How to Teach Character Development

Teacher thinking about How to Teach Character Development

Analyzing characters is a key reading literature skill that will help your students develop a love for literature. When we learn to analyze characters, we are learning to understand others’ experiences and to relate better to the characters we read about. Here are some tips for how to teach your students about character analysis and character development.

Learn to Identify Character Traits

This is a tricky concept for many students. Often, students want to identify very basic traits. But, if we teach students to dive deep into studying characters, they will be able to better analyze in-depth traits. The most effective way to do this is by studying what the character says, does, thinks, and feels. Then, use these clues to determine character traits. I recommend using a chart like the one below.

Say Do Think Feel chart with black text and green background

Analyze Character Change

Once students are able to identify character traits, they are able to look at how a character grows and develops throughout a story. To do this, I recommend having students chart the major events in the plot, along with how the character responds to those major events. We can use the character’s response to determine more about the character and how they are evolving throughout the story.

Timeline showing the development of characters over time from the begining to the end of a story

Character Lesson

After we look at how the character has developed throughout the plot, we can determine if the character learned a lesson that helped them evolve. This isn’t as straightforward and is open to critical thinking and interpretation.

How to Teach Character Development

I recommend spending at least two full weeks focusing on this skill. Here is the recommended lesson layout and schedule for teaching plot structure:

Teaching Character Development: Week 1

Week one is focused on using genuine mentor texts and picture books. Students will learn about identifying character traits and analyzing how a character changes over the course of a story based on events. Students will learn to identify these elements in engaging and relatable picture books. Students will also focus on practicing this key skill in their independent reading. Applying these skills to students’ independent reading should be a large focus of not only this unit, but also in weeks to come. Here is the typical layout of what this week could look like. Lessons may vary depending on the grade.

Week 1 – Day 1

Introduce key vocabulary surrounding this skill. Vocabulary should include plot, characters, character traits, character change. On day one, walk students through the process of how to identify character traits to describe characters. If you are using my digital mini-lessons, this is also the time to watch the video introducing this skill. On day 1, review a simple mentor text such as a common fairytale. Practice identifying character traits of the main character. Students should use what the main character says, does, thinks, and feels to help them identify traits.  

Image showing a digital mini lesson about describing characters in literature
Reinforce vocabulary and concepts with anchor charts and videos.

Week 1: Days 2-4

Review the anchor charts. Read aloud a new mentor text each day. Using a graphic organizer, identify what the character says, does, thinks, and feels to determine character traits.  

Image showing a digital mini lesson about using mentor texts to learn how to determine character traits
Mentor texts are the heart of this week’s lessons. The goal is to help students apply this skill to their independent reading.

Week 1: Day 5

Display the anchor chart with key words and vocabulary blocked out. Have students help you fill in the blanks. Students use a graphic organizer to identify character traits in their own independent reading book. At the end of reading, invite a few students to share their book and review the plot.

Week 1 Resources:

My Digital Mini-Lessons are available in a year-long bundle, where you get an entire year of reading mini-lessons that cover all grade level reading comprehension standards.

Teaching Character Development: Week 2

Week two is focused on using leveled passages to analyze characters. Throughout the week, you will be teaching your students to use text evidence to support their answers. You will also be scaffolding the assignments, increasing text difficulty, with the goal of helping students read passages throughout the entire grade level band. During this week, the focus will also be on answering plot structure questions that align with standards and state assessments. 

Week 2: Day 1

Introduce Character Development anchor chart. Read aloud the Mentor Text Pippi Longstocking. Model analyzing Pippi at the beginning of the story using the graphic organizer and questions. Emphasize that this is only analyzing her at the beginning of the story. When we read stories, it is important to analyze the character throughout the story. This helps us determine how the character develops.

Week 2: Day 2

Select a story in the mid-range of the text complexity band. Make the story and question set poster size or project the text and questions. Read the story as a class, and then work together to answer the questions.

Week 2: Day 3

Students complete a passage and question set in partners. I recommend choosing a text in the mid-range of the text complexity band. Always review work as a class or in groups.

Week 2: Days 4-5

Students complete a passage at the low range of the text complexity band independently. Be sure to review student work. If students did not get answers correct, ensure you make time to review with students independently or in small groups.

Continue to assign increasingly more complex passages. Continue to assess and review work.

Week 2: Day 5

By the end of the unit, most of your class should be showing mastery of the passages. This is the time to give the assessment. I recommend giving both assessment passages together, but you can also separate the passages and use the different levels to differentiate.

*Follow your students’ lead. These lessons may take more or less time. Do not move on to subsequent lessons until your students are showing progress.

Anchor chart used to introduce character response skills
Use an anchor chart to introduce the skill. The anchor chart should be referred to throughout the unit.
Analyzing characters in leveled passages to learn How to Teach Character Development
Analyzing characters in leveled passages.

Resources for Week 2:

  • Characters, Settings, and Events for 1st grade cover showing printable and digital worksheets
    Characters Settings and Events – 1st Grade RL.1.3 Printable & Digital Google Slides Distance Learning Pack
    $6.00
  • How Characters Respond to Events and Challenges for 2nd and 3rd grade cover showing printable and digital worksheets
    Characters & Challenges – 2nd Grade RL.2.3 Printable & Digital Google Slides Distance Learning Pack
    $9.00
  • Describe Characters in a Story for 3rd grade cover showing printable and digital worksheets
    Describe Characters in Stories – 3rd Grade RL.3.3 Printable & Digital Google Slides Distance Learning Pack
    $9.00
  • Characters, Settings, & Events - 1st Grade Florida BEST Standards - ELA.1.R.1
    Characters, Settings, & Events – 1st Grade Florida BEST Standards – ELA.1.R.1
    $7.00
  • Character Perspective - 2nd & 3rd Florida B.E.S.T. ELA.2.R.1.3/ELA.3.R.1.3
    Character Perspective – 2nd & 3rd Florida BEST – ELA.2.R.1.3 / ELA.3.R.1.3
    $7.50
  • Characters, Setting, and Events in Stories & Drama for 4th & 5th grade cover showing printable and digital worksheets
    Characters, Setting, & Events in a Drama 4th RL.4.3 Printable & Digital Google Slides Distance Learning
    $11.00
  • Compare and Contrast Characters, Settings, and Events for 5th grade cover showing printable and digital worksheets
    Compare & Contrast Characters, Settings, & Events RL.5.3 Printable & Digital Google Slides Distance Learning Pack
    $11.00

Differentiation

              Visuals are key! Use graphic organizers and charts to track character traits throughout the story. This provides structure and a visual for students who struggle with organizing this information and answering open-ended questions.

Growth By Grade

Chart showing florida best standards and common core standards and How to Teach Character Development

Strategies for Reinforcing Character Development by Grade:

Kindergarten: Use illustrations and words to track what a character says, does, thinks, and feels.

1st Grade: Map out the things that characters do, or their actions, in the beginning, middle, and end. Use pictures and words to support thinking.

2nd Grade: Use a graphic organizer to identify what the character does, says, thinks, and feels at the beginning, middle, and end. Discuss what these actions tell us how the character changes.

3rd Grade: Use a graphic organizer to map how the character evolves throughout the story. Identify character traits that describe the character at the beginning, middle, and end. Discuss how the plot events impact the character. Write a response analyzing how the character evolves, or changes, during the story.  

4th Grade: Write in-depth about the protagonist and antagonist. Use specific details from the text to support analysis, including the evolution of two or more characters.

5th Grade: Write in-depth responses comparing and contrasting two characters. Quote specific text details to support thinking.

More How to Teach Character Development Resources:

These tips will help teach your students about character analysis and character development. For more support on character development, check out these resources that can be used in small groups and centers:

1st Grade

  • Characters, Setting, Events Escape Room - 1st Grade - Print & Digital
    Characters, Setting, Events Escape Room – 1st Grade – Print & Digital
    $6.50

2nd & 3rd Grade

  • Characters Superhero Squad Escape Room - Google Slides & Printable 2nd & 3rd
    Characters Superhero Squad Escape Room – Google Slides & Printable 2nd & 3rd
    $6.50
  • Character Respond to Problems Task Cards 2nd & 3rd Grade
    Character Respond to Problems Task Cards 2nd & 3rd Grade
    $3.00
  • cover of RL.2.3 character response reading comprehension skill pack bundle for 2nd grade showing printable and digital resources
    Character Response Skill Pack Bundle – RL.2.3 – Print & Digital
    Product on sale
    $19.50
  • Character Traits Task Cards 2nd & 3rd Grade
    Character Traits Task Cards 2nd & 3rd Grade
    $3.00
  • Cover of Character Response Digital Task Cards for Boom Cards with tablet and image of passage with question
    Character Response Boom Cards™ 2nd & 3rd Grade – Distance Learning Task Cards
    $3.00

4th & 5th Grade

  • Characters, Settings, & Events Hero Escape Room - Google Slides & Printable 4th
    Characters, Settings, & Events Hero Escape Room – Google Slides & Printable 4th
    $6.50
  • Characters, Settings, & Events Hero Escape Room - Google Slides & Printable 5th
    Characters, Settings, & Events Hero Escape Room – Google Slides & Printable 5th
    $6.50
  • Story Elements Skill Pack Cover showing digital and printable 4th grade resources
    Story Elements Skill Pack Bundle – RL.4.3 – Print & Digital
    Product on sale
    $22.50
  • RL.5.3 compare story elements characters events and setting skill pack cover showing printable and digital teaching resources
    Compare Story Elements Skill Pack Bundle – RL.5.3 – Print & Digital
    Product on sale
    $22.50
  • RL.5.3 Compare Story Elements digital task card boom cards for 4th and 5th grade
    Compare Story Elements Boom Cards ™ 4th & 5th Grade – Distance Learning Task Cards
    $3.00
  • Describing Story Elements Task Cards - 4th Grade - RL.4.3
    Describing Story Elements Task Cards – 4th Grade – RL.4.3
    $3.00
Julie Magicore Signature

Leave a Reply

MagiCore Learning Picture Logo

SIGN UP FOR MY EMAIL FREEBIE

FIND IT FAST

BACK IN TIME

Archives

FEATURED PRODUCTS

FOLLOW ME ON PINTEREST

Magicore

We strive to empower teachers and promote student success. We create skill-focused resources that promote critical thinking, enhance student engagement, and incorporate diversity. Our goal is to develop the tools teachers need to reach their students and foster a lifetime of learning.

Get Started for Free

Sign up now for a free reading resource

Subscribe to get free content by email.