Group size: Any

Time Required: 60 - 90 minutes

Learning Objective: Students will be able to...

Ask questions pertaining to characterization that deepen our understanding of the text
Code the text with a "Q" and jot down the questions we ask as we read


  • Student Worksheet 5 (attached)
  • Overhead transparency (attached)
  • Post-it notes for coding the text 

Do Now: (Add a Do Now to the Student Notes so that students have something to complete upon entering the room. I like to use this opportunity to spiral skills from prior lessons or to ask students to journal about a life experience that might help them to make a connection with today's lesson.  You may also wish to collect last night's homework--the characterization graphic organizer--at this time)

Connection: So far this week we have focused on asking questions. Then yesterday we talked about characterization, the way an author reveals his or her characters. Today we're going to combine both of these ideas by focusing on asking questions about characterization. Again, this should really help you to be a better judge of character both as you read your coming-of-age novels and as you judge the characters of people in real life.

Direct Instruction/Guided Practice:  When we read, we're bound to notice lots of things about our characters. Ideally, we notice their appearance, their actions, their thoughts and speech, and other characters' opinions of them. I say ideally, because, if we notice all of these things, we are probably being close readers, and we are probably forming a pretty good idea of what our character is like. That is, we're forming an idea of our character's character!

One way we can improve our understanding of our characters, however, is to code the text with questions--thick questions--about characterization. If our characters make choices about their appearance, just like I made a choice about my appearance today, why do they make those choices? Why do they choose to do the things they do? What is it about them that causes them to have certain thoughts or to say certain things? And what might motivate others to think certain things about them? Help me to work through a quick example before you read independently today.

This is a passage from A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer.  It's an autobiographical account of how he survived abuse within his home as a child.  Let's read a bit of Dave's book and think about characterization as we read.  (T will place passage on overhead and begin to read passage aloud.)

During one period of time when Father was away, Mother starved me for about ten consecutive days...

Wow.  I already have a question I'd like to code in the margin of today's passage.  From what I know about parents and children, parents usually have a desire to take good care of their children.  They love them and want to provide for them.  I'm really struck by Dave's mom's actions!  What kind of parent starves his or her child?  Why doesn't she possess parenting skills?  Actually, that's a pretty good question to code, I think.  Let's go ahead and code that question in the margin of the text.  Can someone help me by reminding me what I need to do?  (Target response: In the margin, write a "Q" and circle it.  Then jot the question next to the "Q."  T should complete this task in the margin as students complete it at their seats.)

Let's continue reading.  This time, I'll be expecting you to come up with a question or two of your own.  Here we go...

Mother was completely thorough in making sure I was unable to steal any food. She cleared the dinner table herself, putting the food down the garbage disposal. She rummaged through the garbage can every day before I emptied it downstairs. She locked the freezer in the garage with her key and kept it. I was used to going without food for periods up to three days, but this extended time was unbearable. Water was my only means of survival. When I filled the metal ice cube tray from the refrigerator, I would tip the corner of the tray to my mouth. Downstairs I would creep to the wash basin and crack the faucet tap open. Praying that the pipe would not vibrate and alert Mother, I would carefully suck on the cold metal until my stomach was so full I thought it would burst.

Wow.  What a terrible and moving account of Dave's childhood.  As you were reading, you should have been thinking about a question or two that you would like to pose about characterization in this story.  Now, please take a moment to turn to your table partner and chat about what you came up with.  After 60 seconds, you should be ready to share your idea with the class.  (T will allow time and circulate as students share with their partners.  T will then facilitate a whole-class share and code students' questions on the overhead while they code them at their seats.)

Link: Now it's your turn. As you read today, what will you be doing? (Have students read through the directions in the "Link" section of the notes.)

Independent Practice: (S read silently and code questions about characterization as they read.  By today, all S should have selected literature circle novels and scheduled meetings with their literature circle groups for the following week, freeing the T to conference with individuals during this time.  T should thumb through last night's homework--characterization graphic organizers--to identify misconceptions and pull those students into a small group at this time.)

Share: Our time for today is up. Since we've all selected our literature circle novels and should be making some headway on them in preparation for next week's meetings, you may wish to move around a bit today during the share so that you can share your ideas about characterization with your fellow literature circle group members.  With that in mind, we'll allow a little extra time for today's share.  At this time, you should go ahead and share your thinking about today's reading, especially what you coded about characterization, with your groups. (Allow time.)

Closing: Remember, being a good judge of character requires close attention to characterization. The actions, thoughts and words of your characters in addition to other characters' opinions of your character will help you to better undersatnd how he or she is maturing and changing throughout your novel. By asking questions about your characters, you'll push yourself and your classmates to think critically about these changes as you read.

It's time for million dollar question!

1. What is characterization? (The methods an author uses to reveal characters in a story.)

2. How do we code questions?  (Write a "Q," circle it, and then jot the question.)

3. Note to the Instructor: Insert your own question here based upon objectives your students have mastered up until this point in the year.

4. Why do we ask questions? (To help us become more thoughtful critics, to push our own thinking and the thinking of our peers, etc.)

Differentiation: Novels are differentiated by reading level and by choice. Active reading strategy: coding the text.  Pair/Share during Introduction to New Material and Guided Practice. Small-group pull-out during independent practice based on last night's homework.





Non-profit Tax ID # 203478467