Character Counts

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Students will analyze text to infer direct and indirect character traits. Students analyze the text and infer character traits that are not stated directly in Gary Soto's easy to relate to story "The Born Worker."

Big Idea

Read between the lines!

Advanced Organizer

7 minutes

To build off yesterday's lesson of generating a list of character traits, I will have the students read an article titled 6th Grader Combats Bullying with Bench

I will have the students read the article then answer the question "How would you describe this girl?" 

I am using this nonfiction piece even though we are reading fiction because of the high interest level of the story.  The bravery and determination the girl in the article displays is something every middle school student can connect with in some way.  The issue of bullying becomes more prevalent during the middle school levels and 6th graders are trying to figure out just how they fit in to this new and very strange place.  This article makes a connection instantly. 

I also felt it would be a great paired text, which common core leans more towards using.  The story we are reading today is about a boy who is brave and does the right thing-so the story is a great fit for the theme. 

Once I discuss the article with the students, I may take a moment to ask how the girl in the article's character trait can be a lesson to all of us and our own character.  I want to make the learning meaningful and provide a purpose.  When they see themselves change due to their own motivation, they will have an easier time identifying and understanding how and why character's change throughout a story. 


20 minutes

To introduce skill of inferring character traits, I want the students to understand how we make these inferences.  I will ask the students what they thought about me after our first class.  I will create a list of their "impressions" of me on the board.  As they give me their response-I will ask them to defend why they felt that way.  I am asking them to defend why they felt that way to demonstrate the point that at times we infer people's character traits based on their actions.  We don't usually introduce ourselves by saying "Hi, I'm Tiffany and I am a little bossy." It is our actions that give people impressions of who we are as people. 

Now, to transition to the skill of inferring based off of text, I will project the story "Bunnicula" up onto the board.  I am using this story because it is a short piece that is a little more complex.  There are not many direct characterizations given, so the student will have to infer and determine some indirect characterizations. 

I will model how I use the author's words to make these inferences.  I will connect it back to making a first impression.  My first impression of Harold, the dog, is that he is lazy.  In the text, Harold states "I'd rather be stretched out on my favorite rug, in front of a nice, whistling radiator." He is choosing to be home sleeping rather than going out with the family.

I would use this to demonstrate how I used what the author stated to infer my character trait. 

I would have the students copy down the definition of direct and indirect characterization from the Characterization and Plot.  By writing down the definition, the students are able to interact with the meaning.  The simple act of writing down a definition helps to create a pathway to the brain for retention of the term. 

Guided Practice

25 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.  Plot is a skill that is ongoing and will need to be ongoing practice and reinforcement.

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.

Independent Practice

20 minutes

Now, that I have guided them through reading the text as well as modeled how to infer from the author's words.  I will pass out the handout titled "The Born Worker Character Traits".  Have the students work to identify character traits about the two main characters. Providing them with a handout will help aid them and provide them with direction for the task.   After all the modeling, you may find yourself exhausted! However, this is where that little push is so important.  The students will want to give up and throw in the towel because now they are asked to grapple with the text! I will monitor, prompt and encourage them to keep going.  Most students are very capable in completing this-they just need the encouragement and the push! I will be chanting "struggle through it!" 

Once they have pulled out some examples, give them 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.  A few students will still be struggling with the concept of plot and the diagram can be overwhelming.  Working with them in small groups allows you the ability to chunk the activity and provide support. 

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


7 minutes

To assess the students' understanding and to help them process their learning, I will ask the students to complete a Closure Slip.  I want them to really think about their learning and this allows them a safe place to process and communicate any concerns.  Closure slips are a very quick, easy way for me to feel as if I have "checked-in" with my students.