Lesson plan

Character Detectives

Your students will learn all about what makes a fictional character special when they become character detectives! Use this lesson to introduce the concept of using key details from a text to gather information.
Grade Subject View aligned standards

In this fiction comprehension lesson plan geared toward first graders, young readers will become character detectives as they learn how to use illustrations and key details to describe fictional characters. Children will explore the terms “character,” “traits,” and “fiction” through the story The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas. Then, young fiction sleuths will bolster their reading and writing skills as they peruse a storybook of their choice, using what they have learned to complete their own character analysis.

Students will be able to describe fictional characters using key details and illustrations from books.

(5 minutes)
  • Invite your students to join you on rug or in usual read-aloud location in your classroom.
  • Hold up the copy of The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas (or a similar picture book) and ask the class who the story is about. Answers might include: "The three wolves," "The pig," "The other animals," and "The mother wolf."
  • Explain that the book is about a group of characters. Define a character as a person or animal in a story or play. Sometimes a character might be an inanimate object that's alive, such as Chip the cup in Beauty and the Beast.
  • Tell the class that today they will become character detectives by reading texts carefully to learn about the characters in different stories.
(10 minutes)
  • Display The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig to your class again.
  • Ask your students to tell you the differences between each of the characters. Answers will vary and might include: "The pig is mean," "The wolves are friendly," "The other animals help out," etc.
  • Tell your class that they can describe character by using words to tell how a character behaves, called traits. Explain that a trait is what makes a character unique or special. For example, traits of the three little wolves might include that kindness, bravery, and persistence.
  • Write "Character Traits" on your chart paper or whiteboard and ask your students to think of some other words they could use to describe how a character acts or behaves. Examples might include: "Mean," "Funny," "Friendly," "Cheerful," "Curious," "Shy," "Sad," "lazy," "Lonely," "sneaky," etc.
  • Teach your students to pay attention to the way a character in a text behaves to determine which traits they have.
  • Tell your class that today, you'll be reading a story together and paying attention to what the characters do and say throughout the story to identify specific traits and things about them.
(15 minutes)
  • Show your class The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig again, and ask them to identify who the characters are based on the title and cover.
  • Project the worksheet "Become a Character Detective" with your document projector.
  • Write the name of one main character volunteered by a student on the worksheet, such as the pig.
  • Do a brief picture walk, pausing on each page to think aloud about what you see each character doing. For example, pause on page 4 when you see the Pig stomping away, and say that the Pig looks angry or mad, and is being mean to the wolves.
  • Repeat this process throughout the book.
  • Read the story aloud to your class, pausing every few pages to ask your students what they know about the characters. Focus on the main characters during this exercise.
  • Ask the class for words they'd use to describe each character, based on their actions or expressions in the story. Write these down on the whiteboard.
  • Read the prompts on the worksheet aloud, and request that students help you fill them in for one of the main characters. Be sure that your students back up their answers with evidence from the text, such as specific words or images.
(20 minutes)
  • Instruct your students to each choose a fictional story to use for their independent character detective analysis. Explain that fiction stories are stories that aren't real, such as fairy tales.
  • Provide the class with a variety of age-appropriate fiction stories to choose from. Place these stories on a table or desk so they can peruse them.
  • Pass a copy of "Become a Character Detective" to each student.
  • Go over the directions on the "Become a Character Detective" worksheet and answer any student questions.
  • Send students to read through their book and complete the worksheet independently.
  • Circulate around the room and provide support as needed.


  • Allow students who need additional support to draw a detailed picture of their character on the drawing portion of the worksheet. Encourage students to dictate their thinking to you for the writing portion.
  • Provide students who need support with character traits written on index cards.


  • Provide more advanced students with a longer and/or unfamiliar story to use during the independent work time.
  • Encourage students who complete their work quickly and carefully to complete a character detective profile for additional characters in the story they read.
(5 minutes)
  • Collect student worksheets and assess whether they were able to accurately describe a fictional character using the sentence frames provided.
(5 minutes)
  • Gather your students together for closing and review.
  • Have your students pair-share with their partner the title of the book they read and one thing they learned about a character in the book.
  • Ask 1-2 students to share out to the whole class. Tell everyone that when they pay close attention to the characters in a story through a picture walk, illustrations, and character actions and dialogue, they can learn more about who a character is and the traits they might have. Paying attention to details in a story can also help when they are writing their own stories and creating their own characters.

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