Performance through character development
02:Exploring Characters

Submitted by Elizabeth Chaigne


Students will...

  • understand that a character's specific physical trait can be used to build language (dialogue or monlogue).
  • understand how a character's physical trait can be used in a positive way to get the character what it wants. 

Students will...

  • understand the cultural iconistic importance of a famous character from French literature by associating him with an American cultural equivalent.

Language: Content Obligatory
Students will...

  • use the 3rd person singular present tense of the verb to look like (ressembler à) with a connecting conjunction such as alors or donc to write metaphors.
  • use if clauses with the present and conditional tenses with the verbs to have (avoir) and to be able to (pouvoir) to suggest character traits with a partner.  (i.e. If he has big ears, he might say...S'il a de grandes oreilles, il pourrait dire...)
  • demonstrate understanding of the expression one defining feature (l'attribut physique le plus important) to discuss character traits with a partner.

Language: Content Compatible
Students will...

  • use the imperfect of the verb to say (dire) and conditional of the verb 'can' (pouvoir) with the pronoun on to suggest ideas to a partner. i.e. If we said...then we could...(Si on disait...on pourrait...).

Learning Strategies / Social and Skills Development:
Students will...

  • use context clues to deepen comprehension of new vocabulary.
  • work collaboratively in pairs to create their own original tirade.

Time Frame:

One 50-60 minute session

Materials Needed:

  • Computer access for the class
  • writing utinsils for student work
  • Transparency of student handout to use for modeling the writing of the 'tirade' (you could also create this same handout on butcher paper or a flip chart)

Description of Assessment (Performance Project):

Review/go over the assigned homework from lesson 1.  In a very casual manner, ask students to share the vocabulary banks they came up with for their character.  (A fun and creative way to do this is to have volunteer students list off some of the vocabulary they choose for their character and have the rest of the class guess which character the student had chosen.)

In lesson 1 we saw how our own and a fictional character's personality contributed to its environment and lifestyle. In today's lesson we will be exploring how a particular and very famous French character's physical trait influences his behavior and language. 

Using the think-pair-share strategy (see handout for explanation), ask the class to think of some famous iconistic characters (fictional or real) from their own culture (examples might be Shakespeare, Mickey Mouse or Superman). Explore with the class how these personalities, due to their physical traits or personalities, are sometimes used to describe ordinary people. (i.e. When someone refers to a kid who writes well they might call her a 'real Shakespeare' or someone who wins a race a 'regular superman'.)

In French literature there is a similar character named Cyrano de Bergerac. Introduce Cyrano de Bergerac and give some background as to how his nose 'gets in the way' of expressing his love to Roxanne. In French cultures, sometimes people with very large noses are referred to as a ' real Cyrano'. (For the purpose of this lesson, how Cyrano's physical feature influences his actions and words is used as a springboard for student work. Therefore, you can keep the summary of the story to a minimum.) At one point in the story, Cyrano recites a monologue about his big nose and how useful it can be.  Explain that this type of monologue is called a 'tirade' in French. 

Tell the students that they will be listening to this 'tirade' by Cyrano where he makes fun of his nose by making positive comparisons to common objects. Based on this 'tirade', they will create their own mini speech with a partner.  Prior to listening, very briefly go over the following vocabulary: amputasse, un hanap, un cap, un peninsule, pétunez, nez magistral, mistral, pignon sur rue, lotterie and any other vocabulary from the 'tirade' that you think might help in understanding the passage.

Use the link provided to have students listen to the 'tirade' from Cyrano de Bergerac. The level of French is quite sophisticated and it is not expected that students understand the 'tirade' in depth. One strategy for comprehension is to listen to the enitre 'tirade' as a whole class and then pick out a few lines to focus on. As you listen, stop to check for comprehension with the following type questions: What is he comparing his nose to? How does he make this comparison seem like a positive attribute of his? The pictures and the tone of the recording should help in comprehension.

After listening and briefly analyzing the 'tirade' with the whole class, students will work with a partner to create their own 'tirade' of sorts. Model this using the transparency of the student sheet by choosing a character. For this character development project, use the content obligatory language identified in that section of this lesson.  (I have also chosen to focus on the verb expression ressembler à  because students consistently have difficulty in using this verb with its correct preposition ). They most frequently revert to using a direct English translation of this expression to look like.) i.e. for the characteristic of an elf's pointy ears you could say: Mes oreilles pointues? Elles ressemblent à des antennes. Alors/donc on peut capter des ondes des satalites!! You may want to do one or two examples for the class as a starting point for their partner work. This way you can highlight the content obligatory and compatible language that you want students to focus on during the task. 

Have students get into the same partners they were with for the end of lesson 1. Working together and using that same character, students choose one defining physical feature (l'attribut physique le plus important) of their character to write a 4-7 line tirade.  Remind students to use the content obligatory structures that are used with metaphors as opposed to using the exact structure of the tirade from Cyrano.  Also, remind students about the CC language objectives.  Students have a difficult time using the pronoun 'on' in discussion so you may want to stress using it.  (Use the handout: Tirade d'un personnage as a guide for this writing activity.) 

Beyond Task
Students should have enough time to create 1-2 lines and finish the remainder of the work as homework.  Circulate to prompt students in discussing and in using the CC and CO language objectives.  You will want to have these written on a board somewhere for students to refer to as they work.


Circulate to assist students in creation of their tirades. Have students perform their tirades as partners in small groups of 6 to 8. Students can hand in the tirade for informal assessment.

References and Resources:

Purchase a copy of Cyrano de Bergerac if desired from Amazon-France.

Connect to the web site with the recording for Cyrano de Bergerac's Tirade du nez.  Go the the part labeled "Colisses" and then click on the third square on the page to get to the recording.

**This lesson can be extended for another session if you choose to elaborate on the tirade.  Here is an excellent link to a site that works on the vocabulary and comprehension of the text:


NOTE: some attachments are in PDF form (get Acrobat Reader)

Explanation of Think-Pair-Share
Tirade d'un personnage