Describe that Character!

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Students define and generate a list of character traits to build prior knowledge.

Big Idea

Using popular characters from movies, TV shows and books, students explore what makes their favorite characters so special and unique!

Advanced Organizer

7 minutes

For students to understand complex text and to be able to grapple with text, it is important to understand how an author develops a character and their traits.  The character traits will often help us understand that character's motivation.  I will begin by prompting students' thinking by asking them the questions on the first slide of the Characterization and Plot power point.  "How can you describe a character's appearance?  What kind of personality does the character have? What types of things does the character like? Dislike?  This will get the students thinking about familiar characters and their character traits.  It will bridge the concept to their prior knowledge. 

Next, I will have the students work in pairs to discuss responses.  Working in pairs allows them a chance to share their responses and get some validation.   I will have them work with their Face Partners. This is a change from working with their usual shoulder partner.  

Next, I will display the next slide which prompts the students to ask questions to each other about their characters.  This will hopefully elicit more traits.  I will have the students record any additional traits they discover. 

I will bring the students back whole class to discuss their findings and some of the character traits they listed about their characters. 



20 minutes

To understand the concept of character traits and character motivation, I am going to first have the students generate a list of character traits.  This can later be used as a resource to refer to when we are trying to identify character traits. 

To do this, I will have the students title a page in their spirals Common Character Traits.  I will have the students complete an "Around The Room" to create their list.  An "Around the Room" is a great way to get the students up and moving while focused on the concept.  They work in pairs-to provide support for a skill not mastered.  They will move around the room to different pictures posted.  They will move according to the timer.  They will get one minute at each picture.  Their task will be to think about the character pictured and list as many character traits as they can.  The characters in the pictures are all very popular characters.  Hopefully, at least one of the students in the pair is familiar with the character in the picture. 

Next, I will write two categories on the board:  physical and personality.  I will have the students work with their shoulder partner to sort the traits they generated into these two categories.  This will make the reference sheet easier to refer to later.  Once they have generated their list, we can create a class list we can add to as we go.  I will display this list of character traits in the room.  I also want the students to be able to differentiate between a physical trait and a character trait.  The students often struggle with understanding the difference and it can be very frustrating as a teacher to have to deal with this all year.  I try to tackle it right away and clear up the misconceptions. 

 Next, I will use the list of traits to transition into character motivation.  I will bridge the concept by saying character traits help to influence what motivates a character to do something. 

I will have them copy down the notes on the slide titled "Character Motivation".  By answering the questions about the characters, you will see how they are motivated and how that drives the plot of the story forward. 

Guided Practice

20 minutes

To get the students into analyzing the text for character traits and motivation.   I am going to use a short piece from the book Bunnicula by Jame Howe.  This story is an easy text to use to practice the skill.

I will read the text aloud-projecting it onto the SmartBoard.  As I read, I will model how I identify the character traits.  I will underline the traits I can read and the text that assists me in inferring character traits. 

Once I underline, I will have the students copy down the definitions of direct characterization and indirect characterization.  (Notes listed in the power point).  I will go over the definitions and examples with the students. 

Next, we will look at the text we underline and decide if each trait is an example of direct or indirect characterization.  I think it is important to teach this concept because the students do not always realize they can make an inference on the character traits based on clues the author gives us.  The author may directly state the character is brave, but could state the character continued on her journey even though she was scared.  This would tell us indirectly that she was brave.  When students are dealing with higher complexity texts, they will have to infer character traits when analyzing the text. 

Once we have identified the character traits as being direct or indirect, we will work to complete the character trait chart.  The students have a copy of this chart in their books.  You could have them copy a blank one onto a piece of paper. Bunnicula: Student Sample

 Next, to work with character motivation, I will use an excerpt from Sparky by Earl Nightingale.  I am using this story because it connects to our character trait of perseverance and because it is an interesting story about how "Charlie Brown" was created. 

I will project this story on the Smart Board to model how I interact with the text.  As I read, I will underline text that answers the three questions "What does the character want? What does the character need? What does the character do to get what he wants or needs? 

Having the students use these three questions will help them focus on characterization and motivation. 



Independent Practice

20 minutes

For independent practice today, we will apply the new concepts of character traits and character motivation.  However, we will also continue to reinforce our skill of analyzing the text for plot.

We will read aloud the story "The Born Worker" by Gary Soto.  This is a longer piece, but works well with plot and characterization.  I am reading it aloud to guide for comprehension and understanding.  I will stop often to check for understanding.  To break up the reading, I will stop twice to "pause and reflect".  I do this to give the students a chance to think about what they have read and process the events. 

For the first pause, I will stop after the cousin Arnie states "Let me tell you how it works." At this point, the author has developed the exposition, introduced the characters and has given me a basic conflict.  I will ask the students to compare and contrast the two boys.  How are they alike? Different?  This will already engage the students in analyzing the text for character traits and motivation. 

I will continue reading until after the Mr.  Clemens falls into the pool.  This is a good place to stop because the two boys react in such different ways-it will lead to great discussion on character traits and motivation.  Have the students pause and reflect on how the two boys reacted.  Explain why each boy responded the way he did.  This will help them connect character trait to character motivation. 

Finish reading the story.  Pass out the Plot Structure diagram and have the students work to complete the chart on their own.  Remind them to identify the conflict of the story first-then use that to identify the climax. 

Walk around and assess the students on their ability.  You could pull any students who are struggling to work with in small group. 

Have them finish the story for homework or turn in the plot chart. 


3 minutes

To assess the students' learning and to give them the opportunity to process the information, I will have the students complete a Closure Slip.  I can collect these and use them in developing further lessons. 

I am expecting the students to struggle with the concept of traits and understanding indirect character traits.  They make these inferences daily, but to be able to pull them out in text is difficult for the students.  Interacting with text isn't something that is instinctive for students yet.  This requires them to really engage and interact with the text.