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September 20, 2010

Character Traits
A multimedia mini-unit that uses an issue of Scope
to help your students make text-to-text connections
SUMMARY: In this issue of Scope, your students encountered many unforgettable characters. This mini-unit helps your students develop an understanding that characters—like real-life people—think, feel, act, and say things that define who they are.

Main teaching objectives:
1. to explore character traits
2. to make connections between passages
3. to write an essay responding to literature

You will need:
Slide show on unforgettable characters
• The September 20, 2010, issue of Scope
Generic Traits list
Character Traits graphic organizer
• Eleanor Roosevelt quote and writing prompt

Day One: Pre-reading Activities
Discussion Lead a discussion that helps your students understand the multiple meanings of the word "character." Ask the class: What is a character? (a person in a story) What is character? (a person's integrity) Can a character be fictional? Can a character be real? What makes a character memorable?

Literary Characters Show our slide show on characterization, featuring great characters from literature. The slide show will prompt students to think about how authors create their characters.

Character Traits Ask students to write down five characters from novels, movies, or TV shows that they find memorable. Invite them to share their lists with the class. Ask, What makes these characters memorable? Why are they appealing? Pass out the Generic Traits list. Do any of the words describe these characters? What other words describe them? Invite students to add their own adjectives to the list.

Essential question: How do our thoughts, actions, feelings, or words define who we are?

Day Two: Model
In-Class Reading As a class, read our Readers Theater Play "Sherlock Holmes and the Blue Carbuncle." As you read the play, take notes together on Sherlock's character traits and project these notes on the board. Together, come up with a list of traits to describe Sherlock and find text-based support for each description (cite page numbers and scene numbers). Students may refer to their Generic Traits list for ideas.

Essential question: What outstanding character traits does Sherlock exhibit?

Day Three: Guided Practice
Note Taking Work independently or in groups to read the remaining three passages: "The Amazing Life of Harry Houdini," "Leghorn," and "Sailing Into Danger." As students read, they should come up with a few words that describe Houdini, Wally and Abby Sunderland. Then students should locate specific text-based evidence (with page numbers) to back up these traits—what the character says, thinks, does, and feels, or how others respond to that character.

Group Activity Divide students into groups of two to four. Give each group the Character Traits graphic organizer. Each group discusses their notes, comes up with a trait that they feel MOST describes each character, and locates evidence to support it. They fill in the graphic organizer with this information.

Essential question (for each remaining passage): What outstanding character traits does _____ (character) exhibit?

Day Four: Independent Practice
Quote Interpretation Share this quotation: "We gain strength and courage and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face . . . we must do that which we think we cannot." —Eleanor Roosevelt.
Ask students what they think Eleanor means and discuss the quote as a class.

Essay Writing Give students the following essay prompt: Which two characters do you think Eleanor would view as MOST courageous and LEAST courageous? Students should support their opinions using text-based details they located on Day Three.

Essential question: How do a character's actions, words, thoughts, and/or feelings define who they are?

Day Five: Final Draft
Have students exchange their essays with a classmate for peer editing. Then give them the rest of class time to complete a final draft.

Did you like this mini unit? Visit our Whiteboard Center for more great material—including digital lessons, slide shows, videos, and more.

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