"How has the character changed from the beginning of the passage to the end?" Compare the feelings of the character at the beginning of the passage and at the middle, how are they alike or different?" These are the types of questions teachers should be asking when teaching the comprehension skill of character analysis. Most state standards require that students be able to identify the changes in a character, and the reasons behind those changes. It is this change, or set of changes, that can hold the key to unlocking the meaning, or defining the purpose, of a story.
It is important to begin this type of lesson by allowing students to identify specific traits of a character. This means teaching them to look for words or phrases that pinpoint how a character may feel by looking for specific events that may affect the character, or by identifying the effects of a secondary character's actions. Having students create vocabulary logs is a good way to train them to identify character traits. Words like sad, happy, angry, excited, and so on are ideal to begin a vocabulary log. Words that describe emotions are fairly simple for students to identify. However, words that describe how a character thinks, or acts are harder for students to spot. Teachers will need to model this strategy through reading aloud to their students.
Teachers can initially teach character analysis by using a graphic organizer in the shape of a person. Each part of the person should have space for the students to write in the traits or characteristics of the character they are studying. Good stories to start with are fairy tales such as "Goldilocks and the Three Bears". Fairy tales are rich sources for comprehension study. Students have heard the stories over and over, and have already made decisions about the character. The graphic organizer can help them to identify and organize their ideas.
A next step would be to model the move from being able to identify the traits of a character to picking out how a character changes from one event to the next. Teachers can model this jump by again using graphic organizers, such as a T-chart or Venn diagram to compare the character at certain points in the story. As students begin to understand the concept of analyzing a character, teachers can begin to ask higher-level questions without the use of the graphic organizers. Using the following character analysis lesson plans can help to implement these tips on teaching character analysis in your classroom.
Character Analysis Lesson Plans:
Understand Character with Geronimo Stilton: This lesson is designed for students in second through fourth grades. It features the writing of Geronimo Stilton and uses his character descriptions to get a better idea of how to describe story characters.
Character Analysis: This simple lesson plan is for students in third through fifth grades, and focuses on using a specific text to guide character instruction. However, it does not provide the book title. I would suggest using "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes, in its place.
Analyze a Character: This lesson plan is for use with third through twelfth graders and can be modified or expanded depending on the grade level. Students are encouraged to create life-size visuals of a chosen character.