Lesson: Character Traits, Feelings, and Motivations: Fiction: Midnight Fox (Feelings)

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Lesson Objective

Characters do things for a reason. When something important or unusual happens, their feelings change. Characters show feeling changes through their thoughts, words, and actions.

Lesson Plan

Reading Workshop Lesson:

  • Readers, we’ve spent the last couple of weeks studying character traits and describing our characters’ personalities so that we can more easily predict their thoughts, words, and actions. Starting today, we are going to shift to thinking about character feelings. Character traits and character feelings are different. Characters show their traits MOST of the time because their personality causes them to act a certain way. However, when something important or unusual happens in a character’s life, no matter what their traits are, their feelings might change. For example, in Small Steps, Peg is a smart and witty person, but she feels very angry and scared when she finds out that she has polio. She isn’t an angry person or even someone who gets scared easily. A big event happened in her life, and that caused her feelings to change.
  • Let me give you some more examples. Remember, authors make their characters realistic, so I’m going to give you some scenarios from real life.
  • [Put up scenario 1. Read and discuss. Brainstorm words that you would use to describe Lisa’s feelings – frightened, terrified, panicky, etc.] This isn’t part of Lisa’s personality – something scary happened to her, so she reacted by feeling scared. Her traits didn’t cause her to act this way, an event did.
  • [Put up scenario 2. Read and discuss. Brainstorm words that you would use to describe the scholars’ feelings – proud, excited, thrilled, etc. All of these scholars have different traits – but an exciting event happened to all of them, so they all react in the same way – by feeling excited. Their traits didn’t cause them to act this way, an event did.
  • Scholars, just like we did with traits, we are starting a poster of words that we can use to describe the feelings of a person or character. We will continue to add to this list, but before I move on, are there any other words I should add? [Call on students to add words; filter trait words.]
  • Just like real people act change their feelings when important or unusual events happen, so do characters. We are going to practice noticing feelings in a realistic fiction text that you’ve read before: “Midnight Fox.” We don’t know a lot about Tom’s traits in this story, but he is very clear about how he feels about different events. Our job is to notice when his feelings change and to figure out what event caused the feeling change. 
  •  [Read introduction.] We know right away that Tom is unhappy. Are there any other words to describe how Tom is feeling? (Take some ideas – bored, maybe?) What is causing him to feel this way? (His parents are on vacation but he’s at his aunt and uncle’s house instead.) Annotate this.
  • [Stop after paragraph 2.] How is Tom feeling now? [T&T – excited.] How do we know? [Share specific details from the text, like the cloud of dust.] What is causing him to feel this way? [He gets a letter from Petie Burkis.] Annotate this feeling.
  • [Stop after paragraph 16.] How is Tom feeling now? [T&T – amazed or shocked.] How do we know? [He stared across the field not doing anything.] What is causing him to feel this way? [He sees a black fox. Annotate.]
  • [Continue noticing Tom’s feeling of amazement over the fox.]
  •  [Continue reading as time permits. I think it’s okay not to finish the article once you come up with some evidence that Tom is amazed by the black fox.]
  • Readers, in any text you read, remember that people do things for a reason, and that one of the reasons why people do things is because an important or unusual event happens and they change their feelings to react to that event. It’s your job as the reader to notice how someone reacts to a situation and to think about what is causing their feelings to change. In your reading, if you noticed that your character’s feelings change and you know what event caused that feeling change, write it down on a post it note so that you can share it with the rest of the class. You can use our list of feelings to help you.











Lesson Resources

2008 4th grade ELA MCAS passages
Feelings scenarios - enlarged  


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