Lesson Plan

Number the Stars: Exploring Character Development in Fiction

Students brainstorm a list of words to describe the main character, then narrow the list down to the six descriptors that tell the most about her. Students find evidence in the text to support character traits.
Jamie S.
Instructional coach
Duquesne Elementary School
Duquesne, United States
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My Grades K, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
My Subjects English Language Arts, Math

Students will be able to...

read and discuss a work of fiction.

analyze the characters of the story.

explore the way that the author creates the characters in the piece—by word choice, description, and so forth.

English Language Arts
Grades 3 – 5
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Free, Paid

Give all students copies of Number the Stars by Lowis Lowryl. Read as class  or ask students to read the books on their own to prepare for the class discussion. 

Open class discussion by asking, "If you were going to introduce Annemarie Johansen to someone who had never read Number the Stars, what words would you use to describe her?" 

Watch the following video, recapping some important points from the book on You Tube.  


After the video, have students brainstorm character traits. As students offer descriptions, write them on an overhead, on the board, or on chart paper. 

2 Instruction

After about three minutes, ask the students to narrow the list down to six descriptors that will tell the most about Annemarie Johansen. Take nominations from the class. 

Have students vote and circle the top six words. 

Using the first description on the narrowed-down list, find a place in the text that shows that Annemarie Johansen fits the description (for instance, "she didn't give up, even though lots of people would've"). 

As teacher works through "think aloud" to model for the class, complete the interactive story map to organize the information.

3 Guided Practice

Have students look back in text to find other examples of the character traits used by the teacher during the think aloud.  Call on several students to read their selection. Ask each to explain why he or she thinks a particular selection shows Annemarie Johansen fits the description. Point out the techniques that the author is using to create the character as the students share their selections (for instance, through word choice, description, or dialogue).  Continue adding to the interactive story map, as students volunteer additional information. 

After you're satisfied that students understand the connection between the descriptor and the supporting passages from the book, turn to individual practice with small-group support. 

4 Independent Practice

Inspiration Maps VPP
Free to try, Paid

Divide students into five groups, and assign each group a different description from the shortened list. Ask each student to find three different places in the book that illustrate the particular characteristic of Annemarie Johansen. Have them complete their own inspiration map using the app and then write about the following questions:

How does the chosen piece of text show a particular characteristic? Be sure to include the page number for your selection . 

Why is that characteristic an important one to have or not to have in their own lives?

Have students work on their own.  Monitor student progress by circulating among the students. Allow students time to develop their ideas on their own.

Ask students to share their marked places and written ideas with others in their group and to help others in the group who might be having a hard time. Again, monitor progress by circulating among students, but this time stop to help individuals or groups needing support. 

5 Wrap Up

Students can use the Green Screen app to act out one of their groups character traits and text support. Videos can be shared with the class and parents.