Describe how characters change over the course of a text (Inclusive Big Idea #3)

What are students learning?

Reading Literature

Grade 2: English Language Arts

Inclusive Big Idea #3: Describe how characters change over the course of a text

Standard: Describe how characters in a story respond to major events and challenges. RL.2.3

How could I teach this?

Think about how instructional strategies and activities can give students multiple ways to engage with learning. One way won’t work for all, so how can you remove and reduce barriers for all students?

  • Anchor Text: Use an anchor text, such as Freckle Juice by Judy Blume. Have students describe how the characters change from the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Learn more about accessing grade-level text in this TIP Sheet.
  • Character Maps:
    • Characters in stories are developed in four different ways:
      • description of their physical appearance
      • description of their actions
      • dialogue
      • inner monologue
    • Using a graphic organizer, have students write, describe, or diagram major events and challenges in a story. For example, students can draw a picture of a character in the middle of a web. Then, extending from the character drawing, students can offer words or images that describe what the character says, and/or how the character feels in response to major events of the story. Chart this thinking by creating a class character map using the whiteboard, or have your students create their own character maps in personal or digital notebooks. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • Family Tree: Use a family tree graphic organizer to show the relationships between the characters in the story. Students could write, draw, or place pictures of the characters in the corresponding section of the tree. Then, students answer questions about the characters either verbally or by pointing to the correct picture in the graphic organizer. Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.
  • Character Sorts: Make a sort that lists character names and character traits. Have the students match the character trait or action for each character in the story.
    • Sort characters who were in the story from characters who were not in the story.
    • Sort characters into categories based on emotions.
    • Choose two or more main characters from familiar stories and have students sort word cards, picture cards, or objects relating to the characters.
  • Character Profile: Using a text from a read aloud, shared reading lesson, or guided reading lesson, model what you learned about how a character responds to main events from the story by creating a character profile.
  • Map: During or after reading a story, video, play, or other narrative, students can draw a map of the major settings from the story, including some small images of a major event at each site and images of how characters respond.
  • Movie Posters: Students can create a movie poster that presents one of the major settings and events from the story and include a character’s response in that poster.
  • Story Map: During or after reading, students can write or draw out the major events of the story and what characters do in those situations or to cause those situations. This could be a linear timeline with pictures and/or text, or integrate pictures and text into something resembling a comic strip.
  • Story Organizer: Students can fill in a graphic organizer or plot diagram that captures the main events of the story. One popular example is the story hamburger where students are asked to pull in different events or elements just as they would build a hamburger (e.g., the bun will include the title and author, the first event would be the hamburger patty). Learn more about graphic organizers in this TIP Sheet.

Don’t stop here! Remember to reduce barriers for all students.

Make reducing barriers a process - take a few minutes to think about your process! Is there a barrier related to:

  • interest or engagement? Think about how to incorporate student’s lived experiences, culture, and interests… 
  • background knowledge? Think about how to highlight key ideas and define key vocabulary… 
  • showing what they know? Think about having options for how they use learning tools and technology to communicate…

For example, one possible barrier is the amount of information that a student needs to hold in mind.

Ideas to reduce this barrier could include:

  • be aware of how much sensory input occurs at once. Offer options to adjust sound, visual, and tactile input (e.g., offer options to use headphones, sunglasses, flexible seating, fidgets)
  • show examples and provide answers to check along the way
  • provide graphic organizers, pictures, and text that supports students to pair character responses to challenges
  • use an adapted text that highlights the key information

Use these Inclusive Strategies to help reduce barriers.

Tell me more about this Inclusive Big Idea (I need a refresher)

Brush up on the content of this Inclusive Big Idea. It will help you and your colleagues to understand and teach this content better.

  • What Are “Story Elements”?
    • Story elements, sometimes called story grammar, are the parts of a story. These elements develop the story in a logical way to enable readers to easily follow the text. In this big idea, focus on character, setting, and main events. Model for students how to analyze relationships and use key details.
    • Some Story Elements:
      • characters- the individuals in the story
      • setting- the location and time period where the story takes place
      • plot- what happens in the story; has a clear beginning, middle, and end
      • problem/conflict- the incident that sets the story in motion
      • solution/resolution- how the character(s) solved/fixed the problem or conflict
  • What Is a “Plot Diagram”?
    • A plot diagram in literature is basically a map of the book or story. It includes a beginning, middle, and ending for simpler stories. More complex stories for advanced readers will include the introduction, inciting incident, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, and denouement (final outcome) as represented in Freytag’s Pyramid. The most common graphic organizer used to analyze the plot of a text looks like this:
Line diagram with a upward sloped diagonal line that connects to a falling vertical line. Along the rising line are Exposition/Beginning, Rising Action, and Climax. Then Falling Action and Resolution fall down.


Looking for more suggestions?  Target student common misconceptions, build on interdisciplinary links, and implement strategies and supports across multiple lessons or units.

Go beyond the specific standard! These examples can spark ideas to generalize related skills from the content to real-world experiences for all students.

Common Student Misconceptions

  • Story Elements: Students often miss aspects of story elements when summarizing a text. In addition, some texts are considered “inconsiderate” texts and do not provide enough to allow students to fully understand all story elements, so they must fill in the gaps with prior experiences and personal preferences, leading to problems with comprehension.
  • Story Elements: Students may lack the knowledge there can be multiple plots, settings, and characters affecting the story to varying degrees.
  • Setting: Setting can include real or fictional places, as well as time periods (e.g., historical fiction).
  • Reader Response: Some students may believe there is only one way to interpret a text. Students need to consider how their prior knowledge and perspective influence their understanding of a story.
  • Writing: Develop a narrative structure for an imaginative story using the same plot diagram graphic organizer and include how characters respond to events.

Everyday Connections

  • On the Playground: After identifying the problem and solution in the text, have students identify a problem in their own lives, and discuss methods of conflict resolution and how the people responded to the events.

Explore other Inclusive Big Ideas to think about the content you are teaching. How can you connect what you are teaching now to what has been taught before or what will be taught in the future?

First Grade: Use details to describe key elements of a text (RL 3)

Second Grade: Use details to describe key elements of a text (RI 3)

Third Grade: Describe how characters cause change over the course of a text (RL 3)

Other TIES resources:

Inclusive Big Ideas: Standards-based resources for inclusive classrooms | TIES Center

The Inclusive Big Ideas were adapted from resources created by the NCSC Project , a federal grant from the US Department of Education (PR/Award #: H373X100002), However, the contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education and no assumption of endorsement by the Federal government should be made.

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