Reading & Writing Connections: Getting to Know a Character on the Outside and the Inside

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“Writers,” Ali said as she leaned in close to teach her second graders, “I’ve got an important tip for you about your realistic fiction characters. You’ve done such a great job describing what they are like on the outside. You’ve shown us what they look like, how they move, how they talk…even in some cases, how they smell, right Jacob?”  A kid in the front row shrugged and giggled a little. Apparently the characters in his stories were smelly.  “But when you read a really great story, you also feel like you know what the characters are like on the inside too. What they like and what they don’t like, their strengths and weaknesses, and what they hope for and wish for.”

On that day during writing workshop, Ali taught her second graders that they can write in a way that shows what characters are like on the outside AND what they are like on the inside, by showing how characters feel. They could describe the look on a character’s face, or make the character say something that could reveal what they were thinking and feeling.

On that same day, in reading workshop, Ali taught her second graders that when they’re reading, they can pay close attention to the pictures and the words to see the characters’ faces to figure out they are feeling, and they can pay attention to the dialogue for clues that show how characters feel.

And on the next day Ali showed her second graders that not only could they show what their characters were feeling at one part of the story, but they could do that at each part of the story. “In fact,” she said, “some writers even plan ahead for how their characters feelings will probably change at each part of the story. When they’re planning what will happen, they also think about how the characters will feel. One way to plan your story is to sketch pictures across the pages to show what will happen in your story, to show how the characters’ feelings will change at each part of the story.”

Then later that day, during reading workshop, Ali taught her second grade readers that they could pay close attention to the character feelings at each part of the books they read, noticing how the characters’ feelings change from the beginning to the middle to the end of the story.

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When your units of study for reading and writing are aligned, you can maximize your teaching by making connections across both. Your students can learn to read like writers, and write like readers!