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The Woody Allen


In this activity, inspired by Burke’s The English Teacher’s Companion (1998), students will conduct an imaginary interview with the friends and family of a character in which they try to help the reader understand the character. The purpose of this activity is to analyze the character and synthesize what was learned during that analysis. This activity works best with texts that have substantial character development.

Learning Strategies 

  • Inferring
  • Questioning
  • Synthesizing
Close Reading, Making Meaning

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Reading
  • Writing

Common Core Instructional Shifts 

  • Balancing Informative and Literary Texts
  • Staircase of Complexity
  • Text-Based Answers


Select and read all or a significant portion of the text. Decide whether students will select or be assigned characters. Prepare a model script of an interview to share with students Decide about grouping: whether students will self-select or the teacher will create purposeful groups.

Activity Steps 
  1. Introduce The Woody Allen.

    Explain to students that this activity is named after actor/director Woody Allen. In one of his movies, Take the Money and Run, Allen’s character interviews the parents of a man who became a bank robber. The purpose of that interview and this activity is to better understand the character.

  2. Conduct mini-lesson on synthesis.

    The key point to make during this mini-lesson is the distinction between summarizing and synthesizing. Reinforce with students that synthesizing requires not only a summary of the text but also reflections, insights, or perspectives of the reader.

  3. Select a character and his/her family and friends to interview.

    Depending on the actual text used, students may choose which character to focus on or the teacher may assign the character.

  4. Model interview script writing.

    Model for students a sample script of interview questions for a character’s friend or family. Think aloud as you describe your reasoning for asking specific questions. It is also important to specifically think aloud about synthesis. How do you incorporate your own reflections, insights, and perspectives into your questions?

  5. Brainstorm character traits.

    Students will work in groups to brainstorm a list of the qualities or characteristics that the friends and family of the character would want the reader to understand.

  6. Write the interview script.

    Students will work in groups to write the script of an interview with the character’s friends and family. Remind students that the purpose of the interview questions is to bring out the character in the eyes of their friends and family.

  7. Share the scripts.

    Student can share scripts with another group or if there is time each group could perform their interviews as a skit for the whole class.

  8. Reflect.

    How did this activity help you understand the character on a deeper level? Give a specific example.

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