Lesson Plan

Interactive Story Characters

This lesson uses trading cards to support students' literacy development in planning for writing. Using an interactive trading cards tool, students first explore the way that the questions on it apply to a character in a familiar story. Students then use
Jamie S.
Instructional coach
Duquesne Elementary School
Duquesne, United States
Show More
My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math

Students will...

Review how characters tend to develop in stories by recalling their own favorite characters

Practice popular culture literacy by creating character outlines on trading cards

Demonstrate comprehension of character development by working together to complete a character outline

Apply what they have learned by creating their own character outline for a character in a story they are writing

Practice offering constructive feedback by reviewing each other's character outlines

Participate in the writing process by revising their character trading cards based on feedback from peers

English Language Arts
Grades 5 – 6
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Free, Paid

Students use this mobile app to brainstorm character traits they would like two characters to have in a narrative story they are writing.  

2 Direct Instruction

Gather students in a circle and introduce the topic of character development in stories with the goal of assessing what they already know. Ask them to think of a favorite story character and describe how that character developed (changed) in the story; you might ask students to discuss this with a partner. After students talk for a few minutes, ask:

How did your characters change from the beginning of the story to the end?

What kinds of things happened that caused your characters to change?

Why are these changes important to the story?

Why do authors create characters that change?

Summarize the conversation by stating that in most stories characters have a goal. A problem or conflict with this goal develops and the character spends the story working through the conflict to resolve it and meet the goal.

2. Discuss the purpose of trading cards. Ask students to study the sample trading cards from Google and notice what kind of information is included. Ask them why they think trading cards were developed and how they use their trading cards. Review that trading cards provide the reader with some basic information about a person or character, include a picture, and can easily be traded.

3.  Let students know that writers collect this same kind of basic information about characters before they write about them. They think about what their characters look like, where they live, what their personality is like, and what might happen to them. Explain to students that they will be creating their own trading cards in order to plan for a character they will include in the stories they are working on.

4. Show students the online Trading Card Creator tool or Trading Cards mobile app with a projector; show students the transparency you have created (see Preparation, Step 4). Using the text you have chosen (see Preparation, Step 3), model how the author might have developed the main character by asking the questions that are on the card. Read the text aloud and stop along the way to model your thinking and let students observe and discuss the author's description of the character, the conflict/problem, and the resolution. Fill in together the Trading Card Creator or Trading Cards app, or write on the blank transparency of the card you have created.


3 Guided Practice

Read the text Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse; stop at the bottom of page 3 and say, "I'm noticing that the author is describing Lilly here. Before writing this book, Kevin Henkes probably asked himself questions about the character's home, physical description, personality, and special traits." Show students how you would answer the questions under Section 1 as if you were Kevin Henkes planning to write about Lilly.

Model the completion of the rest of the card in a similar way. When you come to Section 3, you might ask students to identify the problem in the story. Students may say, "Mr. Slinger is angry at Lilly," or "Lilly is in trouble and is mad at Mr. Slinger." You can include this information on the trading card under the section labeled Problem.

Finish reading the text and ask students how Kevin Henkes might have planned the resolution by asking himself questions about the goal and outcome. Children may suggest that, "Mr. Slinger was nice to Lilly so she forgave him," or "Lilly and Mr. Slinger work things out and Lilly decides she still wants to be a teacher." Write these responses under the section labeled Outcome.

Review how asking questions like the ones on the trading card can help authors plan their characters before writing. Show students how to save or share a draft of their work; you can print the trading card to show students this step and to have a sample for them to follow.

Explain to students that they used the trading cards to study how authors (like Kevin Henkes) describe and develop characters (like Lilly) in their stories. They will now do the same work to plan their own characters.

Ask students to think about the the brainstorming list they began at the beginning of class. They should then focus on the main character and the traits they chose. You may want to have students work in pairs for a few moments to talk through their story ideas and their character ideas. It is often helpful to talk through ideas before writing them, especially for struggling writers.

Have students use Trading Cards mobile app to plan a character by asking questions like most authors do. If computer time is limited, have students fill out the Character Trading Cards Planning Sheet in preparation for the online activity.

Confer with students as they work through the questions. Depending on your students' writing abilities, you can push for more detail and sophistication in the characters they are developing.

Encourage students to scan and upload a hand-drawn picture of their character on the card.

Gather students and share some strong examples of students' work to provide models. Explain that in the next session students will work together to revise their character cards based on peer feedback.

4 Independent Practice

Students can use the trading card format to develop additional characters. They might also use a story map to help plan their stories.

Students will then draft narrative stories using the character card or cards they have created. Students will create slides for their stories. Students should begin by uploading an image (photo or original art) related to their story. Then, they should add their stories, via text or doodle. Finally, ask students to recored themsleves reading their story. 

5 Wrap-Up

For a homework or extension project, students can use iMovie to create a movie of their narrative story.  These movies can be easily shared with families or showcased at a parent engagement night.