How does your favorite character respond to challenging situations?

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SWBAT describe how characters in a story react to conflict and challenges.

Big Idea

Developing reasonable interpretation of text and evidence to support your interpretation


10 minutes

Teaching students about conflict starts with prior knowledge.  I ask students what experiences in their daily lives lead to conflicts and have them elaborate on them.  Then, I relate their experiences to those of characters in novels and chapter books we have read in class.  I explain to students that conflict keeps readers interested in the story because it effects the pacing, fleshes out the characters, and gives multiple perspectives to situations in the story. 

As I introduce this lesson, I begin with a goal statement so students know the purpose of the lesson.  The goal is accompanied by a scale/ rubric in order to assess where students are and follow their progression towards that goal. Students see the purpose of a lesson when they understand  how the Goal & Scale  work together to achieve conceptual knowledge. 

State Goal: I share with students that the goal today is to describe how characters in a story respond to challenges. These challenges are referred to as "conflicts".

Explore Goal-Related Scale: I share the target goal, designated as a score of 3 in a progression scale or rubric.  Also I discuss that scoring 1 and 2 means that the teacher will assist in scaffolding to a 3.  Students should understand that a learning scale is a progression and it is not typical for students to start at the target of 3. I find that my lessons are more meaningful when students understand the objective.  When students know their destination and how to get there, it demystifies the process.  Having clear expectations and a road map (goal and related scales) provide students with indicators of where they are in their learning progression.  Self-assessment is important in order to scaffold onto the next level.  

Introduce and Define conflict: I also like to make sure students are on the same page and that there are no misunderstandings about the focus of our topic.  I give them a brief but detailed definition of our topic to keep us on focus.

  • Conflict:  struggle between two opposing forces, or a problem that must be solved. Most stories have many different conflicts, most of them minor, as well as a single, MAIN CONFLICT (which is what the story is mostly about), all of which arise and are solved in a completed story.  The conflict is one of the three main pieces of the plot of a story.
    • Any time a choice is necessary, there is a conflict. 
    • Every time a choice is made, a conflict is solved. 
    • Any time a character tries to stop someone or something from doing what it is supposed to do or trying to do, a conflict arises. 
    • Every time a character succeeds in stopping a person or thing from doing what it supposed/meant to do, a conflict is solved.
    • Conflicts usually occur between the protagonist and the antagonist. But, there are other types of conflicts to consider.

Prior Knowledge

20 minutes

     This part of the lesson is a gradual release of responsibility from teacher to student.  The first step is to determine students' entry points by assessing prior knowledge.  Then, I ask students to build on their prior knowledge by working collaboratively to research types of conflicts in literature using a cooperative learning technique known as jigsaw. The team finds information on the types of conflicts and the leader of the group assigns each team member a type of conflict to investigate.  Each student in the group is comparable to a piece of a puzzle because each group member investigates their assigned sub-topic in depth.Each student contributes his part  in creating the final product.  This strategy is effective because each member's role is important to the team.  This activity promotes team cohesiveness.

Activate Prior Knowledge:

Ask students what they already know about conflict.  Relate conflict to personal experiences or stories/movies they know. Use a KWL Chart to graph information students already know, Want to Know.  Explain that the L section will be filled out at the end of the unit when we have learned about conflict.  Teacher post a poster size KWL chart and students write using post its to indicate their knowledge and what they want to know. If technology responders or clickers are available, students may respond using the clickers.

Rationale: At this introductory stage, I like to find out where students are in their level of expertise or experience with this topic.  Using the "What I already Know" part of the KWL chart is a formative assessment I use to find out this information.  I also like to find out what will engage them.  Asking students "what they want to know" is a great way of finding out what interests them about this topic.  If technology responders are available, I will ask students to send me a short text to answer these questions. Technology usually engages students even more!

Jig Saw:  Jig Saw is a cooperative learning technique developed in the early 1970s by Elliot Aronson at the Universty of Texas. In this particular activity, students are divided into groups of up to six members. Usually, the number of topics corresponds to the number of groups formed.  However, in this case, all groups are brainstorming the same topic and encouraged to share different ideas and perspectives on how types of conflicts can be categorized.  Each team strives to learn more about this topic by brainstorming ideas within their group. Students reconcile points of view and synthesize information. Once students classify types of conflicts, members research the characteristics of each type of conflict.  They create a final report. Finally, the class listens to presentations from each group representative. The final presentations provide all group members with an understanding of their own material, as well as the final findings that have emerged from topic-specific group discussion. As the name jigsaw implies, each group contributes a piece of the "understanding puzzle" that emerges from the exercise. This technique encourages all students to take responsibility in the learning process.  More importantly, students are encouraged to work collaboratively  with others in their a team.


Divide into Collaborative groups of 4-6 students. Each group should complete the following tasks:

  • Brainstorm types of conflicts.  
  • Introduce a sample Conflict Graphic Organizer.  
  • Students may use the sample or create a graphic organizer and explain to the class their categories of conflict

Students then share out their perspectives as they jig saw their collaborative findings.

Identifying Conflicts

20 minutes

    We discuss the types of conflicts by reviewing the Day 1 Charlotte Conflict Flip Chart.  Presenting this information at this point in the lesson places everyone on the same page.  Then, we apply the conceptual knowledge we learned into an activity that requires us to identify and cite examples of conflicts exemplified on a video.


Previewing a story called "Charlotte's Web".  Based on the novel by E.B. White, tell students that they are about to see a movie clip displaying several conflicts.  Ask students to pay attention to these conflicts as they will be asked to recall and cite examples.  They are also to categorize the conflicts relating categories  to the graphic organizers their team had created earlier on the jig saw activity.

Teacher shows a clip of the Charlotte's Web Trailer.

Ask students to identify the conflict they saw in the movie trailer.  How did students categorize these conflicts.  Cite examples from the movie trailer.

Teacher/ students may rewind and stop the movie trailer at strategic points to justify their claims.

Introduce the four types of conflicts: 

1. Character vs. Character: The main character is in a struggle with another character. 
2. Character vs. Self: The main character is in a struggle with himself or herself. 
3. Character vs. Nature: The main character is in a struggle with the forces of nature. 
4. Character vs. Society: The main character is in a struggle with society.


Rewind the movie trailer and show examples of the four types of conflict.  Tell students that this is a preview of the lessons to follow.

Students will deepen their knowledge by exploring each conflict category extensively.

Rationale: Students learn best by example.  I like to use video clips to engage students in learning through discovery using multiple modalities (visual, auditory).  Allowing students to research this topic extensively, using all available resources (media, text, technology) will deepen their knowledge. Since this is an introductory lesson about conflict, students are not yet expected to complete work independently.  This lesson is in the "I do" stage where the teacher is giving most of the information.  The following lessons will transfer to the "we do" where students work with teacher guidance. Ultimately, on the final lesson, students will implement the "you do" stage where students perform tasks independently. 


     Walden Media Trailers, Uploaded on Apr 26, 2010,Charlotte's Web Trailer, Retrieved September 1, 2013,

Student Feedback

10 minutes

Ticket out the Door:


Fill out a reflection sheet: "Ticket out the Door" for students to write down what level they think they are about general conflict on the scale/rubric.  Also, ask students to write what they find interesting and what they want to learn more about on this topic.  Last, ask students to critique this lesson and write about areas that were not helpful to them so it can be eliminated from the following lessons.


Rationale: The only way I know that works effectively in finding out what keeps students engaged and focused on my lesson is to ask them directly by using the "Ticket out the Door" technique.  This is their reflection on the lesson I presented.  Students' input in critiquing my lesson presentation is essential  in order to engage them with future lessons.