Lesson: Character's Motivations

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Lesson Objective

Students will be able to analyze character’s behaviors and speech to explain what motivates the character to speak and act the way they do.

Lesson Plan


Character’s Motivations

“Checkouts” by Cynthia Rylant



Standard Name

Students will be able to analyze character’s behaviors and speech to explain what motivates the character to speak and act the way they do.

Do Now











Read the following details taken from today’s short story “Checkouts” and predict where and when you think the story takes place and any thoughts you have about the characters.  Use the t-chart to help you.


  1. You’ll love this house, they said.  You’ll be lonely at first, they admitted, but you’re so nice you’ll make friends fast.


  1. Then one day the bag boy dropped her jar of mayonnaise and that is how she fell in love.














·       Teacher will preview the day’s reading selection with the class and direct students back to their warm-up responses.

·       Teacher will ask for volunteers to share their responses and will add them to a whole class prediction t-chart for all to see.

·       After students give their answers, teacher will choose 2-3 responses and ask students “why do you think that?” or “what made you say that?” This will get students prepared for the character motivation mini-lesson and notes.  

Directed Instruction

·       Teacher will define character motivation (the reason a character thinks, feels, or reacts and acts in a certain way).

·       Teacher will then explain to scholars that sometimes the character’s motivation will be directly stated in the text and sometimes it must be inferred by the reader.  You can use clues in the text like the character’s tone when commenting on an event or idea to help you make an inference about the character’s motivation.

·       Teacher will then think aloud how discover a character’s motivation for doing or saying something using “The Three Little Pigs”.  The teacher will write details about the big bad wolf’s and the 3rd pig’s actions, thoughts, and feelings on a character motivation graphic organizer. 


Guided Practice

·       Students will participate in a character motivation carousel activity. During the activity scholars move in pairs of groups of three to the different excerpts around the room in four rounds.  Each group or pair should have a different color marker, crayon, or colored pencil to use when writing on the character motivation graphic organizers.  Round 1- Groups read the excerpt and write the character’s actions that are displayed in the excerpt.  Round 2- Groups read the excerpt and determine the character’s feelings about what’s happening to them in the excerpt.  Round 3- Groups read the excerpt and write the character’s thoughts that are represented in the excerpt. Round 4- Groups read the excerpt and the details recorded by the previous groups and come to a consensus of what they believe the character’s motivation is for saying or behaving the way they have in the excerpt.

The teacher should write or print in large text the following excerpts from “Checkouts” and place them on the walls or desks around the room. 

1.     “Her parents had moved her to Cincinnati, to a large house with beveled (glass whose edges are cut an an angle) windows and several porches and the history her mother like to emphasize.  You’ll love the house, they said.”

2.     “An impulse (sudden wish or urge) tore at the girl to lie on the floor, to hold to her ankles, and tell them she felt she was dying, to offer anything, anything at all, so they might allow her to finish growing up in the town of her childhood…”

3.     “…they firmed their mouths and spoke from their chests and they said It’s decided.”

4.     “…for a month she spent the greater part of every day in a room full of beveled glass windows, sifting through photographs of the life she’d lived and left behind.”

5.     “…it is difficult work suffering…she didn’t have the energy for it anymore, so she emerged from the beautiful house and fell in love with a bag boy at the super market.

6.     “Once inside the super market, her hands firmly around the handle of the cart, she would lapse (sink or slip gradually) into a kind of reverie (a daydream) and wheel toward the produce.

·       At the end of the activity the groups will share out the details on the chart where they decided the character’s motivation. 

·       Teacher will also ask scholars to re-tell what they know about the characters and plot so far.

Independent Practice

·       Students will independently read the short story “Check Outs”, as they are reading they will write actions, feelings, thoughts for the main characters (the boy and/or the girl).

·       After they’ve written the details, then they must decide what the character’s motivation for doing something or behaving a certain way.


·       Students will complete the following exit ticket question: The narrator never explains why the girl’s parents moved her to Cincinnati. Explain what you think their motivation for moving may have been.  Support your thoughts with details from the text.   

Lesson Resources

character motivation graphic organizer   Activity
checkouts prediction w up   Classwork
checkouts assessment   Assessment


Amanda Wallin Posted 2 years ago:

Is there a way to print this lesson so everything can be seen?  The right side of the plan is cut off when viewing it.  I can't figure out how to see the entire right side.



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