- Discuss and identify different types of character traits for characters in a fiction or nonfiction book
- Generate lists of traits about a specific character in a book that the class or student is reading
- Create a scrapbook featuring a personalized image and character traits of the character
- Character Scrapbook Student Activity
- Computer and projector for demonstration
- Character Scrapbook Template printable
- Student access to computers
- Whiteboard or chart paper and markers
- Optional: Markers, crayons, or colored pencils
- Set up the Character Scrapbook student activity on a computer or projector to share with the class.
- Print a class set of the Character Scrapbook Template printable.
- Before having students use the online activity to create a final version of their Character Scrapbook pages, set up the Character Scrapbook student activity on each student computer.
The Character Scrapbook and this teacher's guide will work with any fiction or nonfiction book, and can be used by students individually or as a whole class. However you choose to use this activity, it's a great way to engage students and help them form a deeper understanding of a book's characters.
Also see the book-specific Because of Winn-Dixie Character Scrapbook, part of the Because of Winn-Dixie Flashlight Readers activity.
Part I: Class Discussion of Character Descriptions
Step 1: Write the following literary terms on the whiteboard or chart paper: character, plot, setting, and theme. Define each of these terms for the class. Be sure students understand that a character is a person or an animal in literature. Briefly describe the plot, setting, and major themes for the book your class is currently reading.
Step 2: Make a list of the main characters in the book. Tell students they will create online scrapbook pages as a way to explore these characters. Through these scrapbook pages, they will explore how each of these characters contributes to the book. They will discover how the characters reflect or influence the book's plot, setting, and themes.
Step 3: Introduce the term character trait: a distinguishing quality of a person or character that can include personality, likes/dislikes, behavior, background, and physical appearance.
Step 4: Brainstorm different character traits of a real or fictional person, such as a person in history or a character from another book. Make a list of this character's traits on the board. Encourage students to think of many different aspects of a person's character, such as background, personality, and appearance. These themes are setting the stage for the types of character traits students will be listing on different pages of their scrapbook. To help guide discussion, ask students:
- What do we know about this character?
- What words describe this character?
- What are some details about this character's appearance?
- How would you describe this character's personality?
- What are some challenges this character has faced?
- What are some accomplishments this character has achieved?
Step 5: Discuss how authors reveal character traits directly by telling what the character looks or acts like. The author might describe how a character looks and acts or share other details directly in the text. For example, in the first chapter of Charlotte's Web, the author tells us the age of Fern, the main character, directly in the text:
"I don't see why he needs an ax," continued Fern, who was only eight.
Step 6: Explain that the second way to describe characters is indirectly, through what the characters say, how they act, or what others say about them. In the first pages of Charlotte's Web, the author doesn't say that Fern has a strong sense of right and wrong. He shows us this by her actions and words when Fern pleads with her father not to kill the tiny runt:
Tears ran down her cheeks and she took hold of the ax and tried to pull it out of her father's hand...
"But it's unfair," cried Fern. "The pig couldn't help being born small, could it? If I had been very small at birth, would you have killed me?"
Step 7: You may want to give examples of direct and indirect clues from the book your class is reading. Encourage students to look for direct and indirect clues about character traits as they're completing their scrapbooks.
Part II: Introduce the Character Scrapbook
Step 1: Tell students that they will be making a scrapbook of character in the book your class is reading.
Step 2: As a class, look at the online Character Scrapbook activity by gathering around a computer or projector. Click through the arrows to show the class the different character themes they will be asked to complete.
On one side of the scrapbook, students will create an image of the character. To do this, they can:
- Click the arrows to select a character's features, such as hair, eyes, nose, mouth, and clothes.
- Drag the brush to choose a character's skin tone.
- For animal characters, students can choose from dogs, pigs, mice, a cricket, fish, a mole, horses, cats, a dragon, a monkey, a bull, a rabbit, a giraffe, an owl, a dinosaur, a turtle, and a gorilla.
- Click the eraser to start over.
- Students may also print a blank version of the character scrapbook and draw in the character.
On the other side of the scrapbook, students will identify and list important character traits. They can use the arrows to click through different list themes and select the list that best suits their character. The list options include:
- Ten things I know about __________.
- Ten words that describe __________.
- Ten details about __________'s appearance.
- Ten facts about __________'s personality.
- Ten challenges __________ faced.
- Ten accomplishments __________ achieved.
You may want to use the character from the class discussion to fill in one example on each list option. Explain that students should list as many character traits as they can on each page. Let them know it's okay if they can't think of ten traits for each page.
Note: For younger students, take a few moments to model for students how they will create an image of their character for the scrapbook.
Part III: Students Make Their Own Character Scrapbooks
Step 1: Distribute copies of the Character Scrapbook Template printable for your students to complete as a draft. Have students complete the page with as many traits as they can think of. They should also draw a picture of their character. Encourage students to return to the text to find both direct and indirect descriptions of the character.
Step 2: Divide the class into pairs to do peer reviews of each other's scrapbook drafts.
Step 3: Allow time for students to read the peer-review comments and make revisions as needed.
Step 4: Arrange for students to use classroom computers or the computer lab to create their final-draft scrapbook pages.
Step 5: Print out each student's page and create a class scrapbook.
Supporting All Learners
- In younger grades (K–2), students can draw their own illustrations. An adult may need to transcribe the character traits.
- For students with less experience with websites, you may need to model how to use the online scrapbook. For example, you could show students how to select different physical characteristics for their images and fill in the different character trait pages. For older students, you could simply point out how to click and hold down the "Help" button if they're not sure how the scrapbook works.
Character Discussion Questions
The following questions could help students deepen their understanding of their characters.
- How would this book be different without this character?
- How did this character affect the events in this book?
- How did this character affect the other characters?
- How did this character change from the beginning to the end of the book?
- How was this character shaped by the setting of the book?
- Did the character make a difficult decision in the book? What was it? Would you have made this same decision? Why or why not?
- Would you want to be friends with this character? Why or why not?
- Would you want to be like this character? Why or why not?
- Did this character make you laugh or feel another emotion? How?
- How does this character's name reflect his or her personality?
More Ideas for Using This Activity
- Have students work individually to complete this activity for a book they're reading on their own. You could then pair students reading the same book or books of similar genres or time periods and have students compare their character scrapbooks.
- Have students work in small groups, assigning each person in the group to a different character in a book the class is reading. Then have students compile their scrapbooks and share them with another group. Ask students to find similarities and differences between character scrapbooks for the same characters.
- Have students work in pairs to write and perform mock interviews between a talk show host and a character from the book. Have partners use their character scrapbook to develop their questions and answers.
- Have students imagine their characters in a new situation, like being a new kid on the first day of school, receiving an award, or going to a birthday party. Ask them to imagine what their character would do in that situation based on the traits they listed in their character scrapbooks. How might that character feel? Then have students create a simple cartoon or story to share what the character might do or feel in that situation.
- Have students work in pairs or small groups to make a character web to show how one character in a book influenced the other characters. The character's name should be in the center of the web, with other character names in boxes branching off the center. In each box, write how a sentence or phrase describing the center character's influence. Students can also identify whether the influence was positive, negative, or neutral by drawing a +, -, or 0 sign on the line connecting the characters' names.