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As a teacher with 29 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the... Read more

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Creating Authentic Characters (Video)

Since day one, after looking in the mirror to answer the initial question, “What do I see?” we have been observing and analyzing character traits in ourselves and in the interesting characters we get to know through literature.

Our first mission was to clarify the difference between personality traits and emotions. We then began generating an ongoing list of traits that would eventually serve to help in creating authentic characters. As we thought about specific characteristics that would be bold and immediately identifiable on stage, students “acted out” those options they considered most interesting. From this improvisational experience, company members selected five dominant traits to represent five separate characters. After, they spent two weeks defending a host of positive and negative traits to accompany the dominant trait and build unique characters that would illuminate the theme and thesis, and establish compelling relationships. Determining character motivation, what drives a character to do the things he does, occurred through a series of improvisation sessions. Take a look.

Five characters - A through E. Personality trait and motivation (M) for each character.

Five characters – A through E. Personality trait and motivation (M) for each character.

 
 
In this video, students improvise to explore the combination of character traits in each character.

 
 
While improvising, Daylon wandered aimlessly around the room with his head down. No one noticed. A perfect Character C. Students then became the voice inside Character C’s head. It was a powerful moment.

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Mary Ruth McGinn

About Mary Ruth McGinn

As a teacher with 29 years of experience, Mary Ruth McGinn has always sought innovative ways to meet the needs of each of her students. She has spent her entire career in schools where a majority of students speak English as a second language and where poverty significantly impacts the learning experiences and opportunities of students and their families.

Sixteen years ago she had an experience that changed her life and altered her professional path in a profound way. She attended training sessions at The Metropolitan Opera Guild in New York City, spent nine intense days living the process of creating an original opera and learned how to replicate the experience with her students. She then began creating opera with her students and using the process of creating the opera as a vehicle through which to teach curriculum and life skills. The authentic purpose for learning coupled with the arts provided the perfect stage on which to construct a love for life-long learning.

She currently teaches at Stedwick Elementary School in Montgomery Village, Maryland where she is creating another original opera with her third grade students.

Read more of Mary Ruth’s blog Learning for Real.

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