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Lesson Plan

Females in the Spotlight: Strong Characters in Picture Books

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Females in the Spotlight: Strong Characters in Picture Books

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 40-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Lisa Leliaert

Fishers, Indiana


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Practice reading comprehension skills to discover the significant character traits of female characters in recommended examples of literature

  • Develop critical thinking skills as they read and share their thoughts and connections with their classmates

  • Develop understanding of the strengths of female characters, and appreciation for the character traits that help these protagonists solve problems

  • Practice effective communication skills as they share essential details about the main character of their book with their classmates

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Session 1

1. Introduce the lesson by explaining to students that they will be reading interesting books with females as the main characters. Explain that, as they read, students will examine how certain character traits displayed by the protagonists allow them to achieve something important.

2. Model expectations for the lesson by reading aloud The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie de Paola. As you read, share your thoughts about the main character, for example:

  • On page 5, "I think that the doll in the story is a symbol of something more important in She-Who-Is-Alone's life. Does anyone have an idea what it might symbolize?"

  • On page 9, "I predict the doll will be important later in the story when the members of the tribe sacrifice their important belongings to help the rain come."

  • On page 16, "She-Who-Is-Alone gave up her special doll when no one else would make any sacrifices. How does this sacrifice make her a strong character compared to the other characters in the story?"
3. After completing the book, discuss the traits displayed by the main character throughout the book. Use questions such as the following:

  • How might the actions of She-Who-Is-Alone differ from those of a male character faced with a similar situation?

  • What part of the story made you feel that She-Who-Is-Alone is a strong girl?

  • Does it make a significant difference to the story that the main character is a girl as opposed to a boy?
4. After a thorough discussion, arrange students into groups of three or four and provide each group with one of the selected picture book titles (see Preparation, Step 2).

5. After students are in their groups, explain that they will be reading the book and focusing on the character traits of the main character. Remind students to think about what aspects of the story helped them realize that the main character was strong.

6. Provide students with a list of vocabulary words they might use to describe a strong character. Discuss the way different words can describe the same character trait in a positive or a negative light (e.g., stubborn vs. persistent; aggressive vs. assertive; indecisive vs. cautious; pushy vs. bold). Ask whether students think that certain behavior by a girl would be given a different label if the character were a boy.

7. Allow students enough time to finish reading their books and to discuss the main character within their groups.

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Session 2

1. Remind students of the books they read in their small groups in the previous session. Explain that the goal for this session is to use what they have learned about the main character in their book to create a Character Trading Card, which they will share with their classmates.

2. Distribute copies of the Sample Character Trading Card for The Legend of the Bluebonnet. Go over the information on the card and explain how it was derived from the story, to help students understand the expectations for the assignment.

3. Have students take their books with them to the computer lab.
Note: It will be helpful to have students seated in their groups while in the computer lab. This arrangement allows them to share information (and if necessary, to share a copy of the book) while completing their individual Character Trading Cards.

4. Using the LCD projector, guide students through the process of using the ReadWriteThink.org Character Trading Cards online tool.

5. Allow students to use their books and confer with one another as they complete a Character Trading Card for the main character of their book. Encourage students to carefully read what they have typed for each section of the card.

6. When students have completed their cards, have them print the cards, cut them out, and tape the sides together according to the directions on the printout.

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Session 3

1. Explain to students that this session will be devoted to sharing and discussing the Character Trading Cards they created in the previous session.

2. Divide the class into small groups (four or five students). For this session, each student in a group should have read a different book.

3. Explain to students that they will be sharing the information on their cards with the other members of their group, just as you shared the information from The Legend of the Bluebonnet Character Trading Card in the previous session (see Session 2, Step 2). Examples of some possible discussion topics include:

  • Introduce your character and explain why she was an essential part of the story.

  • Discuss how the female protagonist in the book you read was different from the male main characters described in other books you have read.

  • Discuss how a female character can be an equal to a male character in a story.
4. Before students begin their discussions, remind them of your expectations for discussion time (e.g., all students listening to the speaker, whispering voices, taking turns). After the groups begin their discussions, monitor the progress of all groups by circulating around the room. This will also help to keep students' discussions focused on the topic and make sure students are following the discussion expectations.

5. After all students have had the opportunity to share their cards, bring the whole class together to discuss what students have learned about the main characters in the various books. During the whole-class discussion, ask questions such as the following:

  • What did you find most interesting about the main character in the book you read?

  • Were there any specific words in the book that helped to let you know that the main character was a strong person?

  • How would you feel if you were the main character in the book you read? Do you think you would have been brave enough to solve the problem?

  • Did reading and discussing these books change your feelings about girls being strong characters?

  • How do the challenges faced by female characters differ from those faced by male characters?

  • What resources can females draw upon to solve their problems?

  • Do the books we read over the past few days remind you of any other books you have read in the past with exceptionally strong female characters?
6. When the discussion has ended, collect the Character Trading Cards and use the Character Trading Card Rubric as an assessment tool to evaluate students' learning.

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  • Allow students to read other books from your collection during Self-Selected Reading time. The group discussions of the Character Trading Cards should have sparked students' interest so they will want to read more about these characters.

  • Use the ReadWriteThink.org lesson Girls Read: Online Literature Circles to introduce students to more challenging books with strong female characters. This lesson is recommended for grades 6-8 but would also be appropriate for strong readers in grades 4-5.

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  • To informally assess studentsí progress, circulate around the classroom and computer lab while students are discussing their characters. Make note of studentsí participation and involvement in the group discussions.

  • Use the Character Character Trading Card Rubric to evaluate studentsí Character Trading Cards.

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