Using the Pictures to Describe the Character

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SWBAT describe how a main character’s emotions change over the course of events in a story

Big Idea

Ever have one of those days when nothing seems to be going right, and then a stranger smiles at you, and everything changes...


Common Core Connection

At the very beginning of being introduced to common core standards, I kept hearing one comment, almost a complaint, that common core was going to do away with literary stories and all things related to enjoying reading for the sake of reading.  This included getting rid of picture books in the primary grades.  After becoming more familiar with the common core standards, I understand that this is not the case!  RL.1.7 (use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events) actually ‘gives permission’ to use and teach from pictures and picture books.  In the primary grades illustrations are important sources of key ideas and details for beginning readers to analyze.  In this lesson students use the details in the illustrations to study and describe how the character's emotions changed over the event of the story.  (RL.1.3: describe characters, settings, and major events in a story using key details)

Lesson Overview:

In today’s lesson my students will partner read The Sleeping Pig by Carmen Tafolla. Afterwards they will have the opportunity to closely examine the pictures of the character, Celina, and describe the way she looks over the course of the story and explain why her expressions change.


  • Houghton Mifflin Reading Theme 6: Animal Adventures, The Sleeping Pig, by Carmen Tafolla

          (If you don't use HM, try Thundercake, by Patricia Polacco; Always My Dad, by                                     Sharon Dennis Wyeth)

  • Student journals


5 minutes

I began this morning’s lesson by having my students recall the characters, setting, and plot in The Sleeping Pig.  When they finished sharing out I told them today, after they read, they would look closely at the pictures and examine how the events in the story changes the emotion of the character, Celina.

Guided Practice

15 minutes

I then had my little ones stand up and stretch before moving to their chairs.  When my students move to their chairs I try to associate a movement that goes with the story or theme we are reading about.  My students were intrigued by the new word ‘sulk’ that was introduced in yesterday’s lesson.  The accompanying video, Sulk, shows my students sulking to their desks.

Once seated and they had their books out, I reminded them of the ‘rules’ for partner reading: listen to and help your partner if he/she needs it, be on the same page, sit close so you can hear each other, do not read to loud.  From there we read the title together and then Partner One began reading.  I always have the person who sits on the same side of the table as the Helper of the Day be Partner One, each partner takes turns reading one page at a time.  (SL.1.1a: follow agreed-upon rules for discussions, e.g. listening to others with care, speaking one at a time about the topics and texts under discussion)  As my students read I circled around the room to make sure each reading pair was on the same page and taking turns reading.  When my students were finished reading I used the magic cup to select two student reading pairs to recount how they read to each other.  I usually do this after they finish partner reading because I cannot listen to each group, and this way they know I will be randomly check to see if they were reading or not. (If they are not reading either one partner or a student sitting next to them will tell me) 

After monitoring their reading I directed their attention to the pictures in the story, explaining that I wanted them to look closely at the pictures of Celina.  I then gave them a moment to quietly examine the pictures.  I explained that I did not want them to talk or share because I wanted them to observe and think about what Celina might be thinking or feeling in the pictures.

When they were finished looking at the pictures I directed them to share with their table partners what they noticed. (The girls in the video Partner Reading clearly state they are working together on this assignment)  I then had all my students whisper to me what they noticed about Celina.

I use whispering to me to give all students an opportunity to verbally express their answers without the pressure of talking in the class; it also encourages student engagement and participation.  Once they finished whispering to me, I used the magic cup to select two students to share with the class what they noticed about Celina as the story progressed. At this point a few other children shared their observations.  I accepted all their observations and after commenting that they noticed quite a bit about Celina we move to the independent part of the lesson.

Independent Practice

15 minutes

For their independent practice I directed my students to look at Celina on page 135 of the text and compare how she looked on page 144 of the text.  To do this they were to write in their journals and describe how Celina was feeling and why.  The two video selections are examples of two students who did not use the prompt and how they knew Celina was mad. Journal Check: Blue Reading Group 1 and Journal Check: Blue Reading Group 2

To help my more dependent students get started I displayed this prompt on the Promethean board:

On page 135 Celina ____  because ____.  On page 144 she ____ because _____.

Ticket Out the Door

5 minutes

Prior to my checking their journals for completeness, my students earned a sticker after they shared their opinion of why the little cricket was able to wake up the pig when the other animals were not able to.