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Character Study in Series Chapter Books

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Character Study

Teaching character study in series chapter books is one of my favorite units to cover! I love the excitement my students have as they crack up a new book and dive right in. I couple this unit with my book club small group work and it makes the perfect pair. Find out more about how to start effective and simple book clubs in your classroom and help your students build on their comprehension HERE.

Extending Thoughts on Sticky Notes

My favorite part about this unit is that your students will truly get to dive deep into their books and build on their comprehension muscles. One lesson that I love is how to extend your thoughts. When book clubs first begin, I allow my students to write one simple sentence on the big idea they take away from the chapter. When my class has a few books under their belt they’re ready for more extensive work… and boy does this anchor chart help them deliver! I simply take whatever chapter book I’m modeling with throughout the week and pull important sentences that I could add to a sticky note. From there, I show my students how you can add another sentence onto your sticky note with stems such as “I’m noticing that…”, “This will help me because…” “This makes me think…” “I predict…” etc. After the lesson, my students head to their reading spots and begin sifting through their sticky notes to apply the lesson and extend their own thoughts. Easy peasy! From then on, my kiddos KNOW how to extend their thoughts and are expected to do so each time. (For more details about how to begin sticky note work and write a solid sticky note within your chapter books, click HERE!)

External Traits

I always, ALWAYS, always teach external and internal traits in my character study unit. This lesson is fairly easy for students to grasp. I teach my kids that external traits are how a character is on the OUTSIDE. It’s what they look like, what they’re good at, and their job. I typically stand up and model thinking aloud about myself. I describe how I look, what I’m good at, and that of course I’m a teacher. Then, it’s my students turn! I’ll call on a few to stand up one by one and as a class we will describe their external traits.
When we’re done, the kids are ready to apply this into their series books. They pick a main character from their book and draw a picture of him or her. Around the picture, I have my students write down their characters external traits. My example below is of Cam Jansen. Cam is a girl with blue eyes and red hair. She has a GREAT photographic memory and her job is a detective. I also could have said that she is a student as well. My students sure do get a kick out of having a kid their age as a main character in a book, especially when she has a cool job like Cam!

Internal Traits

Internal traits is another easy lesson that follows perfectly after the external traits lesson. Here, I teach my kiddos that internal traits are how a character is on the inside. These is the characters personality, feelings, motivations and frustrations. Sticking with the same character, I would say that Cam is determined, persistent, brave, clever, serious, and a problem solver. As I add these to the other side of my illustration (above), I would model thinking aloud why I chose these traits for my character. For example, Cam Jansen is brave because she always chases the bad guys. She is clever because she always is able to solve crimes. She’s persistent because she never gives up on a case until it’s solved! 
Some years my students have trouble coming up with adjectives to describe their characters internal traits so I tend to project a chart full of traits on my board. This helps to scaffold the ones who have trouble coming up with traits on their own and it also helps with spelling. WOOHOO! For an example of the internal traits lesson with pictures, click HERE.

Settings vs Scenes

Did you know that a setting and a scene are two very different things? If you haven’t taught this lesson, your students problem don’t quite get that yet. I find that this lesson is easily adaptable to all level J and up chapter books, making it perfect to teach during book clubs or your character study unit!

We all know that the setting is when and where a story takes place, but when you compare that to scenes, you have to get a little bit more precise in your terminology. Think of it like this – The setting is the larger area that your story takes place and the scenes are the smaller spots within that big place that your characters can go. In the example below, the story takes place throughout Washington DC. Washington DC is your big setting; however, as they’re in Washington DC they go to various places such as the Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the bus, the train, the hotel, the Peace Monument etc. All the places within Washington DC that the characters travel to are considered the scenes.

Now, remember how I said you can visit this lesson even back in level J chapter books? This is true! Imagine you’re in a Young Cam Jansen series where she goes to a baseball game. The stadium would be your big setting and all of the places within the stadium would be the scenes. For example, she may go to the hot dog stand, ticket line, her seats, the dug out, the baseball field etc. 

Writing Long off of a Sticky Note

Writing long can be one of the more challenging things for young readers to accomplish, but it doesn’t have to be! I like to break things down REALLY simple for my kiddos so that they can easily write about their reading! For this lesson, I take one basic sticky note from the book I’ve been working in each day and model with three easy steps.

Step #1

State an opinion! This week I had been working in the A-Z Mysteries book club with the book The Jaguar’s Jewel. During my read aloud, my students and I discovered that in chapter 3 Dr. Pitts lied by saying the jewel was a fake. We then began sharing synonyms out loud with one another and decided that Dr. Pitts was dishonest.

Step #2

Give reasons for your opinion. In this next step, we took our opinion and our thoughts from the sticky note and created a sentence to support our opinion. 

Step #3

Explain by giving examples from the book. Finally, we cited evidence from our book that supported our opinion. We even were able to extend our thoughts and add an extra sentence in as well! Yay Class!
Writing long doesn’t have to be difficult for your students! Show your students this step by step process and they too can be experts at it!

Need More Resources?

Do you need a more step by step daily lesson format for your unit? If so, click HERE for my SCRIPTED Character Study Lesson Plans and let me do the hard work for you! 😉

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