Youth Lesson Activity: Character Sketch

Sometimes I am pleasantly shocked when it comes to teaching students. Actually, I am probably surprised more often than not. This week we were talking about the personality of Jesus and trying to figure out what we could learn about him from the stories that were being told in the gospels. I wanted a way to help demonstrate what you could learn from the way people act as opposed to just what you are told about them. Often you can learn more by watching a scene than anyone could tell you if they described the people involved.

I think this is why the gospels are full of Jesus stories rather than a long letter describing Jesus. They aren’t a list of qualities, a resume, or even one friend describing someone to another. The gospels are a collection of stories and teachings and in those we find the personality, the passion, the heart of Jesus.

So anyway, I wanted to demonstrate that so I came up with the idea of the students creating their own characters and putting those characters into a situation to see what we can learn from them.

Here with the activity:

Use the space below to come up with a 1 or 2 sentence character sketch. Your character can be real or made up (probably easier if they are made up). Your sketch should start with “___________ was the type of person who…” or something very similar to that. For ideas check out the examples below.

Wes was the type of guy who always had the right answer at least he always thought he did.

Ellen was the type of girl who cried at old movies. She rarely cried over real life things though, her life at taught her that crying over those things didn’t do you any good.

After you have finished your sketch I will put some scenarios on the board. Choose 1 of them and write a 2 or 3 sentence story of your character’s response to that scenario. 

(These were the scenarios I put on the screen:

Trapped at the end of an alley by a big barking dog

Confronted by a loud-mouth ex-boyfriend or girlfriend

Someone trips and falls in front of him/her walking down the street and appears hurt)

Some Notes:

  • I made sure everyone had a character sketch before showing the scenarios. This helps to establish a character that will react instead of creating someone specifically for a situation
  • I had everyone share their sketches with a partner
  • After they had written the scenarios I had them share those with a partner as well
  • I had a few volunteers share their scenarios with the group (not the sketch, but the scenario) and the group tried to figure out what we could learn about their character’s personality.
  • I did find that I needed to remind students to make a story, not just write a description of what their characters did, but in the end that worked out fine.

So in planning this activity I knew of probably 2 students who were going to just eat this up and that I was probably going to get groans from the rest of them. But I decided to go ahead with it because we don’t do as much for the creative writer people as we generally do for the artists and performers in our group. So I ran with it. As we started I even made this same basic disclaimer stating that I knew it wasn’t for everyone, but just give it a shot.

What happened next surprised me. I had a few initial complaints, but then everyone at least created something. What else surprised me was just how good some of the scenarios ended up being. I mean, they weren’t high art or anything, but from the two or three paragraphs the whole group was able to identify some of the personality traits of the made up people.

It helped us then to go and look at a couple of the stories of Jesus in the Bible and try to see what the gospel writers were showing us about His personality. It made for a cool lesson.

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