thinking about characters is something kids are asked to do every year in their fiction reading. it’s important to have some sense of how reading standard 3, which states that students will “analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text,” progresses vertically across the grade-levels so that our teaching is not only grade-appropriate (i.e. rigorous enough), but also so that students aren’t being taught the same strategies year after year.
one way you could approach this work is to look vertically across the grades at standard 3, and see how the expectations and work changes from kindergarten through fifth grade. this will help you see what work is being done before and after your grade, which is useful not only for your own knowledge as you plan for your grade-level, but also when differentiating, since we all know that not all fourth graders are at the fourth grade level of the standard; some may benefit from the second or third grade work, while others are ready for fifth grade or higher.
another useful exercise is to give students a performance assessment to help target your teaching toward the individual needs of students.
some possible small groups or strategy lessons to address work within standard 3:
- if students are having difficulty moving from facts to ideas (the jump from kindergarten to first grade in standard 3, though it’s very likely that students at higher grades are stuck in this lower-level work, too), you could do some work first sorting facts and ideas from a shared text. it may look like:
- to help students develop a vocabulary for talking about character feelings and traits (the jump from second to third grade in standard 3), you could work in a small group to sort cards labeled with feelings or traits into positive and negative piles and then, as students read on in their independent books, have them pull words from the piles that match the characters. allow for some time at the end of the small group for students to talk to a partner about why they chose the words they did.
- to help students begin to support their ideas about characters with evidence (the jump from third to fourth grade in standard 3), you could have them practice using some phrases as they talk and write about their ideas. posting these phrases on a class chart or giving students an individual post-it with the phrases would support this work. some students may even want the phrases on a bookmark as a reminder to try this in their writing about reading. some possible phrases could be: “I think…I think this because…” or “I think…a part of the text that shows this is…” or “___ just said/did/thought…this makes me think/this shows me…” notice that all of the phrases support students by giving them language to back their ideas up with evidence.
of course, this is only a beginning list of ways we can teach students to do deep thinking about character. having a variety of ways to teach into kids’ thinking about character will help you target your instruction to the individual needs of your students and also helps to ensure that your teaching feels fresh to your kids so that they’re not repeating the same work year after year.
how do you teach into standard 3 in your classroom?