Character Thoughts, Words, Actions Analysis (TWA) with Elementary Students using Newsela

Engage students in character analysis through a focus on characters' thoughts, words, and actions
61 teachers like this strategy
Character TWAs Annotation Overview

About This Strategy

Students are more engaged in learning about people (both historical and fictional) when they're able to personalize their learning by making inferences about characters based on their thoughts, words, and actions. This type of character analysis engages students in texts, leads them to ask questions of texts, and helps them form connections between people they may never meet and their own lives. In this strategy, students read texts and complete a graphic organizer in order to analyze the character or historical figure's thoughts, words, or actions.

Before Reading Implementation Steps

Teacher Preparation and Planning:

  1. Select a Newsela text or Text Set that aligns to the current unit of study and would be suitable for a TWA analysis.

Student Preparation:

  1. Prepare students to analyze current and historical characters by having students complete a Thoughts, Words, and Actions analysis of someone they know well.

    • Teachers should remind students that THOUGHTS are something a character thinks to themselves, WORDS are things a character says, and ACTIONS are things a character does.

    • Teachers of lower elementary students (grades K-2) might choose to complete this modeling activity as a whole class or let students collectively analyze the teacher.

    • Teachers of upper elementary students (grades 3-5) might choose to have students complete a self-analysis or analyze a trusted adult (teacher, parent, grandparent, etc.)

  2. Select a character (self-analysis or trusted adult for upper elementary; teacher for lower elementary) and complete the Character TWAs chart (see chart in the resource section below).

  3. After completing the chart, lead students in a class discussion. Consider asking students the following questions:

    • What can you learn about someone based on what they say?

    • How can you guess what a person might think about?

    • How do a person's actions tell you about their personality or values?

    • Do a person's inner thoughts always match what people see on the outside?

During Reading Implementation Steps

  1. Assign the Newsela article or Text Set at the Newsela Recommended reading level for each student. Teachers should annotate names of characters/historical figures on the articles, and share those annotations with students.

    • Teachers can either allow students to select one of the people to use for TWA analysis, or teachers can assign the individuals.

  2. As they read, students should take notes of TWA information.

    • Lower elementary teachers might consider having students continue to use the TWA chart (example in the resource section below).

    • Upper elementary teachers might consider having students use Newsela annotations to record TWA information (example in the resource section below).

      • Newsela PRO users should edit the assignment instructions to tell students to highlight characters' words in red, actions in yellow, and insights into a character's thoughts in green.

After Reading Implementation Steps

  1. After completing the reading and recording their annotations or completing the chart, students should be paired off. In partner pairs, students should share what they learned about their selected person or character.

  2. Students should discuss the inferences that can be made about people or characters based on what they've read and recorded. After their discussion, students should revise their charts or annotations to reflect new thinking.

  3. Students should create a graphic representation of their character, similar to the Body Map Strategy in the BetterLesson Lab. Some students benefit from a template, and can use the one in the resources section.

  4. Character charts should be placed around the room for a Gallery Walk.

  5. After the Gallery Walk, students should complete an analysis response, like the ones in the resource section below, in order to synthesize their understanding of the character or person they studied.

Recommended Newsela Texts or Text Sets

Girl Power

  • Grade Level: 3-5
  • Content Area: English Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, Technology & Engineering

Super Heroes!

  • Grade Level: K-5
  • Content Area: English Language Arts

Meet a Musician

  • Grade Level: K-5
  • Content Area: English Language Arts, Social Studies

Culturally Responsive Teaching and Learning Considerations

Teachers can encourage culturally responsive teaching and learning by providing opportunities for students to engage with cultures and customs beyond their own. Within the Character TWAs strategy, teachers can achieve culturally responsive teaching and learning by exposing students to diverse figures and cultures.


  1. Teachers might consider using Newsela's "A Mile In Our Shoes" Text Sets for the TWA assignment.

  2. As an independent choice option, teachers can have students select an article about a person from a different culture.

  3. Teachers can have students complete a Venn Diagram, comparing their own culture to one represented in the article.