Teaching character types is so much fun. Your students will love discussing the good, the bad, and the ugly about each character in a story!
Ms. Sneed Prepares for Teaching Character Types
Our favorite fourth grade teacher, Ms. Sneed, studied the Common Core State Standards on her computer. It was time to address RL.4.3: “Describe a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character’s thoughts, words, or actions).”
“The kids have to construct responses again,” she said to herself. Frowning, she thought about how boring this could be. Time to take a spin on Teachers pay Teachers again.
As she searched, she noticed a unit that taught kids to describe characters, setting, and events. And hey! It included differentiated reading passages from one of her favorite authors, Rudyard Kipling. When she downloaded it, she noticed that everything was organized in one handy website. That made planning easy.
Direct Instruction for Teaching Character Types
The following week, Ms. Sneed was ready to rock and roll. “Okay, everybody, today we’re going to read one of Kipling’s Just So Stories, “How the Camel Got His Hump.”
Everyone perked up. This sounded like a pretty good story. “This genre is also referred to as a pourquoi tale,” she said as the distributed the passage. Although different students received different versions, no one seemed to notice. “In French, pourquoi means why. So this story tells why camels have humps.”
After everyone finished reading the story, Ms. Sneed projected a slideshow on the whiteboard. As she talked through the slides, she heard someone whisper, “Hey, this is pretty much like the way we learned to answer questions.”
“Yep,” Ms. Sneed said. “The process for constructing responses stays the same. When we describe a character, though, we zero in on what he says and does. Those provide clues to his personality.”
Guided Practice for Teaching Character Types
The next day, Ms. Sneed handed out papers with four furry heads on it. “Okay, everybody, today I’ll read a new story. As I read, pay special attention to the hedgehog. Write what he says or does on the hedgehog mouths. Then we’ll use the information to figure out a character trait.”
As Ms. Sneed read “The Beginning of the Armadillo” aloud, kids took notes. Then they discussed the hedgehogs words and actions. “So,” asked Ms. Sneed, “what character trait do these things support?”
“I think he was clever,” said a boy in the back. The other kids nodded in agreement.
“Okay, I’ll do the writing today.” Everyone cheered.
“We’ll use this sheet and check off the steps as we go. First, I’ll write a topic sentence. We’ll just say, ‘The hedgehog was clever.’ Then we’ll cite the text with a paragraph number and support the topic sentence with evidence from the text.”
As Ms. Sneed wrote the response, various kids chimed in. Yes, modeling followed by guided practice was doing the trick.
The following day, Ms. Sneed presented her class with a longer story, “The Elephant’s Child.”
“You’re going to love this one,” she said. Today, you will describe the elephant using a sheet with the steps listed.”
Everyone got busy. They already knew what to do.
In the following days, the class described the setting and events in the story. Finally, they were ready to work without guidance. As Ms. Sneed passed out the crocodile’s face, kids smiled.
No more boring worksheets. “Today, you will describe the character with this themed paper,” said their teacher.
No problem. The step-by-step process to scaffolded learning had given these kids the support they needed. The corners of Ms. Sneed’s lips curved up in her famous smile.
Over the course of her career, Ms. Sneed realized that there were 6 steps to enjoy teaching. In order to survive, she had to organize, plan, and simplify. Then, to thrive, Ms. Sneed needed to learn, engage, and finally – dive in! Follow the Fabulous Teaching Adventures of Ms. Sneed and learn how you can enjoy teaching too.