The Enneagram Meets the ELA Classroom

Image Via_ @mirabellecreations

While sipping my coffee and reading the book Normal People (which is amazing by the way) a few days ago a spark was ignited. What made these characters tick and why did I enjoy listening to their thoughts so much? Admittedly when I read a book with relatable characters I can become a bit obsessed with them. I am one of those that never wants books to end because the characters become my friends. [I am the same with television shows as well but this is a post for another day]. 

Beginning to Understand You and Others 

via_ @mirabellecreations

Have you ever heard of the Enneagram? In efforts not to man-splain you, it’s my favorite personality test out there. In college we were given the Enneagram test and the results blew my mind. I had never had a personality test tell me so much about myself, good and bad. It helped me start the work of understanding other people too. This personality test helped me understand the difficult tendencies of people I work with and love… and also helped me understand myself better and to become more self-aware. 

[Disclaimer there are some that believe that the enneagram has some quasi-spiritual connections if you would feel more comfortable going with another personality test it is up to your discretion.] 

I have so many ideas to share with you on how to use the enneagram so please stop back for next month’s post about using the Enneagram in your classroom as community building. But now my fingers can’t wait any longer! Let’s talk about the enneagram in the reading and writing classroom. 

Character Analysis 

Via_ SlowNorth 

Analyzing text and character development is a major standard from 5th grade to 12th. It always says something to the effect of students should be able to analyze the development over the course of the text including relationships to the characters. 

As I was sipping my coffee and trying to analyze the characters in Normal People it came to me that often characters have patterns in their behaviors throughout books. What if we used the enneagram to analyze main characters to predict what their next moves might look like? What if we used it to find their faults and the character strengths? 

So how could we do this? Here are some moves I think you could make. 

The Novel Approach 

Day 1: Introduce your students to the enneagram. Some ways to to do this are: 

-Show your students  infographics like this one… and have them make some notice and wonder about each type. Maybe they could identify what they think their personalities could be identified as. There are some amazing illustrations and infographics out there SO many mentor texts! 

  • Have students watch a short video explaining what the enneagram is and what it can help identify 
  •  Have students take the enneagram test, let them journal about what surprised them about this and what connections they could make… possibly share with a partner or have a class discussion. 

After students are familiar with each type it’s time to try a move all together. 

Day 2: Choose a familiar character

Image via_@chalkandleaves

For my example I chose Harry Potter because I love reading this aloud to my students [ I teach 5th graders so most of them know Harry as a character too]. 

We start with a list of things we know about Harry all together and I have them record that evidence or background information in their journals. This background information will be helpful in their future thinking. 

I pulled some evidence from multiple books and shared this with my students. 

  • “Why would I go looking for somebody who wants to kill me?” [Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban]
  • “I didn’t put my name in that cup, I don’t want eternal glory.” [Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire]
  • “Dumbledore trusted me to see this through…I’m not interested in what happened between you and your brother. I don’t care that you’ve given up. I trusted the man I knew.” [Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2]

I have small groups talk about what each of these quotes show about Harry while comparing this evidence (and other evidence that they find in the text if they wish) to decide what personality type Harry is and the evidence that supports that. We talk a bit about (wings) [in the enneagram we can change personalities when we are at our best and worst]. Whatever they choose as a group they need to create a thesis statement and evidence to support their thinking that Harry is _____ personality. 

As a group we have a class discussion after students do some exploratoration. We draw conclusions based on the data that they collect and closely read their evidence. I love seeing my students root for a personality type.. Some find a hill to die on! It’s great. 

Day 3: Try on their own 

This is the day where they try on their own. In my class I allowed students to choose from their independent reading book but if you prefer to have a short read or excerpts from a book I think that would work as well. 

Students analyze their character by working through the scientific method. They ask themselves questions about their character: 

  1. What is their character like?
  2. What does their character hate? 
  3. What are important characteristics about the character? 
  4. Is there any evidence of the character when they are happy or mad? 
  5. How are they around other characters? 

From there students make an inference based on their knowledge of their character and thinking through the questions of what personality type their character may be. 

Then allow students to work through reading and gathering evidence [collecting data] to support their thinking, or possibly to change their initial thinking. Students can draw conclusions of what they believe their character’s personality is based on evidence from the text. 

Some ways students could present this evidence: 


– Facebook Profile of the Character

– Dating Profile of the Character

– Characters Resume

– Narrative of their findings and evidence to support their thinking 

This gives them a deeper understanding of their characters and makes analyzing characters more authentic [and hopefully more fun]. 

Enneagram meets Writing Classroom

Once students have an understanding of the enneagram it’s time to use it in the writing classroom. This could definitely be used as a starting point of a narrative unit. 

For my students I had them web themselves first and use that information to build a character.  

Abigail Lund

Type 2: The Helper 

Biggest Fear: Being Unwanted and Unloved (Possibly this could be a sub-plot in my story… ) 

Biggest Desire: To be wanted and understood fully (Could there be a minor character that could support my main character in this?) (Love interest or friend?) 

At their best: Loving, hospitable, tuned in to how people feel (Could be the one that shows up in the night… when there is a problem they help) 

At their worst: Intrusive, indirect, possessive (Could become jealous, or speaks a little too freely?) 

Coffee Type: “I made a cup of coffee and also brought one for you too just the way you like it” 

By webbing personality traits and characters at their best and worst students can practice writing scenarios. For example: If my biggest fear is being unwanted what sort of subplots could that create? 

  • Boyfriend leaves for another 
  • Friend group falls apart
  • Work troubles 

After drafting ideas students can do quick writes with their ideas. How would their character respond to these scenarios? 

Already started narrative writing? Students could go back and add details about their characters’ lives using the enneagram. This could be an editing piece and add depth to their characters. I could even see older students using this to analyze character development based on trauma and familial structures as well. 

The Enneagram will become your new best friend if you let it.

Please reach out with questions, reflections, and connections in the comments below or on Twitter @Mrsablund. Check out my other articles writing out of the ELA classroom.

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