School Improvement in Maryland

Using the State Curriculum: Reading/ELA, Grade 2

Reading/ELA | Informational | Literary | Writing | Language | Listening | Speaking

Lesson Seeds: The lesson seeds are ideas for the indicator/objective that can be used to build a lesson. Lesson seeds are not meant to be all-inclusive, nor are they substitutes for instruction.

Standard 3.0 Comprehension of Literary Text

Indicator 3. Use elements of narrative texts to facilitate understanding

Objective c. Identify the main character(s) and explain their importance in the story


Begin by giving students oral clues about a popular character from a tale they may know, for example, Little Red Riding Hood. Clues are given one at a time and students try to guess who the teacher is talking about.
Clue #1 – I am a girl.
Clue #2 – I went into the woods.
Clue #3 – I was taking food to my grandmother.
Clue #4 – I met a wolf.
Clue #5 – I was saved by a wood cutter
Students should quickly recognize that the character is Little Red Riding Hood. Review the idea that a character in a story can be a person, animal or imaginary being. Ask the students to list all of the characters from Little Red Riding Hood while you write them on the board (mother, Red Riding Hood, wolf, grandmother and woodcutter). Tell the students that in stories there are main characters and minor characters. Explain that main characters are the characters that are most important to the whole story. Explain that minor characters help move the story along but we don’t know much about them. Go back to your list and explain the role of each of the characters in Little Red Riding Hood.

Character Main or Minor Character? Why?
Mother Minor character She sends Little Red Riding Hood off with the basket but we don’t hear from her again.
Little Red Riding Hood Main character She is in the story from the beginning to the end. She is the one who has the adventure. The story problem belongs to her.
Wolf Main character He sees Little Red Riding Hood and makes a plan to get her. His actions against Little Red Riding Hood are important to the story problem.
Grandmother Minor character We don’t know much about her except that Little Red Riding Hood is going to see her and the wolf eats her in order to get to Little Red Riding Hood.
Woodcutter Minor character He kills the wolf and saves Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother but we don’t have a lot of information about him.


Now choose other stories that are being read in class (read aloud, shared reading, guided reading). Have students assist in listing characters from the story. Guide students to classify characters as main or minor characters. Ask students to explain their rationale for the classification. The goal of instruction here is to introduce early readers to the idea that some characters play more important roles in the story than others. The main characters are the ones that we see grow and change during the story. These are the characters we know the most about. Being able to recognize the main characters and their significance to the story will help students understand it better. The action of minor characters may strongly impact the story; however, these are not the characters that we want to study.


Most early picture books would work for this type of study. Some possible titles might include:

  • Honey…Honey…Lion! By Jan Brett
  • The Mitten by Jan Brett
  • How I Became a Pirate by Melinda Long
  • Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke and Kirsten Meyer
  • Kate and the Beanstalk by Mary Kate Osborne and Giselle Potter