Introduction: Characters and Events

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SWBAT identify the characters and events in a literary text.

Big Idea

In this first lesson in this unit, your students will take their first steps into identifying the characters and events. Later, we'll build on this foundation with more complex tasks.


Common Core Connection:

As a primary teacher I am very much aware that two of the most important story elements are the characters and events.  Without a character or events, there is no story.  Before I began this unit on cause and effect I wanted to introduce my students to who the main characters are through RL.1.3: describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.  Even from this standard one can see how the character and events are closely related. In later lessons, we'll see how events help move character development forward and we'll engage in rich analysis of characters and how they grow. For now, though, students will learn just to identify these important story elements.

Lesson Overview:

In this introductory unit on cause and effect I wanted to give my students experience identifying the characters and events in a story.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 1: All Together Now, Charles Tiger, by Siobhan Dodds
  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 1: All Together Now, The Big Hit, by Angela Shelf Medearis
  • If your district does not use HM try: A Bad Case of Stripes, by David Shannon
  • Characters and Events Activity Sheet (teacher created)


5 minutes

We began this lesson on the rug where I asked my students if they knew what difference between characters and events were in a story.  My students were able to tell me the characters were the people in the story; however they were not sure about what the events were.  I agreed that the characters were the people in a story, and added animals or even things the author has imagined could also be characters.  I defined the events to be what was happening to the characters in the story, and then proceeded to tell my students today we would learn more about how the characters and events in the story are related.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

As I introduced Charles Tiger I instructed my students to listen to the words and to look carefully at the pictures of who the characters are and what was happening to them. 

After I read the first page I stopped and asked my students, “Who is Charles Tiger?”  My students called out, “He’s a tiger”.  I then explained he is the main character the story is about.  I continued to read the next page and asked my students, “What is happening to Charles Tiger?”  Again my students called out, “He is going to look for his roar”.  I agreed with my students and pointed out that the action of Charles Tiger looking for his roar is the main event in this story.  From that point on, as I continued to read, I encouraged participation and engagement, by having my students read the phrase: “but no roar,” aloud every time I pointed to them. 

When I was finished reading I used the magic cup (Demonstration: Magic Cup) to select two students to identify:

  • a character
  • an event

These two students responded that Charles Tiger was the character, and that the event was he looked for his roar.  The rest of my students agreed with these answers by showing me a thumb up (Demonstration: Thumb Up, Thumb Down).

Feeling comfortable that my students were able to identify the character and events of a story in a whole group setting, we moved into the collaborative part of the lesson.

Collaborative Activity

15 minutes

At this point I had my students stand up and move to their desks, stalking like a tiger.  I have found that adding a movement (Demonstration: Adding Movement) to transitions is a good way to sneak in vocabulary.  In this case my students heard me read Charles Tiger and saw him stalking- although that term was not used- they all did a pretty good job imitating a tiger stalking.

Once at their desks I had them open their anthology books to The Big Hit.  Before beginning to read this literary story, I gave my students a moment to look at the title page and pictures.  When they were finished looking at the pictures I gave them a moment to share with their table partner what they thought this story would be about.  (Both of these activities help familiarize students to the story). 

Once my students were finished partner sharing what they thought The Big Hit would be about, I displayed the Characters and Event Activity Sheet on the Promethean board.  After modeling where to write the title of the story, I pointed out the left side was to list the characters from The Big Hit, and that the right side was for them to list the events of the story.  I continued to give them the instructions that they were to read this story to their seat partner.  While they took turns reading they were to look for and record all the characters and the different events on their Characters and Events Activity Sheet.  To check to make sure all my students understood the directions, I used the magic cup to select a student to re-state the directions to the class.  When this student was finished retelling the directs and the class indicated me they agreed by showing me a thumb up I then set the timer for 10 minutes and had them begin reading.  After I circled around the room to make sure all my students were reading or working on their activity sheets I pulled my beginner readers (Beginning Student Work Sample) to read with me.  As these students read with me, the rest of the class finished their reading and activity sheet.

When the timer went off it was a reminder that my students needed to be finished or almost finished reading and on their way to recording their answers.  I gave my students 5 more minutes to finish their activity sheets; I then pulled the group back together.  Drawing their attention to the Characters and Event Activity Sheet on the Promethean board, I used the magic cup to select students to share with the class to name a character and an event from The Big Hit.  As the selected students shared their answers I wrote them on the Promethean board. 

The provided student work samples, Basic Student Work Sample and Proficient Student Work Sample, demonstrate that my students had a strong understanding as to the difference between the characters and the events.  My above mentioned Beginning students also were able to identify the characters and events, however, were not about to fluently read the text.

When we finished this activity I had my students check their work to make sure they all had the same characters and events.  Then we transitioned into the independent practice part of the lesson.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

During this time my students work in their leveled reading groups and rotate every 15 to 20 minutes through different ELA activities.  I usually always include journal writing as one of these activities because I feel journal writing helps students remember, understand, and apply what they learned earlier in the lesson.

The prompt I put on the Promethean board: Explain what are characters and events in a story.

 I checked each journal for understanding and completeness when each reading group rotated to my differentiated guided reading group.  As seen in Beginning Journal Sample and Proficient Student Journal Sample the videos, I use journal writing to check student understanding and to guide my differentiated teaching.  Both student samples demonstrate an understanding, however, the Beginning student will need more scaffolding and sentence frames to write their thoughts in complete sentences. 

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

For a sticker my students had to tell me if a story could have more than one character or event.