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The Common Core Classroom

Emily Stewart, M.Ed.

Guest blogger Emily Stewart, M.Ed., is a third grade teacher at Murch Elementary, a public school in Washington, DC. During the 2012-2013 school year, Emily will be sharing the real-world strategies, challenges, and successes of implementing ELA Common Core standards in her classroom.

Kate DiCamillo's characters could possibly change the world!

February 6, 2013

When I think back to the positively LOVABLE characters that I truly adore discovering with my kiddos each year, here are the names that come to mind: Winn-Dixie. Edward Tulane. Despereaux. Mercy Watson. The true loves of our classroom life! That's the funny thing about teaching character analysis, our kids have already come to love these characters that they hold so dear to their hearts. We teach them to be empathetic through the discussions about the heartaches and triumphs that characters are rummaging through, and how they are similar to their own lives — even if the character is a scrawny little mouse. If you haven't discovered the world of Kate DiCamillo's sweet, friendly characters then you truly haven't connected with some of the best in children's literature! Her books, specifically her characters, connect with you (in a way that students cling to) and create in you a desire to have a friendship with them. They are characters that you want to walk down the street with, enjoying an ice cream cone together! Treat yourself … Make inferences first. Believe me … it'll help! Character analysis is the step after students master inferencing. I'm not sure how many teachers understand the significance of teaching how to infer first, then immediately begin teaching students how to analyze characters. This gives students the strong inferencing skills they need to really dig in deep and understand how an author weaves evidence in through dialogue and actions. That's the key: helping them to SEE the evidence in all the forms provided by the author, although typically through dialogue and character actions and reactions. Organize! Graphic organizers are critical for students — especially our younger sweet peas — to organize their thinking. Organizers help students record what literary characters say or do in a text so that students can identify patterns in behavior and relate them to broader themes within the text. The key to using organizers is to change them up. This will ensure students will not become too dependent on one specific organizer, but will equip them with many tools that they can store in their learning toolboxes and select the best that suits them when they need it.

Graphic organizers can help make the invisible visible. Here are a few I like to use:

And here are a few fun ideas that I have incorporated, and enjoy using year after year! Literary Characters
Literary Characters
Literary Characters

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"Books make great gifts because they have whole worlds inside of them." — Neil Gaiman