Lesson Plan

Describing Characters

Dissect characters using key details from the text
Jessica S.
Classroom teacher
P.S. 165 Robert E Simon (New York, NY)
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My Grades Pre-K, K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
My Subjects English Language Arts

Students will be able to...

  • Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings)
  • Use key details (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions) to describe the character
English Language Arts
Grades 3 – 4
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

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Post the following prompt on the students’ LightSail Class List so they can respond publicly by using the 'Think' annotation feature in their own book.

Prompt: Name one character and use one word to describe them.  What in the text made you think that?

Students’ responses will appear in your LightSail Class Thinking and on students’ Class List. Have a conversation about all the types of characters people are reading about.

“While we read, it’s important we notice our characters’ thoughts, words, and actions. This helps us to describe our character and identify the characters’ feelings during the story.”

2 Direct Instruction

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Teach and model describing characters using a book from your LightSail Library and the Think feature, which allows you to make annotations as you read.  

“When we describe characters, we can look for clues in specific ways: What are the characters thinking? What are the characters (or narrator) saying? What are the characters doing? Let’s take a look at this excerpt from Holes by Louis Sachar, a book which is in my LightSail Library.”

Excerpt from Holes, Page 63: After digging all day, he [Stanley] didn’t have the strength to try to teach Zero to read and write. He needed to save his energy for the people who counted. “You don’t have to teach me to write,” said Zero. “Just to read. I don’t have anybody to write to.” “Sorry,” Stanley said again. His muscles and hands weren’t the only parts of his body that had toughened over the past several weeks. His heart had hardened as well.”

“When I saw this, I recorded my thought by holding this quote in my digital book with my finger and tapping Think.” 

Have this thought annotated in your example text. To reveal the thought, tap Past Thought. The LightSail Think feature allows you to record your annotation, and mark the Common Core Standard you are practicing.

Here is what I wrote for my Think:

From earlier in the book, I knew that Stanley is an innocent and good kid who just ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since he is the new kid at this camp for bad boys, he works hard to gain friends and earn favors. Even though Zero clearly needs Stanley’s help and asks nicely, Stanley blows him off because he doesn’t think Zero has any power around the camp.  The hard conditions of the camp have already caused Stanley to change for the worse, and he is becoming more callous, dejected, and unkind towards others.

 “Notice how I describe my background knowledge from earlier in the chapter, and then I explain the character’s thoughts, words, and actions to describe how my character changed. Last, I tagged my thought to RL.3 which stands for the Common Core standard of describing characters using key details.”

3 Guided Practice

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The students say possible annotations that involve describing a character based on details from the text.

“Now it’s your turn. I want us to look again at the same passage I used earlier in Holes. This time, however, I want us to focus on the character Zero. At this point in the story, we know that Zero is the smallest boy and the fastest digger.”

Excerpt from Holes, page 63: “You don’t have to teach me to write,” said Zero. “Just to read. I don’t have anybody to write to.”

“Turn and talk to your partner. Tell them what we can tell about Zero from this part of the text.”

Students share their thinking in partners. Have two students share their answers aloud. For this passage, students should infer that Zero is an uneducated boy who comes from a tough background since he can’t read or write.  Because he doesn’t have anyone to write to, the reader can determine that Zero either doesn’t speak to his family or doesn’t have one, which would explain why he often isolates himself from the rest of the boys. Record using your Think feature for the whole class to see.

4 Independent Practice

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Students read their own checked out books aligned to their Lexile measure (reading level) from their personalized LightSail Library, while taking the Common Core aligned clozes and assessments that automatically pop up in their text. They stop and record details about their characters using the Think feature, and they tag their Think to Common Core Standard RL.3. Have Today’s Think Task posted.

“Now it’s your turn to practice this in your book. Record your Think privately and tag it to RL.3. Use Today’s Think Task for your response.”

Today’s Think Task:

Write one Think note to describe a character. Tag your thought as RL.3.


Describing Characters:

Describe traits, motivations, or feelings.

Use character's thoughts, words, or actions.


Suggested Sentence Starters:

My character is  _____ because in the text it says _____.

In the text my character _____. This makes me think _____.


While students read independently, monitor what students are doing via your Class Thinking. Meet with students who are struggling, by selecting on a particular student in your Class List and using LightSail’s Conference Template. You can share your notes with students and establish future goals for them in the Conference Template, which students can access in their LightSail Goals or their LightSail Previous Instruction tab. 

5 Wrap Up

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Have students make public their best annotation for Today’s Think Task. Use your Class Thinking to identify two or three exemplary responses; have those students share out. As a group, discuss what makes a good/deep/genuine text-based annotation.