Who's in the book and What are they doing?

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SWBAT identify the characters and actions, inferring how the characters respond to events.

Big Idea

Identify the characters and events and make some good inferences.



used Henry and Mudge because its a Common Core Exemplar and I want the kids to hear more about these characters.  They have been a favorite of my 2nd graders through the years.  The text in this series is a little more difficult, so its better for a read-aloud.  You could use any book in this series, but preview it first.

Get Excited

5 minutes

Underlined words below are lesson vocabulary words that are emphasized and written on sentence strips for my Reading & Writing word wall. I pull off the words off the wall for each lesson, helping students understand this key 'reading and writing' vocabulary can be generalized across texts and topics.  The focus on acquiring and using these words is part of a shift in the Common Core Standards towards building students’ academic vocabulary.  My words are color coded ‘pink’ for literature/’blue’ for reading strategies/’orange’ for informational text/'yellow' for writing/’green’ for all other words.


Engage students

  • "Today I brought some books with characters you may know." Hold up some of the books and see if any of the kids recognize these books.  Take a few ideas to get the excitement going.  
  • "One of my favorites is Poppleton in Winter about a friend who is a pig.  Watch this short movie to find out about this book. You may be able to read about this funny character."
  • "I also brought a funny story about a boy and his dog, called Henry and Mudge.  That's the one that I'll read to you."
  • "We will be reading to find out 'who did what?'. Knowing who the characters are and what their actions are will help us understand our books better. We can see how these characters respond to the events in the story.”

Teachers' Turn

15 minutes

Model the skill:

  • "Today I brought a favorite book of mine called Henry and Mudge. Can anyone tell me who the characters are?"  Take ideas-(Henry and Mudge)
    • "I'll make a list of characters and use this 'character prompt' at the top of the list."  (Show the prompt and put it at the top of the list)
    • "Do you think there may be other characters in this story?  Let's look at the first few pages. Who do you think this is?  I'm going to infer that this is dad. Let's check the picture. That's my evidence that I was right".  Add the name to the character list.
    • "What other characters could I infer is in the story?  (Make a bad guess - deer and raccoons because they live in the forest)  "Let me check the text and verify - Oops, I was wrong.  There's no evidence that they are characters. I'll cross those off."


Guided practice

  • "Now help me figure out what's happening in the story. What are the events or the action?"
    • "I'll make a list of events or actions that happen in the story and use this event/action prompt at the top."  (Show the prompt and put it at the top of the list.)
    • "When we look at the cover and first few pages, what do we see?" (Take ideas-Henry packed the car and cooked marshmallows.) Let's check the text and pictures - yes that's right."  List several actions/events.  
    • "What else could we infer happens in the story?" (Take ideas - Mudge will bark). Oops I was not right-that did not happen.  The evidence in the text and pictures don't show that. I'll cross it off."
    • "Let's infer again.  What do we think is happening at the end of this chapter?" (Take ideas again- Mudge runs and drools) " We were right. That did happen because the pictures show him doing that."


Work together to verify

  • "We have a great list of characters and events now. Let's think about how the characters respond to the events."
  • We discussed the character and action and how the action influenced the character changes.  This is what the discussion sounded like.
  • "Let's look at one more character and event. The family made a fire and cooked marshmallows (that's the characters and action). I don't even need to infer - the picture shows they'll fill up on s'mores. The family changed - they ate s'mores and got filled up."
  • Here's what my easel looked like with my ideas for who and what when we were done with the discussion.


A shift in my teaching as I work to teach to the Common Core Standards has meant that I do more 'close reading.'  This means that students look carefully at how parts of a story affects the overall meaning of the text. In this case, we are looking closely at the structure of the story and how characters and events develop. (RL.2.3)  As the characters interact and their traits develop of there course of a text, students can begin to intuitively make predictions and inferences based on the characters and the events in the story. This is a critical leap from simple factual reading - who is it and what is he doing?  I am asking students not only to identify the characters and the action, but take a step further and analyze why the character acts as he/she does. 'Is it due to the events?'  'How and why did the character change?'

The Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Explain the task

  •  "Now it's your turn to make a list of characters and actions.  Use the book on your desk and read the first chapter."
  • "Make a list of characters and events in the chapter. If you don't get enough characters and events from the first chapter, you can use the second chapter too."
  • "Try to make some inferences as you read. Who is that in the illustration?  How is the character responding to the action?  Does the character change or do something different because of what happens?"
  • "Check your evidence as you make the list. Did it say the name of the character? How do you know that event happened? The evidence has to be in the text or pictures. If it's not, then cross off your ideas."


Monitor as students work

  • Take time to make sure students choose characters readily.  They should be able to document several events. 
  • You can challenge some students to ask 'Is that the main event?'  or 'Which is the main character?'   Other students may need prompting - 'What is that characters' name?"
  • Here is a completed student worksheet from a Poppleton story.


Turn and share

  • "Take a moment and share with your neighbor - what was your favorite character and what was the "big" event in the story?"
  • "Tell your neighbor one way that a character changed when something happened."
  • Take a look at a student worksheet from a Henry & Mudge story.

Apply What You Learned

10 minutes

Share the ideas  

  • "Now it's time for some sharing. There are a variety of books that you read today. Who wants to share their book?  Show the cover, read the title and give us a few characters and events."
  • Prompt those that come up to share how the characters changed when they responded to events.  
    • 'What happened when Poppleton found the ice? 
    • How did that event change what Poppleton did?"  
    • "Did Henry want to go with Mudge? 
    • When Henry took him, how did Mudge feel?"
  • "Great job today identifying these story elements - characters and action/events. You really are becoming better readers when you can not only recognize these in a story, but take it further to identifying how the characters respond to the events."


Scaffolding and Special Education

There are some real opportunities to scaffold this lesson for students of varying abilities. The lesson can be completely individualized by choosing different leveled books for different students.  Perhaps your higher readers could choose from a specific set of harder books.  The readers who struggle could have an easier set of books.

I sat with some of my lower readers and read some parts of the story to them and referenced the pictures.  Sometimes, I would list some key vocabulary (characters' names, event vocabulary) on the board for them to copy.  The Poppleton books were easier to read, so pay attention to reading level as you choose books.