Lesson: Character Traits, Feelings, and Motivations: Non-Fiction: Duel (Traits)

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Lesson Objective

Character traits motivate the way characters act. If you know a character’s traits, then you will be able to predict their actions.

Lesson Plan

Reading Workshop Lesson:

  • Readers, we have been learning how important it is to identify the main character’s traits in our reading. Sometimes the author tells us the character’s traits and sometimes we have to figure them out for ourselves. It is really important to understand characters and their personality traits because their traits are what cause all of their actions, words, and thoughts.
  • Today I am going to teach you that good readers work to identify the main character’s traits so that they can predict that character’s actions. When we read “Pick a Pickle,” we were all confused when the rabbi asked everyone to bring a big, green pickle. But since we knew he was wise, we were able to predict that he must have had some wise reason for asking all the people in Chelm to do that. Today, we are going to practice predicting character actions by thinking about their traits in one of our old read aloud texts, Duel.
  • Pass out copies of Duel. What genre is this text? [Call on someone – everyone should know that it is non-fiction.] Some of you may remember that this text is about Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, two men who ran for president more than 200 years ago. They had a lot of conflicts.  Of course, their character traits must have caused many of those conflicts - so let’s read and pay attention to how Hamilton and Burr’s traits caused them to act in a certain way.
    • Read the first two pages - T&T to describe the traits of both Hamilton and Burr (heroic, brave, etc.) Annotate those traits somewhere on the page.
    • Next two pages [starting with “During the war…]  - the author is telling us a few more of Hamilton and Burr’s traits. Both of them were argumentative. There’s more evidence that they were argumentative on the next page (“After the war, the tension continued to build…”)
    • Readers, we now know that both Hamilton and Burr were brave and heroic, but they were also very argumentative. They certainly weren’t timid, but sometimes they took their boldness too far. This is how they acted all the time. This is what is going to cause all of their actions and affect they way they respond to the events in their lives.
    • [Read the next page – starts with “In 1791 Burr won a U.S. Senate seat, defeating Hamilton’s father-in-law…] Scholars, do you notice that when Burr beat Hamilton’s family at something, he reacted in very argumentative way – he tried to make Burr look bad instead of just accepting the defeat.
    • [Read from “Next, Burr ran for president…” to “their secret fight became public.”] Okay, readers, now it’s time to predict what’s going to happen next – it’s not the duel, not yet. Hamilton has been spreading rumors about Burr. We know that Burr is argumentative and easily upset. What is he going to do next? [T&T – call on students to explain their predictions. Is this something that an argumentative person would do? A calm person? A confident person? Etc.]
    • [Read starting at “Near the end of his vice presidency…” to “…or fight a duel.”] Since Hamilton is an argumentative, easily angered person, how is he going to respond? [Quick T&T – he’s going to accept Burr’s challenge to duel. Is this something that a timid person would do? A respectful person? Etc. Read to the end of the page.] All of these events happened because Burr and Hamilton are argumentative, easily angered people. This would not have happened if their personality traits had been different.
    • Scholars, remember that good readers notice the main characters’ traits at the beginning of every text they read and make predictions about their actions based on those traits. We are going to start tracking our characters’ traits on a handout that I will pass out to you now. [Pass out handout. Model writing down the text and main character(s) with Duel. Write down Hamilton and Burr’s major traits, then model thinking through the actions that were caused by those traits (Burr causing trouble with GW, Hamilton spreading rumors about Burr, Burr challenging Hamilton to a duel, Hamilton accepting.] I want you to write down the name of the text you’re working on and the main character of that text. You have been noticing character traits on post-it notes for the past two days, so pick the trait that causes MOST of your main character’s actions and add it to the trait box. Then, as you read, when you notice an action that was caused by the trait, add it to your chart. I will be looking for scholars with really thoughtful trait charts that show that they are stopping to notice their characters’ traits and actions.


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