- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
- Offer ideas and suggestions of adjectives and descriptive phrases to add to character charts of Despereaux, Roscuro, and Miggery Sow.
- Add to the charts over time as first three books are read aloud.
- Write a descriptive paragraph for one of the characters.
- Chart paper and marker
- Character webs, one for each student
- Lined paper and pencils
Set Up and Prepare
- Set up chart paper with picture of character in center. Sketch one of the drawings in the book or use overhead projector to transfer image via transparency to chart paper.
- Make a character web for students to have at their seats. Write character's name or draw picture in center of the web. Include radiating arms with plenty of ovals or lines for recording describing words and phrases.
Before reading, have chart set up. Discuss adjectives and descriptive writing.
Talk about various ways of learning about a character: what he says, what he does, what other characters and the narrator say about him.
Discuss the difference between personality (what's inside) and appearance (what's outside).
Write a few adjectives or phrases that describe Despereaux.
Review ideas presented the previous day.
Continue to add to the class chart.
Pass out individual webs and ask students to write down a few words about Despereaux, using the class chart and what they already know about the character.
Keep adding to the chart through the end of Book One.
Day Three and following:
- Repeat the process for Roscuro in Book Two and Miggery Sow in Book Three.
- At the end of Book Three have students select a character to write about using their webs and class charts as sources of information.
- Ask students to add on and "fancy up" what they write. Don't accept the first paragraph they write unless it is complete.
- Provide an opportunity for students to share with a partner, small group, or the whole class.
Supporting All Learners
Some students will find coming up with adjectives challenging. For these students I'd review what an adjective is and come up with adjectives to describe characters in a more familiar story.
Another problem some students have is getting the great ideas on their webs into their paragraphs. I ask students to check off ideas on their webs as they include them in their paragraphs. During the writing conference I look over both the web and the paragraph to make sure ideas were included.
New Words - There are words like went, said, and nice that are clearly overused among second grade writers. To encourage more interesting, original word choices, students created three charts entitled:
- Instead of WENT...
- Instead of SAID...
- Instead of NICE...
Then they all worked together over time to add new words to the lists. Many of the words came from books they were reading. Gradually students developed many options for writers. After the lists had been posted for a few weeks we decided that students would no longer be able to use went, said, or nice. Now when students proofread or critique another student's writing they look for these words and refer classmates to the posted word lists.
Talking About Reading - As part of their homework, second graders read for 15 minutes per night. In addition, parents read aloud to their children. Lately, I've also been requesting that parents talk with their children about their reading, asking questions about characters, setting, problem/solution, and themes or lessons. It's not enough for a child's eyes to pass over the words. Reading is thinking and parents can help children develop comprehension skills.
- Guiding the discussion about characters?
- Making sure that personality, likes/dislikes, and values of characters were discussed?
- Monitoring the writing process for all students?
- Helping those who need adult assistance most?
- Saving time so that students could share their writing?
- Praising students for their good efforts as writers?
Were students able to:
- Pay attention during the read-aloud?
- Contribute adjectives to the class character charts?
- Transfer words from the class chart to their webs?
- Include ideas on webs in descriptive paragraph?
- Write coherent paragraph describing one of the characters?
- Observe conventions of grammar, punctuation, and spelling with reasonable accuracy?