"Students today, I am going to demonstrate a strategy to show you how to think about your characters and grow theories about what they want based on what they say and do. As a reader, you want to think about your characters so you know more about them then just their name!
Knowing our characters well is so important to enjoying and learning from them. As you read, you want to be thinking about the main character's feelings, thoughts, and desires. This kind of analysis of our characters lets us figure out what they want. We have to infer their desires based on details the author includes.
I am going to use our classroom mentor text, Hound Dog True to demonstrate a strategy you can use to learn more about your characters.
Let's look at this handout I made for you. I will put my name on the top and then read what it says, "I think my character, __(blank)__, really wants___________________________.
Watch me as I write Mattie's name in the blank and some theories about what she really wants based on what I have read so far about her. I will write, I think Mattie REALLY wants to feel safe, have friends, and get along with her mom. When you write your big ideas about what your characters want you have to grow a theory about them based on your background knowledge and the details the author includes about the character. So it is really fun to read like a detective, and find clues to support your theories about what the character wants.
Did you notice that I wrote three things about what I think my character wants? It's ok to write one, two or three things you think you character wants when you are just growing your theories because it helps you get started. As we learn more and more about our characters by thinking about what they ay and do we can revise our theories about them.
Now, it is your turn, think about the book you are reading and about the main character. What do you think your main character really wants? Turn and talk with your partner."
Ask a few students to share the title of the book they are reading and ideas they are growing about what they think the main character wants. Jot down students ideas under the document camera to refer to later.
Finding Evidence to support theories
"When we grow theories about a character it is based on details and events in the story. Watch how I document my ideas with evidence about what Mattie really wants. First, I remember back to the story and ask myself "What are some of the things Mattie does to feel safe?". She wants to be her Uncle Potluck's Custodial Apprentice because she doesn't want to be with other students outside of the classroom. Watch me as I find that section in the book." (Flip through the book scanning for the part about mattie writing in her journal and Quincy surprising her.)
"Here is the part I was thinking of, it's in chapter 3. Reread this part out loud to the students and model how to use details for the story as evidence for my theory that she wants to feel safe.
Today as you are reading, I want you to be thinking about what your character REALLY wants and jot down your ideas on this handout.
Next you will document your evidence from the text. List the page numbers on the hand out where you found your evidence. Write down the things your character says, thinks, believes or does that supports your theory of what they want.
Dismiss students for independent reading with a copy of the handout.
Wait for the students to get settled and begin reading. Watch to see who might need help with determining what their character wants. Circulate through out the classroom- hold a table conference.
A table conference is a way to support four students at once. Say,"Excuse me students, I want to check in with all of you and see how you are doing on determining what your character really wants. Check each students' papers and see who has work completed that they can share with the table. Call on a student who is on the right track to read what they have written at the top of their paper. Then have them read their evidence from the two column chart. Compliment them on what they have written. Move in and quietly support students at the table by asking them, "What do you think your character really wants in this story?" If they are not sure- prompt them to read the blurb on the back of their book. While they are doing that, move to another student at the table and ask the same question. Go back to the first student, and ask, "Will you read the blurb on the back to me?" This is a good way to focus students on what the character wants. The blurb usually describes what the character wants. Listen to the student's fluency and decoding skills. If they can not read the blurb easily- the book is probably too hard for them. Explain that reading for meaning can only happen when you are in a good fit book. Suggest alternate titles if the book is too hard.
If a student is reading a lower level book, such as a HIJK or L, or a picture book- there might not be a blurb on the back. In that case- redirect the student to reread the first few pages of the book. Say, The beginning of a book is a really great place to discover what the main character wants. I want you to reread the beginning and let me know when you think you know what it is that the character wants. After they have a theory of what the character wants- ask them to show you the evidence from the text.
At the close of the workshop ask students to turn and talk with each other and share their work they completed today. Walk around and listen in. I usually look for examples of student work that will benefit others and ask that student if they will share their work with the whole class by placing it under the doc camera and reading what they have written.
This is a good way to reinforce the skill and acknowledge students hard work.