In the previous unit, students learned about Character Traits, which are the words we use to describe characters. In this unit, we take this concept a step further by looking at the author’s intentions behind these traits. The author’s careful craft of each character’s actions, emotions, and behaviors are all part of the Characterization process, which helps us come to conclusions about the types of characters they are and the Character Traits we would use to describe them. If Character Traits are the “what” of a character, than Characterization is the “how” and the “why” behind it. Students will be analyzing a character’s appearance, thoughts/feelings, dialogue, actions, and response of others to gain a deeper understanding of him/her and how they impact the story.
I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately one week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day one of Characterization Week – Introducing the Strategy.
Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first they are learning about Characterization this year, I start by reminding them that Character Traits are words we use to describe characters. I ask kids to (quietly) call out as many words from the Character Traits list that they can remember. I choose one of my favorites to focus on, like “intimidating.”
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on Characterization, which is when the author brings characters to life through appearance, thoughts, actions, dialogue, and interaction with others. I tell them that our minds should be identifying Characterization while we are reading because it will help us understand the story better.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I ask them to think about the word intimidating. When a character is intimidating, what makes them that way? I give them a few minutes of thinking time to think about it then I ask them to turn and talk to their partners to share. Then we discuss some characters that fit the description and why we consider them that way.
Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced Characterization, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is just to notice Characterization while reading one of the books in their browsing boxes. I explain that Characterization usually happens slowly, in a subtle way so they need to pay close attention to find examples. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they noticed. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.
Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get five minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for forty minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading.
Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to share examples of Characterization from the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups. Because this portion of Reader’s Workshop is meant to be flexible and student based, it is not beneficial to plan too far ahead of time. Instead, you should gauge which students may need extra support through the mini-lesson, prior assessments, reading levels, overall ability and need for scaffolding. For Characterization support, I will read with specific students, either with their own books or a teacher selected book, and facilitate a discussion about the characters’ actions and what that tells us about them.
At the end of forty minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to notice Characterization in their books. I ask them to repeat the term, Characterization. Then I tell them to meet with their reading partner to share examples. Did they identify examples of actions that would be considered Characterization? Why do they think the author made them that way? After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on Characterization for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.