May 2010


“What is this thing?” asked George.

“I’m not really sure; it looks so ancient and breakable. Nothing looks like it will change on it unless you write on it,” explained Lucy.

Things have been different since the oil was completely drained on Earth. For three hundred years the Earth was able to supply us with everything we needed.

“It’s so fragile and worn out. I don’t know where I’m even supposed to put it,” said Lucy confused.

“I think you can take it anywhere you want like a computer, but it’s a lot tinier. What if you lose track of it and lose it, are there more of them?” asked George.

“Most of them were located on the internet, and the rest of the copies were recycled to make more computers I think,” answered Lucy.

It’s hard to think about how all of these ancient peoples used to do things. First they had to find something to write on and then they had to find some sort of stick to scratch it down. It seems like something cavemen would do. Where would they get the ink supply to put at the end of the stick things? I can see why ink’s supply became extinct because people kept scratching and scratching. Who could even understand what they were trying to display? There was no font to choose from and no grammar rules to look at. These people must have been really dedicated and smart.

“I can understand the words but it reads funny,” said Lucy.

“What do you mean?” asked George.

“You have to read it horizontally; you can’t just keep looking down and down to get to the end. You have to keep flipping to the next stage of writing,” explained Lucy.

“That is really weird, are there pictures and graphs or anything else that’s visual?” asked George.

“Nothing, it’s as if you have to imagine all of this on your own,” explained Lucy.

Since the last drop of oil was used everything went black. People felt as if they had traveled back through time to the 1800s or further. Centuries ago they heard that people had to live this way but they had no idea. When the blackout happened there was no use for much of anything anymore. Computers had to be thrown away; phones could not be used for anything, transportation was obsolete. Bicycles were pretty much the only form of transportation people could use.

No one knew what to do anymore. People had to start actually talking to other people in person. People had to wait to talk to people, and people couldn’t have anything instant anymore. No more instant popcorn, instant messaging, instant tickets to concerts, nothing was instant anymore and people had to wait. No one could listen to music anymore and most of the corporations on the planet failed. Everyone was on the streets facing something they never really had to do before…each other. No one had any sort of entertainment and no way to cook and prepare food. People treated each other as if they were animals.

“I can’t read the rest of this, there’s too much dirt on it,” Lucy complained.

“Let’s keep digging around and see if we can find more of those things,” suggested George.

The two kept digging around for more of what used to be called books. They searched under broken computers and broken roads where civilization used to be.

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Questions for “The Hitman”

  1. What is this character’s favorite kind of music?
  1. What is this character’s calling in life?
  1. What is this character’s major goal in life?
  1. Would this character like sports, and which one(s) would they like?
  1. Where does this character shop for clothing?
  1. What would this character wear out in public?
  1. What does this character look like from the neck down?
  1. What does this character look like from the neck up?
  1. What would this character keep in the car for a long drive?
  1. If the character watches TV, what would be their favorite show?
  1. What was the last thing that made the character cry?
  1. Does the character have pets? If no, why not? If yes, what kind?
  1. What is on the character’s dresser?
  1. How would the character complete this sentence: “I would never…”?
  1. How would the character complete this sentence: “To live a full life one must…”?
  1. What was the last thing this character said to his mother?
  1. What is this character’s biggest fear?
  1. Who is this character’s hero?
  1. What does this character enjoy the most?
  1. What is the last thing that made this character cry?
  1. What was the last thing to make this character laugh?
  1. What does this character like to do with their free time?
  1. What do you think this character’s biggest regret is?
  1. If this character was on a desert island, what 3 things (besides food, water, and shelter) would this character bring?
  1. What is this character’s favorite food?

Rubric

After reading, “The Hit Man”, think about the main character not in just terms of what happened in the story, but who this character is. Think about, based off the story, what the main character would be in to, their passions, the things that make them tick. Try to answer all the questions and use the question guide and answer the questions as detailed as you can. After each question is answered write a character sketch. A character sketch highlights several important characteristics or personality traits of a person. This will help you know the character as if they were a real person and not just a character in a story.

An important aspect of this writing assignment is to not just provide a summary, or even just list the answers you wrote on the answer sheet. The point is to provide a sketch for what this character is. When someone reads this paper they should feel as though they know who the character is before they read the story. For starters to help out, you can first write about someone you know as an example. You could fill out the questions about that person and then think about how you would describe them in a sketch-like format.

I want you to read the story, and then re-read it as many times as you need to pick out all the essential parts of the character so you feel as though you know them.

It may be challenging to take single and seemingly unrelated sentences to make a sketch but think of it as describing one of your friends. Use transition sentences that make the paper flow from one topic to the next. Employ sentence variety too, not every sentence should start with, “This person’s favorite thing is… or They like to do this….”. Use clear and concise sentences and use relevant evidence from the text to answer your questionnaire. For instance, put in an example of why you put down your answer for the question.

Each character sketch will be graded on the following:

On track! Getting There… Needs more attention… At least try!
Questionnaire completion At least 15 questions answered 10 questions answered 5 questions answered Less than 5 answered
Effective use of transitions Feels as though someone just didn’t copy their answers into written form. Reads like they are getting to know someone. Close to the on track but there are few instances of sentences that don’t connect. Reads as a list with little attempt to transition Is just like a list
Cohesiveness and structure Flows easily and is well organized Flows somewhat well an has some degree of organization Scattered, unorganized Didn’t even try to write much at all
Use of relevant details Each detail of the character is carefully distinguished and makes sense There are some details as to why the character is like how they are Not many details, some random explanations No details at all
Grammar Not many grammar mistakes A few mistakes A lot of mistakes I can’t read it
Length At least a page long Not enough details to make a half page but there’s some there Not much at all Nothing

I envisioned having students start this around the very start of their high school lives, probably in the first week or two of the class. This story can be used in a bullying sense and give appreciation to other characters and how they are influenced by their surroundings. In model 9.1 there is an emphasis on how to approach reading a short story. I chose The Hitman because it is very short and it is a story with headings on top of each paragraph or two highlighting the stage of life the character is in. It can be a relatively easy introduction to this topic, while at the same time giving them some ideas to think about within the text involving bullying, individuality, morality, and characterization.

As a reader I want my students to make connections to themselves. I want them to see what this character finds valuable in their life and how he got to that point. The character sketch is supposed to have them dig deeper and put the character in relatable terms. Terms that many people share but may not be highlighted in the text. I want the readers to see the progression of this man and how the headings enhance the story. In the process they should analyze the character and how the plot, setting, conflicts, and any other aspect influence the character. Everything in this story is in there for a reason and it chronicles someone from their childhood to adulthood. All of these processes emphasize the character.

As a writer I want them to see how the headings fit and see how it fits. I want them to analyze how well this shows this man’s progression through life and if it could work any other way. As a writer for this assignment I want them to dig deeper in the details of what the author has shared with the audience and write about who this character is. They should be able, with the questions to find a relatable stance on what makes this character and why they are the way they are. In the actual character sketch I want them to practice sentence variety and creating transitions. This is important because making something narrative from a questionnaire or bullet points can be an important writing task. The clear and concise sentences are to practice this style of writing for later in their high school career as well as for college.

The biggest thing I want my students to learn fit in the 9th grade expectations in section 9.1. Character development and basically characterization (under Narrative Text) are the keys and along the way they’ll take into consideration the plot, setting, and the conflicts in order to fill out this sketch (Under Genre Studies). In the process they have to read to know understand the story and the questionnaire should help them think about and analyze the main character (Under Reading, Listening/viewing strategies and activities). I think this assignment fits into several overarching goals of the 9th grade curriculum. It helps to understand and practice writing as a recursive process. They have to draft a paper and write often which works on fluency (1.1). It definitely helps with using writing for understanding and growth. The whole point of the assignment is to learn and understand the main character of this story (1.2). It also allows the students to communicate in writing using content, form, voice, and style appropriate to the audience and purpose (1.3). The purpose of this assignment is to give an analysis of what this character is like in different situations where if someone read the sketch, then the story would make perfect sense. In the process the students would be gathering and studying evidence from the story to answer the questionnaire (1.4) which helps them draw conclusions and make a sort of report. The overall arching unit is about identity and looking at other people’s identities and finding and realizing the similarities and differences. For model unit 9.1 I think the main purpose is to introduce the students to the standards of good writing and to expose them to stories like The Gift of the Maji, to give them a feel for identity and short story writing.

The students will make one draft, share with a partner and then turn in a final copy the next day (since it is a short assignment).

9.1, Genre studies. Plot, setting, conflict, CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT, mood tone style

Literary Devices: narration/point of view

Reading, Listening/viewing strategies and activities: Read first to understand, then analyze, summarize information,

Narrative Text: examine characterization, self assess

Writing Stratgies: employ sentence variety, use transitions effectively, use clear and concise languages.

Response to Laura Zeichman’s paper.

On track! Getting There… Needs more attention… At least try!
Questionnaire completion At least 15 questions answered 10 questions answered 5 questions answered Less than 5 answered
Effective use of transitions Feels as though someone just didn’t copy their answers into written form. Reads like they are getting to know someone. Close to the on track but there are few instances of sentences that don’t connect. Reads as a list with little attempt to transition Is just like a list
Cohesiveness and structure Flows easily and is well organized Flows somewhat well an has some degree of organization Scattered, unorganized Didn’t even try to write much at all
Use of relevant details Each detail of the character is carefully distinguished and makes sense There are some details as to why the character is like how they are Not many details, some random explanations No details at all
Grammar Not many grammar mistakes A few mistakes A lot of mistakes I can’t read it
Length At least a page long Not enough details to make a half page but there’s some there Not much at all Nothing

Laura- This is an excellent character sketch. You hit on everything I was looking for and added more. You definitely captured the essence of the character and added some great insights such as his child, classical music reference, his meticulousness, and his love of fencing. I love you how really developed this character and added a spin or explanation of how the Hit Man died. It tied together very nicely. Your translation of the questions to the sketch is right on and the specifics and examples are good and relevant. If reading this before reading the story, you will definitely get inside the Hit Man’s head and see who this character really is. Awesome job, you really captured this character.

A.