Noting the Character, Setting, and Events

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SWBAT describe the characters, setting, and major events in a story.

Big Idea

Help your students see beyond the abstract by asking specific questions.


Common Core Connection:

When I was first introduced to the common core standards I was more than a little confused about how they were laid out and what they meant to student learning, let alone teaching.  Taking a deep breath I tentatively started reading the grade level standards.  Then I closed my eyes and held my breath as I peeked at the anchor standards.  I admit I am not an expert on common core standards (who really is at this point?); however, as I learn more, I realize that they are everything but constraining.  By looking at how reading standard 3 in first grade relates to the anchor standard (CCRA.R.3 Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.), I can be more creative with my teaching and students can be more involved with their learning. 

Lesson Overview:

In this lesson my students read from our anthology, The Sleeping Pig, by Carmen Tafolla. They then worked independently to complete an activity sheet and used that information to write in their journals.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 6 : Animal Adventures, The Sleeping Pig, by Carmen Tafolla
  • Important Parts of the Story Activity Sheet (teacher created)


5 minutes

Today we started our lesson on the rug where I recounted that my students had spent the last two days looking at the character or personality traits of Morse the Moose as well as the problem and the solution.  I then gave them a moment to think about the characteristics that gave Morse his personality, and what was the problem and solution in the story.  As they chorused back basic answers, such as, ‘the problem was Morse said the cow was a moose’, I stopped them and asked why this was a problem?  I gave my little ones a moment to think about this question and used the magic cup to call on a student to give his answer.  The answer I was looking for and got was: It was a problem for the cow because she did not like being called a moose. I agreed.

From there I explained that today we were going to read another story and they would have the opportunity to describe the characters, setting, and major events in their journals.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

I then had my students move to their desks with their antlers on like Morse the Moose.  Once at their desks I introduced The Sleeping Pig, by Carmen Tafolla.  Before starting to read I gave them a moment to look at the title page and pictures in the story.  When they finished looking at the pictures I gave them a moment to share with their table partner what they thought the story will be about.  (Both of these activities help familiarize students to the story). 

Before we started to read I told my students we would read the story all the way through before we talked about the characters, setting, or events. 

Because this was our first reading of this story, before we began reading, I  also had my students read the story vocabulary words and practice sentences at the beginning of the story. Both of these activities help my students recognize new words in print.  From there I used the magic cup to select students to read. (see video Demonstration: Magic Cup)  On a first reading, such as this, I like to hear as many students as possible read that is why I usually have each reader read only one page.  This helps me determine if I need to spend more time on story vocabulary or what extra reading skills to practice when we go into our differentiated reading groups. 

After my students finished reading I gave them a moment to think about the characters, the setting, and the major events in the story.  As they were thinking I reminded them think about the personality traits of the characters.  When they finished, I called on students raising their hands to share one or two observed character/personality traits of the characters, the place and time of the setting (and how did they know), as well as what was the problem in this story and how did it get resolved.  By asking students "how do you know", or to "describe the traits", helps them to form concrete answers instead of superficial, or one word answers.

I purposely did not write their answers on the Promethean board.  It did not take long before one  of my students noticed I was not writing their answers on the board.  "Good observation," I stated, "where can you find the answers?"  Without hesitation all my students called back, "From the story."

Independent Practice

15 minutes

From there I gave them the directions to their independent practice, which has two parts.  First noting that all the animals were listed in the story they were to use the story to complete the Important Parts of the Story activity sheet. They were to choose one character; and look closely at the character's picture in the story. Then use the picture to describe how the character feels.  The accompanying picture shows two students Working Together on this activity, while the little boy is Finishing the Activity Sheet on his own.  I gave them 10 minutes to complete this activity.  As they got started I pulled a little group of less independent students and showed them how to use the story to find the spelling of the animal characters they wanted to add to their activity sheet.

At the end of 10 minutes I stopped class so we could go into our differentiated reading group rotation; where one rotation center was dedicated to using the completed activity sheet to write in their journals to describe the character, setting, and events they noted on their activity sheet.  Student reading and writing ability levels can be seen in the two featured videos.  In  Journal Check: Yellow Reading Group is not as confident with his reading and writing as the student in Journal Check: Red Reading Group.  To help build confidence I have my students in leveled differentiated reading groups and work with them at their reading level on fluency and comprehension.

I put this prompt on the Promethean for my less independent students:

The story takes place ___.  One character ___.  In the story he ___.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

Later in the day my students could earn a sticker when: they quietly got in a group of three and each child in the group either told me one of the characters, the setting, or one event in the story.