In this lesson, students develop a character before they begin writing. Then, they will add details about the character as they write their story. We are studying character traits in reading. I timed it that way so that students would be able to see the direct connection between reading and writing. I used an example text to show students how authors help readers ‘see’ characters through their writing. The chapter book we are reading as a class, Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, was the perfect example. Sarah’s physical and character traits are revealed throughout the book. I’d created a character development graphic organizer (GO) for students to use to develop their character. I used it to show how the author revealed Sarah’s attributes.
I displayed the GO and the book on the document camera as I modeled. I read a part from the story where the narrator discusses Sarah and mentions that she is tall and fair. I wrote that description on the GO. I asked students who are studying Sarah in reading to supply a character trait. I wrote it on the GO. I asked them to tell us how it is displayed through what Sarah says, thinks, feels, and does. I showed those parts of the story to the class. I explained the four check boxes in the second column of the GO. They would use the checklist as a reminder to reveal their character’s traits by what they say, think, feel, and do. I guided students in identifying two more character traits for Sarah and where they were revealed in the story. Afterwards, I lead the class in a discussion about Sarah’s character from the GO and how the author reveals how she looks and the type of person she is through dialogue, thoughts, actions, and feelings.
Students had planned their stories the day before. I displayed my own planning GO on the document camera and pointed out the characters. I modeled completing the character development GO for my main character through a Think Aloud. Afterwards, they began their own planning session.
Students had completed their planning story maps the day before. The character development graphic organizer was on the other side. They reviewed the story map and began developing the main character. They also had a list of character traits to choose from, which they keep in their writing folder. They’d elected to write a story with a partner or on their own. I did pair one student, who has trouble with writing, with another student. This gave her a strong model as she worked throughout the story.
I circulated and conferred with students as they worked. I did this to assist student who needed help as they developed their characters and to ensure continuity and cohesiveness between their planning and characters. For example, one trio decided to write a story with three turtles as the main characters. However, their physical descriptions did not match the characters. They described them with long black hair and brown eyes. They had also drawn pictures of three girls. I had them turn to their story maps on the other side of the sheet and read the characters. I asked if it matched the physical description and pictures. They gasped, said no, and began erasing and rewriting. They had written green shell and green, and drawn three turtles the next time I visited their group.
I assessed students informally as they worked. I was looking for a physical description that matched the characters on their story map and three character traits.
To close the lesson, I invited a few students to share their characters with the class. They placed their character development graphic organizer on the document camera and described their character based on what they had written. This allowed all students to hear how others developed characters and get new ideas.