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Responding to Reading: Writing about characters* Freebie!


For students to really understand fiction, they need to have a strong understanding of the characters. The characters’ traits drive the conflicts and themes of the story! In our shared reading of Frindle, my students and I spent a lot of time writing about characters. 
We started with a simple purpose for marking with post-its: Find evidence about Nick Allen’s character. You can use his words, actions, or things other characters say about him. As we read, we marked placed we noticed his character becoming clear with post-its and wrote a short reaction on each post-it. 
After we read, I had students gather their post-its and stick them into their reader’s notebook under, “Evidence about Nick Allen.”
Then we brainstormed words that could describe his personality.

I wanted students to make some sort of decision about Nick’s character, so I asked them a question with controversy: “Is Nick Allen a troublemaker?” Depending on my students’ perspective, they would have different ideas about this. 
To help my students understand different types and roles of characters, I introduced the vocabulary: Protagonist and Antagonist. I wanted my students to notice character interactions and think about how the characters were working against each other because of their personalities. 
I chose a good chapter to introduce this concept – the chapter where we meet Mrs. Granger, who is Nick’s very strict fifth grade teacher. As we read, we gathered evidence about Mrs. Granger and then wrote a prediction about how these characters would interact. 

Here is one of my students’ brief responses to this chapter. On the bottom of the page, you can see that we connected this shared reading lesson to independent reading. The students had the same purpose for reading as we introduced during our whole-group reading lesson: Gather evidence about your character to describe him or her. Predict future events based on what you know about the characters. This student wrote about Diary of a Wimpy Kid, his independent reading selection.
And this student wrote about her character, Stuart Little. 

Scaffolding students’ reading responses by setting up a purpose for reading with a graphic organizer and then providing sentence starters is a great way to grow your readers and writers. 
This simple organizer requires students to identify the evidence in the text that helps them understand the characters’ relationship. Then they use the starters to write a short response.

A strong connection between your whole-group lessons and students’ independent reading can help students be purposeful and thoughtful during their independent reading time, building strategies to support their reading comprehension.
And for more ideas, check out “Responding to Reading,” a freebie on TPT!

Or my new Scaffolded Reading Responses for Fiction!

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