_“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view....Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”_ Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird A key part of teaching reading to pupils of any age involves the deep exploration of characters: their motives, feelings and resulting actions. The key skill for this is empathy. We can model empathy to students, but a well-written character can provide a fantastic springboard for students to connect feelings, thoughts and behaviours as well as consider the choices authors make in language and structure. We asked our team of English teachers which activities they used to teach character in their own classrooms. ## 1. Pre-reading out of context ‘Out of context’ is usually seen as a pretty terrible method of teaching anything *cough* SPaG test *cough*. But occasionally, it can provide a clean slate of thought for students, free from judgement and preconceptions. As a pre-read activity, describe an action or ‘episode’ that a character experiences in the book, before beginning the text. Then, question students on the sort of person who might carry out such action. For example, a young boy calls his friend Piggy. What does that say about him and his relationship with his ‘friend’? Before becoming tainted with the details of the story, students are provided with the opportunity to explore the subtleties of the relationship between Ralph and Piggy. ## 2. Hot seat An age old winner for the exploration of character. But, playing a character is a skill in itself and to get the best from your students, model what your expectations. Take on a character yourself and get students to interview you. You might even ask a student to be host the interview, which works well when managing the firing of questions. We would model writing with students; hot seating should be no different. So hone your thespian skills and _be_ Lady Macbeth. ## 3. Employ the director Getting students to be the director for freeze frames works great for exploring character, but the focus must be in the questioning of choices. Get students to pose out a scene from the text in a freeze frame. Then employ a director/pupil to manoeuvre the scene to how they think it should be. Pose questions like, why have you chosen that position? How could you make him/her appear more…? How does this show the relationship between …? Ask the class to critique the director and allow students to demonstrate by employing them to take over. ## 4. Who said it? Pull quotes from the text you are reading and get students to guess who from the text said it. This is a sure fire way of discussing characters and using inference skills to look beyond the words they use to explore the feeling that may be coming through. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you may want to mix up the quotations with ones from other texts, or even completely different mediums. Try quotes from Batman vs quotes from Macbeth - they both love a brood. ## 5. Best practice questioning There is no denying the potential of effective questioning. Whether you think up meaningful questions on the spot, or plan a session of enquiry ahead of time, open questioning about a character and their motivations helps pupils to think beyond the obvious - inference. The team of English teachers at Learning by Questions consider this level of depth when authoring Reading Question Sets. Whether it be an original text, or an extract from a classic, questions around character can be found in Inference and Language Question Sets. These Question Sets can be relied upon to take students on a deep learning experience, and save you time with planning and assessment. If you’re interested in exploring character with your students through Learning by Questions, [open a free account today](http://www.lbq.org/TryLbQ/) and enjoy 60 days of access to all resources provided by the LbQ platform. _“I will not become an executioner.”_ Batman or Macbeth?