's how they used their foil. At the bottom of the chart, we gave them a sentence stem to help them use the opposite characters to make a prediction:
    Since Brother (or Doodle) is ___, I think...
    At the end of the day, MOST kids were able to come to the conclusion that character foils help build tension and conflict in a story. I'm actually using this strategy tomorrow in my own 10th grade class. I plan to have them start by listening to a portion of a scene in Antigone and making a T-chart of Creon and his son in their notebooks as they listen. Then, they'll have a short answer question to produce on the foil. I plan to use this question:
    How is conflict created in this scene? Support your answer with evidence from the play.

    Thanks for the invitation. We're definitely in!