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        Identifying Characteristics - Anansi, the Spider

        Students identify the specific traits of Anansi, a popular character in African folklore, by completing a character web.

        Lesson Summary


        Students watch a video featuring a storyteller who tells a Pourquoi story about Anansi, the Spider, a popular character in African folklore. Following the video, students identify the specific charactertraits of Anansi by completing a character web.

        Why is this an important concept?

        Identifying character traits helps students learn and know more about a subject in fictional, non-fictional and visual text. Applying and assigning characteristics can help students develop characters in their own writing. Finally, being able to identify characteristics helps students to better understand how authors treat characters and subjects in a wide range of writing.

        Grade Level:


        Suggested Time

        (1 or 2) 50-minute periods

        Media Resources


        The Lesson

        Part I: Learning Activity

        1. Check for prior knowledge by asking students if they have ever heard of a type of folktale called a Pourquoi story. Next ask students if they know the purpose of this kind of story. Take student responses and discuss.

        2. Tell students they are going to watch a video about Anansi, the Spider who is a famous character in many African folktales. You may want to include some additional background information on Anansi by going to . Tell students that Anansi is sometimes called "Anansi, the Trickster." Ask students to suggest what the word "trickster" could mean. Then ask students to make a prediction as to why they think Anansi earned this title. Take their responses and write them on the board.

        3. Next, give students a focus for viewing by asking them to describe how Anansi behaves in the video. What other qualities does he demonstrate or show? Play the Pourquoi Stories Video.

        4. Ask students to share their answers and discuss. Was Anansi's behavior as they predicted? Was he a trickster? Next, tell students that there are many qualities Anansi demonstrated in the video clip. Another word for qualities that describe a person, place or thing is "characteristics." Post a definition of the word "characteristic" on the board or on a transparency and discuss.

        5. Distribute the Anansi Character Web handout. Ask students to think of five characteristics about Anansi and list them on the handout. Then write three sentences to describe him.

        For students who need additional teacher guidance:

        1. Watch the clip as many times as necessary to identify various characteristics of Anansi.

        2. In a small group, complete the Anansi Character Web handout.

        3. Devise complete sentences describing Anansi together by writing group responses on the board.

        4. Ask students to transfer the sentences to their handouts.

        Part II: Assessment

        Distribute the Your Character Web handout. Ask students to think of themselves as a main character instead of Anansi. Ask students to think about how they would describe themselves. Students will use the same format as the Anansi Character Web handout to describe themselves. Completed handouts can beplaced in a student's portfolio to assess skill acquisition.


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