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HomeClassroom ResourcesLesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Mapping Characters Across Book Series

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Mapping Characters Across Book Series

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions plus reading time
Lesson Author

Lisa Storm Fink

Lisa Storm Fink

Urbana, Illinois

Publisher

National Council of Teachers of English

 

Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two: Reading the First Book in a Series

Session Three

Session Four: Reading the Second Book in a Series

Session Five

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • discuss characters and character development.

  • critically read several books in a series.

  • create a Graphic Map of a character through a book series.

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Session One

  1. To begin this lesson, ask the students to think about a character in a book that they really enjoy. Ask students to share the reasons that they like the character and the things that that author did to make the character likable.

  2. In turn, ask students if they have encountered a character that they did not like and to talk about what reasons they dislike these characters.

  3. Share the following information with the students:
    When authors create characters, they consider the character’s

    • Physical characteristics

    • Interaction with other characters

    • Interaction with the world around him/her

    • Thoughts and feelings

    • Behavioral Traits

    • Speech and speech habits

    • Past, present and future
  4. Ask students to name examples for each of these characteristics for the characters they have identified.

  5. Together, share the handout What is Character? and discuss the idea of who a character is further, connecting to the examples and characters students have already identified.

  6. Again, ask the students to think about a favorite character, but this time, ask them to choose a character who appears in a series of books. Ask students to share what they notice about the character from one book to another—Is there a big difference? What makes the difference? Does the character stay the same? Why or why not?

  7. Explain that for this project, students will map out the life of a character through a series of books. See the related list of book series.

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Session Two: Reading the First Book in a Series

  1. Through teacher read aloud, or literature groups, the students should critically read book one of a book series.

  2. Ask students to pay special attention to one or more of the characters as they study the book.

  3. To structure students’ consideration of the character, ask them to take notes on the actions, thoughts, and feelings of the character at your stopping points. Notes can be taken in writer’s notebooks individually or the full class or small groups can track notes on chart paper after each reading session.

  4. If desired, share specific questions to guide students’ notetaking:

    • What was the most important thing that the character did in this section?

    • How would you describe the character’s feelings in this section?

    • Did anything about the character change in this section? If so, what?

    • Choose a sentence or two from the section that is significant for this character. Why is it important?

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Session Three

  1. When the first book in the series is completed and a character has been studied, conduct a class discussion about one of the characters.

  2. Ask guiding questions about the character’s development and growth, successes and failures, life events, and so forth, focusing on the full course of the story. Students can refer to the notes that they have taken section-by-section for details as needed.

  3. As students make observations, take notes on the board or on chart paper.

  4. If desired, fill in an online character map, which asks guiding questions about a character.

  5. If the students need additional support as they discuss the character development, do a think-aloud, using passages from the book, to connect the details in the story to the conclusions that can be drawn about the character.

  6. After the class discussion, distribute the Creating a Graphic Map for a Character directions and demonstrate the interactive Graphic Map, using one of the chosen characters. Incorporate students’ comments and insights. Whenever possible, also model looking back into the book or writer’s notebook for clarification or further information.

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Session Four: Reading the Second Book in a Series

  1. Assign the students additional books in the series to study, through teacher read aloud, or literature groups. If desired, a new book series can be started here to provide more options, and the students could create two or more graphic maps from this series.

  2. Ask students to pay special attention to the same characters they followed as they read the first book in the series.

  3. Again, ask students to take notes on the character in writer’s notebooks or on chart paper after each reading session.

  4. If desired, share specific questions to guide students’ notetaking:

    • What was the most important thing that the character did in this section?

    • How would you describe the character’s feelings in this section?

    • Did anything about the character change in this section? If so, what?

    • Choose a sentence or two from the section that is significant for this character. Why is it important?

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Session Five

  1. When the students have completed the next book in the series, ask them to complete a Graphic Map on their own, outlining the events in the life of the character whom they followed over the course of the series.

  2. To get students started, brainstorm a list of events in the characters’s lives that can be mapped using the online tool. Items to include might be birth, marriage, death, schooling, travel, careers, successes, failures, etc.

  3. Remind students to use the Directions for Graphic Map if they need help while they are working.

  4. This activity can be repeated for all of the books in a series, if desired.

  5. Once the Graphic Map is completed for the second book in the series, ask students to compare the map of events from the first book in the series to this second map and to draw conclusion about how the character grows and changes over the course of the series—or alternatively, how the character stays the same.

  6. Return to the notes from the first session on authors and character development, using the following list:

    When authors create characters, they consider the character’s

    • Physical characteristics

    • Interaction with other characters

    • Interaction with the world around him/her

    • Thoughts and feelings

    • Behavioral traits

    • Speech and speech habits

    • Past, present and future
  7. Ask students to use their notes and maps to think about how the author of the series created the character over the course of the series. To structure the discussion, ask students to suggest which of the items on the list were important for this character’s development and which remained unchanged. For instance, does the character’s physical characteristics change? What do the changes tell the reader about the overall development of the character?

  8. Conclude the session by asking students to write an informal journal entry on what they’ve noticed about how writers develop characters over the course of a series. Urge them to include specific details from their notes or maps that explain their observations. If desired, ask students to think about how their knowledge will guide them as they read additional books in the series. In other words, based on what they have learned about the way that the author develops characters, ask students to think about the things that they will look for as they read other books in the series and how they think that the character may change or develop as the series continues.

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EXTENSIONS

  • While this lesson focused on a character, this activity can also be done looking at a setting over the course of a story or series.

  • Have students use the Profile Publisher either in place of or in addition to the Graphic Map as a means of representing the character in that particular book in the series.

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

In addition to observing students as they read and discuss the development of the characters in the series, collect the artifacts from the lesson (Graphic Map printouts, reading notes in journals, and so forth) to examine students’ understanding of character and character development.

As you explore students’ notes, look for specific details that indicate engagement with the reading. Notes should focus on the particular character and how that character interacts with others over the course of the series. Stronger readers will look more deeply and analytically at the character to hypothesize about motivations and implications for actions and thoughts while reading, and they will draw conclusions about how the character’s actions and changes affect the overall story and its themes. Pay attention to strong details and critical thinking rather than accuracy of predictions as you explore the notes—guessing the wrong outcome of events is an acceptable response as long as the hypothesis is tied to details in the story that support the conclusion.

Review Graphic Map printouts and students’ final journal entry for accuracy to the detail of the series and an understanding of the ways that the series’ author develops characters. Students should be able to identify which characteristics are more important to the author and should be able to identify specific techniques to watch for as they read additional books in the series. Stronger readers will make clear connections between the details about character from the books that they have read and the predictions that they make for future books in the series.

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