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Teaching Resume Writing with Novel Characters

By Carl Weaver

When students reach 11th or 12th grade it is good for them to learn how to write a basic resume. Students in these grades are also reading novels with very complex characters like MacBeth, The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby. Combine a lesson in resume writing with some character analysis.

Story Characters and Resumes

This lesson is a great way for students to really go in-depth studying a character, to be a bit creative and to learn resume writing basics. It can be used in conjunction with a novel that students are currently reading in class or you can let them pick fiction characters they are familiar with as long as they can provide accurate details (when in doubt, look it up!).

I used this activity when reading The Scarlet Letter with 11th grade students. I let them choose one of the three main characters (Hester Prynne, Dimsdale or Chillingsworth) to create a resume for because the minor characters in this novel do not have enough details to be effective. There are two options you can use for this project. Students can create an accurate resume based in the time period of the novel or you can allow the students to modernize the resume. If writing purely to learn resume writing, modernization would be fine. If you are using this as a character analysis piece, it will work better to stick to the time period of the novel.

1. Good Examples

The first step is to show students good examples of resumes. If you feel comfortable, you can use your own (minus details like your address and cell phone number) or ask a popular teacher or even the principal to donate examples. Perhaps you can recreate a resume from your earlier years. Point out the various important parts on an overhead or projector, based on the parts you will require students to write.

2. Fictional Character Resume

Next show an example of a resume made for a fictional character. Try not to use a character your students could also choose. Go off the wall and make an example for Homer Simpson, or Mickey Mouse. Pick a character the students should all be familiar with. Even if you know everything about Underdog and could write the resume with ease, your students may not have the familiarity with the subject to get it. Or, use a character from a novel you are sure they read in 8th or 9th grade.

3. What to Include?

Give students handouts or instructions detailing what should be included in the finished resume. If this is for mainly resume writing instruction you will need to tell them what sections should be included (objective, work experience, education, etc.) and if it is for character analysis you should also specify things like how many work experience listings there should be, should entries be dated, and if things must be referenced from the novel in some way (with a page number or separate sheet explaining where items were found). Making your students accountable makes grading go more quickly for you.

4. Choose or Pick a Character

Depending on your classroom, you can either give students a list of characters to choose from or let them pick their own. Some students may enjoy the creative challenge of using a minor character while others may need more specific guidelines on how to choose a character to write about.

5. Formatting

Depending on the familiarity your students have with computers, you may also need to spend time in the computer lab showing them how to format a resume or where to find templates. Also, make sure the students have alternative options for printing/turning in the assignment in case they do not have access to a computer/printer at home.

6. Draft or Final Copy?

If this is the first resume writing experience and/or character analysis piece in your class it may be good to have a rough draft turn in requirement before the final assignment is due to make sure students are on the right track.

Additional Analysis

For even greater character analysis you could have an interview day where the students can dress up as the character and be interviewed in character. This would require the students to really know a lot about the character to be able to answer questions according to how the character might answer. This could also lead to panel discussions with students as characters and any number of activities.

Make sure to save the best examples so you can use them in the future.

Let me know if you try this in your classroom. I'd love to hear how it works out for you!

Source: author's own experience