How to Analyze a Character
Students will be able to use evidence to describe the traits of fictional characters.
- Hold up a familiar picture book (that you have read previously) such as Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, and ask your students how they would describe the main character, Miss Rumphius. Answers might include: "She is an old woman," "She loves flowers," "She traveled."
- Explain that when you describe a character in a story you can use a special word called trait. Say, "One way we can describe a character is by using words to tell how a character behaves or looks, called a trait. A trait is what makes the character unique or special. For example, we might say that Miss Rumphius loves beautiful things, like lupines. We might also describe her as a woman who is older and has long hair."
- Say, “Today we are going to be look at different characters to find their outside character traits (or what we can see about them) and their inside traits (or things you learn by hearing what they say or seeing what they do). When we are searching, we will be looking for evidence. Can anyone tell me what evidence is?”
- Allow several students to share ideas. Reframe student comments as needed to share the definition that evidence means examples to prove something is true. For example, evidence that Miss Rumphius loved lupines could come from page 18 where it says, “'Lupines,' said Miss Rumphius with satisfaction. 'I have always loved lupines the best.'” You might find your evidence in the illustrations or the words of a book.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher Modeling(15 minutes)
- Draw two columns on your whiteboard or chart paper titled, “Inside Traits” and “Outside Traits” and hold up a familiar picture book such as Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney.
- Tell your students that you are going to read the book aloud and you want them to listen and look for the inside traits and outside traits of Miss Rumphius.
- Read the story aloud, pausing every few pages to ask your students if they have anything to add to the chart.
- When you finish reading, ask students what they notice about your list. Comments might include that outside traits include things about how a person looks, and the inside traits focus more on how someone acts or thinks.
- Explain that one of the ways you can learn about a character in a story is to pay attention to the way that he or she acts and think about which traits they have.
- Say, “Now that we are thinking about the inside and outside traits of characters, we’re going to practice finding evidence of those traits. Sometimes characters change or grow throughout a story, so as we read we can pay attention to how someone might change from the beginning to the end of a story. When we pay attention to a character and describe who they are using their traits, we call this analyzing a character."
Guided Practice/Interactive Modeling(15 minutes)
- Project the Character Analysis worksheet on the whiteboard, or write the same prompts on a large piece of chart paper.
- Write the name of one character (such as Miss Rumphius) on the worksheet.
- Using the list from the previous section, ask the students to identify two traits they would use to describe Miss Rumphius. Write these on the corresponding section of the worksheet.
- Ask students to think about their evidence: How do they know that Miss Rumphius has these traits? Have students turn and talk with a partner to share their thinking.
- Have a few pairs share out their thinking and record it on the board. Encourage students to use specific parts of the book, pages, or illustrations for their evidence.
- Explain that now students will practice identifying the traits of characters on their own.
Independent Working Time(20 minutes)
- Explain to your students that they will now get to choose a fictional story and choose a character to analyze.
- Provide the students with a variety of age-appropriate fiction stories to choose from and/or choose several stories and place on each table or desk.
- Go over the directions on the worksheet used in the previous section, Character Analysis, 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.
- Work with a small group of students who need additional support and read aloud a short fictional story. Complete the character analysis together by asking questions and allowing the students to determine the character traits in a supported setting.
- For more advanced students, you can provide them with a longer and/or unfamiliar story to use during the independent work time.
- For students who complete their work quickly and carefully, they can be encouraged to complete a character analysis for additional characters in the story they read.
- Informally assess student understanding by walking around the room during the independent work time and asking students open ended questions about the character they chose to focus on.
- Collect student worksheets and assess whether students were able to accurately describe a fictional character’s traits and provide evidence for each trait.
Review and Closing(5 minutes)
- Ask 1-2 students to share out to the whole class one trait their character had and the evidence they found to support that trait.
- Tell students that when we pay close attention to how a character looks, acts, and speaks in a story, we can learn more about who a character is as a person. As we become better at identifying the inside and outside traits of characters in our stories, we’ll become better at creating our own characters when we write fiction.