Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Teaching Character Analysis in the Primary Grades

I have always loved to dive deep into picture books. We are so lucky to have so many wonderful books at our fingertips! Practically every picture book has a great comprehension lesson waiting to happen. Between school and reading to my own kids, I'm doing a fair amount of reading! Usually when I read a picture book, a bunch of teaching thoughts jump into my head. Occupational hazard? I have to jot down some notes on a sticky afterward, so I often have random notes around my house. Ha! A couple years ago, I blogged about character analysis. I decided it was time to add a little. 

For our younger kids, I basically focus on describing a character and then finding evidence to support  our reasoning. This goes along with the close reading philosophy. We read the book. We ask the question. We reread to find evidence to support our answer. 

I usually introduce the concept by showing students a list of words to describe people or characters. Then I ask my class to describe me. After making a small list (maybe 2 or 3 words), I ask them to prove it. Together, we think of evidence to prove that actually I am how they described me. 

Now, we move on to picture books. I put together a list of some books I've been reading lately that lend themselves to a character analysis lesson. The first set is fall-themed and the second set are for any ol' time. 

This first book is a great book to start with because the author is pretty explicit about the characters' feelings. Create a graphic organizer like this one using chart paper. Before reading, ask your students to think about how the main character is feeling throughout the story. After reading, show students your graphic organizer and reread to complete it. 

Create a simple graphic organizer like these using chart paper to describe two characters from a book:

Sometimes you'll have a character showing lots of evidence of one main character trait like in this story:

Character Feelings
A chart like this one shows how the characters felt. With this book you could also go into how the characters' feelings affected their actions. 

 How a character changes in a story:

How a character's feelings influence actions:

Predicting character traits:

Since fall doesn't last forever, I made a short list of books that would work at any point in the school year. 

One character, multiple books, more evidence! 

I shared this a few years ago, but I figured it's been long enough that maybe I should repost it! 
Here's a list of character traits.

I shared a few graphic organizers a few years ago. I updated them a bit and I'm sharing them with you again today! 


You can use these task cards with these books (or any other books) when you are teaching character analysis. These are just a few questions I find myself asking my students to get them thinking about characters. 

To see my fall character analysis pack, click here.

For winter activities, click here:


  1. Thank you SO much for this post! You featured some of my faves & I learned about many new books. I pinned away to keep these in mind. I really appreciate the freebies, too!
    Jen :)

    1. Yay! I'm so glad you liked this post. :) Thank you so much for pinning!!

  2. This post came just in time - I am about to start teaching characters next week! Thank you so much for the awesome book suggestions and printables!

    Paiges of Learning

    1. Your welcome Paige! I'm so glad it will be useful to you!

  3. You are full of amazing ideas! Thanks for the book recommendations. Pinning this post so others can find these too.

    First Grade Smiles

    1. Thank you SO much Melissa!! That means a lot coming from you. :)

  4. Sarah- This is a wonderful resource. I'm planning Character Trait/ Analysis this week and you have shared some wonderful ideas ;) THANK You so very much!

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