Questions Help Us See How Characters Develop

14 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT use questions to describe how the author developed the characters in a story to respond to challenges.

Big Idea

Ask some questions to see how the author develops the character.



I chose this story because the kids love it and I consider it to be a 'classic' for 2nd graders. Many of them have read the story, but its still fun to re-read. The characters clearly change, and the author's purpose in developing them is very straightforward. My goal is to really focus on how questions help the reader determine what motivates the character and how the character changes.

This is a lesson in the middle of a unit about questioning. In this lesson, the students ask and answer questions to demonstrate understanding of key details in a text (RL.2.1), supporting the shift in Common Core Standards toward using text evidence to improve comprehension.  We are also examining how characters change and develop in relation to challenges that they face (RL.2.3). Voice and reading with accuracy and fluency can also be addressed - some of the pages are wordless - kids have to infer and add expression and wording.  That's a great opportunity for inference, discussions about character motivation, and perspective taking. (RF.2.4a)

Today, we are using literature to ask and answer the three kinds of questions - literal, evaluative, and inferential. My students are fairly comfortable with the three types of questions from our earlier lessons, and they understand how to find the answers to each type. We have created charts with words starters for the questions (see links above).

If you have not taught lessons about question writing, I encourage you to look at some of the earlier lessons so your students get some practice with writing and answering questions. These lessons include The Whys and Whens of Questioning about Literature,  Big Questions About Informational Text, So What Do You Think, Using Evaluative Questions with LiteratureEvaluative Questions-Pick Your Side and Argue, and What Are You Asking About Informational Text?.

Let's 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)

Get students engaged

  • Pull out the dragon template, the crown template and the paper bag.
  • "Has anyone read a story that has a dragon, king, and another character with a paper bag?"  Inevitably some of my students start to retell the story a bit and they all get excited.
  • "Today we're going to talk about these characters and make a puppet to show how one of them changed!"

Common starting point

  • "We've talked a lot of questioning in literature."
  • "Asking questions helps us to understand the story better."
  • "What are the different kinds of questions?" Take ideas - evaluative, inferential, and literal
  • Take a look at the questioning words charts that we created." Show the two 'starter' charts.

Teacher's Turn

15 minutes

 Give the purpose of the lesson

  • "Today we're going to 'climb' into the author's head and see what she or he is thinking by asking some questions about the characters' and their motivations."
  • "We can ask questions about the characters to help us infer author's purpose."
  • "Since we're inferring and sharing our opinions at how the character changes, we need to write inferential and evaluative questions."


Introduce the strategy 

  • "Look at the story structure of literature."  Refer to the 'hand' story set up on the whiteboard. "The character is introduced in the beginning of the story with the setting. What happens after that?"  Prompt with the problem challenges the character.
  • "As events unfold, the characters change and develop. The author plans for that to happen. He uses illustrations to see how the character is described and words to add meaning to character development.


Practice strategy - modeling & guided practice

  • "Let's look at the illustrations of the dragon and think of how he is changing."
  • "The illustrations and words help me write 3 good questions. I'll put them under the cut-out to help describe the character, describe any feelings and what words are used to show how it is changing."  
  • "Let's use the question words chart."  This is how I modeled the strategy.
  • Look at first and last page and write 3 questions.  Here are the guided practice questions that we wrote.
  • "Here are 2 pictures of the prince. Does it look like he changed during the story?"  Here's our discussion of how characters change.

Students Take a Turn

20 minutes

Assign Task

  • "Now I'm going to pass out a paper bag for the main character. As I read the story, think about this character's motivation. How did this character change over the course of the story and why? You'll write 3 questions on the back of your lunchbag."
  • "Use the questions words chart to help you write each kind of question.  When we answer these later, it will help us figure out what the princess what trying to do - her motivation.
  • Read the story.
  • I worked with the kids to write good questions. Here are some the whiteboard completed when we finished thinking about questions.

Students work-formative assessment

  • Check on student progress. Have them reread questions as you walk around. This is a video of a student asking questions.
  • As students write questions, prompt them to use evaluative and inferential.  Remind them to read the questions to make sure they are clear. 
  • These are some samples of my student's questions.


Add to the project

  • "Now you can decorate your bag to make it into a paper bag princess."
  • Offer the kids construction paper and encourage them to use markers.
  • Here are some of my student's projects.

Share What You've Learned

15 minutes

Share what you know

  • "Now let's go back through and answer some of the questions that we asked."
  • Have the kids volunteer questions that they wrote. Mine really loved this and they had a great understanding of the story. Here are 2 videos - one of a student answering the questions and another of a student answering evaluative questions.
  • "Can anyone share how the questioning helped you?  When you ask questions, do you understand the story better?"
  • "Which kind of questions were easier or harder to write?"


Scaffolding and Special Education: This lesson could be easily scaffolded up or down, depending on student ability.

For students with academic challenges, you may need to partner them with another student or prompt them with questions to write. They should do fine with the illustrations - 'how did the character change?', but need help formulating questions.

For students with more language, really encourage them to go deeper with the inferential questions. Instead of 'How did her clothes change?', encourage them to ask, 'How did her personality change?' or 'Why did she challenge the dragon to do some much?'.