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 d. Identify characters' actions, motives, emotions, traits, and feelings


Begin by explaining to the students that when authors create story characters, they help us get to know their characters in many different ways. One way we get to know the characters is through their conversations with other characters. By paying attention to the words that the characters say and imagining how they might say those words, we can find out what they are like or how they might be feeling at the time. We also pay attention to what other characters are saying to them or about them. Sometimes we learn about a character because the author tells us what the character is thinking or what others in the story are thinking about the character. As we read the story we see the character makes many choices about what to do in different situations. When we think about all of the things we know about a character (what they say, think, feel, and do) we can make decisions about what kind of personality the character has. The words that we use to describe the personality of the character are called traits.


Read aloud a book with a strong main character, for example, Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman. Help students identify Grace as the main character in this story. Explain to the students that we can describe characters in many ways. One way readers describe characters is by identifying the character’s traits. Introduce the following trait words that could be used to describe Grace in this text: imaginative, creative, smart, and self-confident.

Trait Words to Describe Grace
Trait What it Means Why it Describes Grace
Imaginative Having a lively imagination; telling, acting, or writing things that are make-believe On the first page of the story the author tells how Grace loved all kinds of stories. The book also says that she would act the stories out.
On the next 8 pages the author tells about the different characters that Grace has acted out.
After the ballet, Grace dances in her room.
“She took a deep breath and imagined herself flying.”
All the students voted for her to be Peter Pan.
Creative Telling or writing ideas that you have thought about on your own; coming up with solutions to problems that no one else has expressed On the first page the author says that she made up stories in her own head.
She played doctor with her mother and grandmother.
Smart Thinking quickly and deeply about a topic; bright On the first 8 pages of the story the author tells about the characters that she acted out and they were characters that a lot of children might not have heard of.
When Grace sees the theater and signs she asks if they are going to the ballet.
Grace practiced being Peter Pan all weekend before the auditions.
Self-confident Believing that you can be successful On the first page it says that she would give herself the most exciting part when she acted stories out.
The author says that she would act out all the parts if no one was there to play with her.
When the teacher said they were going to do the play “Peter Pan”, she knew she wanted to be Peter. She kept her hand up even when Raj told her that she couldn’t play a boy.
She kept her hand up even when Natalie said that she couldn’t play Peter because he wasn’t black.
“I can be anything I want, she thought.”
When she auditioned she knew exactly what to do and all the words to say.
After it was over Grace said, “I feel as if I could fly all the way home!”
Grace’s grandmother says, “If Grace put her mind to it, she can do anything she want.”

Reread the first page of the story to the students. Select excerpts from the text that illustrate the traits above. As you proceed through the text have students help you identify the text support for the traits, gradually shifting the responsibility to pairs or individuals. You can use straight quotes or summary statements on the chart depending on the style that works best with your students. The italicized column gives some ideas for the example story showing both kinds of text support.


In small groups, have students reexamine the text to develop a character chart for Nana. First, introduce some character trait words that could be used to describe her. Examples, might include proud and encouraging. Define these terms for the student. Have students reread the story individually to find support for each of the traits. Have students write a 2-3 sentence response to the prompt “Nana can be described as (proud or encouraging) in our story. Use story details to explain why.”


Make a chart of the trait words and their definitions. Post the chart. Add new character trait words as new stories and characters are introduced to the class. When discussing characters in large and small group lessons, encourage students to look at the chart and use precise trait words to describe their characters. Reward the use of precise vocabulary in both oral and written responses.

Some Recommended Books with Strong Characters
Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman & Caroline Binch Sequel to Amazing Grace – Grace and her grandmother travel to Africa to visit her father and his family. Students can look for the traits that they have already established for Grace and add new traits based on this story.
Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes Main characters are mice acting as humans; main characters are Sheila Rae and her sister, Louise; easily identifiable traits
Amos and Boris by William Steig Main characters are a mouse & whale with human characteristics; each helps the other through a problem; friendship
Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin Main character is an earthworm; diary format; through his writing the worm reveals traits
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Sceiszka Main character is the wolf; portrayed with character traits not associated with traditional retellings of the folk tale