In addition to the plot and setting, one of the key aspects of any story is how the reader sees a character.
One assignment that I like to do is have them tell me what actor or actress they would like to play a character. They have to give me specific reasons like, "I think _______ should be played by ______ because in the story he's really a wimp and in his most recent movie he plays a wimpy guy." or "The author describes her as short and petite, so I think ______ would be a good actress."
It is also a way to get me to know what kind of movies and actors my students like. What I really like to do though is have them find five quotes from the story and use them to draw a picture of the character.
Here are some examples from the past students:
This is Chris, from Stephen King's, "The Body," I like this one because she really listened when I said it didn't need to just be physical traits. In the story we know Chris is abused, so she took a quote that discussed it and added band aids to his face and a bloody knee. A key point of the novella is that Chris stole his father's gun, so she took a quote about it and drew him with the gun.
This is Mr. McClane from, Phillip K. Dick's, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale." I like this because it was simply done and shows it isn't about being the best artist (I am not!) it is about finding the quotes and drawing what they tell you.
This was from the first year I taught at ITESM and the students read Rip Van Winkle. This student didn't take quotes so much as descriptive words, but it still shows a good example of "bringing the story to life."
Similar to my last post about popcorn reading, this is nothing new, but it is something fun that students enjoy and keeps them from answering simple questions, "Who is Chris?" "How old are the boys" "What city do they live in?" Rather than having your students memorize, help them understand!
You can buy this assignment (with two others and an alternative writing prompt for the students hwo hate drawing) at TeachersPayTeachers for LESS THAN $2.00! Complete with rubrics and examples.