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Vinnie DiCarlo

School: Shutesbury Elementary School

City/State: Shutesbury, MA

Grade(s): 5, 6

Format(s): Character file

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies, Visual Arts

Project Overview

This Character File (CF) was created by a sixth grade student at the Shutesbury Elementary School in Shutesbury, Massachusetts. A CF is a fictional character portrait of a person, with emphasis on realism, accuracy and quality writing. The CF format combines mandatory components that all students must include with optional components that allow for student choice based on interest and pace of work.

This student chose to add the following components to his CF: Portrait, physical description, career description, personality description, family description, and artifacts such as a journal entry, a “Wanted” poster and a realistic newspaper article documenting the character’s arrest.

For purposes of accuracy, students were required to interview a person who has the career of their character. However, the character created here was in the Mafia. The student was convinced he could find an interview subject via the internet. This internet search proved successful in a surprising way: no mob figure came forth, but the search did attract the interest of the FBI. Eventually this student was able to interview an FBI agent who specialized in organized crime, who visited the school for an interview (much to the excitement of students in all grades), and which allowed the career description to be authentic.

Though not shown in this CF, each student also created a professional-quality blueprint for his or her character’s home (drafted in standard residential scale: ¼” = 1’). Students also created detailed financial information about their character including a finance portfolio, investments, savings account, credit history and taxes.

Selected blueprints from Character Files from this classroom are indexed in this project archive as separate products: See project #258 and #259.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • A project format that combines reading, research, writing, visual arts and (not shown here, but in the finance portfolio and blueprints) math
  • A project format with a variety of mandatory and optional components to engage a range of students who have different interests, talents and work at different paces
  • A project format with a clear measure of quality for many features: it must be realistic, as judged by experts (e.g. a career description must be accurate; finances must be feasible; blueprints must be well-planned, to scale and to code)
  • A unique and engaging way for students to explore a profession, a culture or an historical period and show the depth of their knowledge and understanding
  • Strong model of expressive, descriptive writing and artistic portraiture
  • Compelling combination of writing, artwork and the creation of artifacts
  • Well-crafted artifacts that come across as quite real
  • Demonstrates a format in which individual work can be assessed

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write narrative texts about real or imagined experiences using relevant details and event sequences that make sense.
  • I can use correct grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • I can maintain consistency in style and tone when writing and speaking.
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