Using novels in the classroom: Character Trait & Textual Evidence Lesson

If you follow my blog at all, you know two things:
  1. I love using novels in my classroom (and so does my copy count).
  2. I love close reading, especially when it comes to a lesson with a novel.

This week my 4th graders read chapter 4 of the novel Rules by Cynthia Lord. I like to spiral in character traits when we begin a novel because the first several chapters of novels are usually heavy in character development. I was also expected to teach 4.RL.1 this week, which is tied to inferences and textual evidence. One of my favorite things about Reading is that the standards tie into each other, which allows for easy standard spiraling!

Inference Mini-lesson

As we do with many of our lessons, we began by making an anchor chart about what inferences are. There are so many great anchor charts about inferences on Pinterest, but my favorite ones are simple. We also talk about how  the more experience we have, the better inferences we make.


Looking for Clues

Close reading can look different depending on the lesson. Today my students were searching for character actions for Catherine and David, the two main characters in the book. When they saw an important action, they stopped to write it down.



Re-reading with a purpose (Close Reading strategy)

After the students read through the chapter and wrote down character actions, I have them reread the chapter. As they got to the actions they wrote down, they decided whether or not those actions were important to the story and the character. Many students had small actions written down that didn’t tell much about the character, so they crossed those out. They were left with many wonderful quotes from the book that gave us clues about Catherine and David’s characters.

As they were completing this step, I walked around and looked for exemplary work. I handed out my sharing call-outs and put a teal dot next to the quote I wanted them to share with the class. I was looking specifically for quotes that would all match up with 1 single character trait.


Whole Group Lesson

We then came together as a class in my beautiful reading area and the students I chose to share wrote their quotes on the anchor chart. Forgive me for my uncreative and ugly anchor chart – I’m not artistic in any way. We discussed as a group how we would describe Catherine using a character trait and came up with “protective”. We didn’t discuss David because I wanted to use him in my last part of the lesson.



Check for Understanding/Reading Response

Now that students had been guided through making an inference about Catherine using the textual evidence from their notes, I wanted to try it on their own. I love giving students short answer response questions to get them writing during our reading block. I also love printing out these questions onto cheap address labels to save the 5 minutes it takes my fourth graders to copy the question down. When you add in students who are squinting at the board because they forgot their glasses today, it can take up to 10 minutes of my valuable instructional time! It may not seem like a long time, but I have to teach Reading and Writing in 90 minutes!

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What  can you infer about David? Write a paragraph including at least one character trait and evidence from the text.

These short responses are how I check for understanding as well. I use these responses to determine who needs to be pulled into small group that week.
There are so many wonderful things you can do with novels in your classroom! What activities do you use novels for in your classroom?
Check out some other great lessons linked up on the “Loved that Lesson” Linky!