Writing: Create a Character
This reading and writing lesson plan is designed to teach first grade learners all about one of the essential building blocks of good writing: how to create a character. After brainstorming the main characters from favorite books, children will further explore the concept of a main character and the character traits that define them through the book Duck for President by Doreen Cronin. Then they will be ready to plan and create their own fictional main character using a helpful graphic organizer. With their main character mapped out, young writers will be one step closer to penning their first novel!
Students will be able to use writing to describe a fictional character using key details.
- Invite your students to join you on rug or in usual read-aloud location in your classroom.
- Hold up a copy of Duck for President by Doreen Cronin (or a similar picture book) and ask the class who the story is about. Answers might include: "Duck," "Farmer Brown," "the pigs," "the cows," and "the other animals."
- Point to the cover of the book and ask about what makes Duck a good character. Answers might include: "Duck is funny," "He tries to make changes," or "He organizes the other animals on the farm."
- Explain that today your class will be planning a story, starting with the main characters. and you are going to focus on planning your story by starting with your main character.
- Define a main character is the person or animal that our story is about. For example, in the book Duck for President Duck is the main character.
- Instruct your students to share the titles of their favorite picture books. As each student shares, write the main character from their favorite story up your chart paper or whiteboard.
- Encourage everyone to think about what makes these characters interesting. What features does each character have? What are their likes and dislikes? What is their family like? What sort of adventures do they have?
- Write these answers next to the name of each character on your chart paper or whiteboard.
- Tell the class that today they will create their own main character and get to think about what will make their main character interesting or special.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(10 minutes)
- Display Duck for President to your class again.
- Ask your students to describe the differences between each of the characters in the story, based on the cover. Answers will vary and might include: "The Duck works hard," "The animals on the farm all have different jobs," and "Farmer Brown is in charge and tells the animals what to do."
- Tell your class that they can describe characters by using words to tell how they behave, called traits. A trait helps make the character unique or special. For example, Duck’s traits might include that he is confident and creative.
- Read Duck for President aloud to your class. Pause periodically as you read, note details about Duck from the story using a think-aloud format. For example, point out that Duck seems tired of working hard on page 7, and he is creative for coming up with the idea of elections on the farm.
- Once you're finished, tell your class that today they'll be using what they've learned about character details by creating their own main characters.
Guided Practice(10 minutes)
- Project the "Write Your Main Character" worksheet using the document projector.
- Announce that you and your students are going to work together to create a main character for a new story.
- Instruct your students to turn and talk to a partner about what they think the character should be like.
- Choose volunteers to suggest answers for the "Fast Facts" section of the worksheet, including a name, gender, age, and family members.
- Continue to fill out the rest of the planning sheet collaboratively with the class.
- Focus on using describing words and being as detailed as possible when filling in each section of the planning sheet.
Independent working time(15 minutes)
- Review the directions on the worksheet used in the previous section and answer any questions your students may have about it.
- Hand out a copy of "Write Your Main Character" to each student.
- Instruct everyone to complete the worksheet independently, coming up with their own ideas for a main character. Explain that their character must be a work of fiction, or made up from their imaginations and not real.
- Circulate around the room and provide support as needed.
- Instruct students who need additional support to draw a detailed picture of their character, focusing on the drawing portion of the worksheet. Encourage them to dictate their thinking to you for the writing portion. Alternatively, provide them with key words written on an index card to help get them started.
- Strategically pair students with peers who can help walk them through the assignment.
- Encourage advanced students to write additional information about their main character using lined paper. Give them questions to think about as they develop these new details, such as: What was this character's childhood like?
- Students who complete their main character planning worksheet early can create a character profile for a supporting character in their story when they're finished.
- Collect the worksheets and assess whether students were able to accurately describe a fictional character using each category provided.
Review and closing(5 minutes)
- Gather your class together for closing and review.
- Have your students pair-share the name of their main character and one detail with a partner.
- Ask 1-2 volunteers to share their work with the whole class.
- Tell your class that when they take the time to plan out their main characters, their stories become interesting and exciting for people to read.