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Concept Unit

Lesson Plan
Unit Working Title: Characters as People
Unit Big Idea (Concept/Theme): The Role of the Individual in Society
Unit Primary Skill focus: Reading and Writing Character
Week 1 of 3; Plan #1 of 9; [90 mins.]
Plan type: FD
Content Requirement Satisfied: Vocabulary Development, Model Text
Unit Learning Objectives (numbered), followed by specific lesson objectives
(lettered) being taught in this lesson:
Cognitive (know/understand):
1. The roles of character in a story, what makes up a character, and how good
characters are formed.
a. Strong characters engage readers by showing aspects of themselves through
detail and dialogue.
2. All characters consist of dialogue and detail.
3. Nonconformity is a vital part of democracy.
4. Relatable characters can ground unfamiliar or imaginative context in writing.
5. Conflict often arises from characters challenging societal forces.
6. The perspective or point of view of a text influences the way we interpret
a. The differences between first, second, and third person point of view
b. The differences between limited and omniscient narrator
7. Value their individuality and differences from others.

a. Share their own daydreams with the class.

8. Respect individual opinions that differ from theirs.

Articulate why both conformity and nonconformity are essential to democracy.

10. Deconstruct tensions between individuals and social pressures in texts.

a. Discuss how Walter Mitty did and did not fit in in the story.
11. Create a character that interacts with society and pushes against/for social
1. 6.2 The student will present, listen critically, and express opinions in oral
d) Paraphrase and summarize what is heard.
2. 6.4 f) Extend general and specialized vocabulary through speaking, listening, reading,
and writing.
3. 6.7 The student will write narration, description, exposition, and persuasion.
g) Select vocabulary and information to enhance the central idea, tone, and voice.
Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including
figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of a specific word choice on
meaning and tone
Engage and orient the reader by establishing a context and introducing a narrator and/or
characters; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally and logically.
Pose and respond to specific questions with elaboration and detail by making comments
that contribute to the topic, text, or issue under discussion.

Procedures/Instructional Strategies
[Note: Any words that represent what I would say directly to students appear in italics.]
Beginning Room Arrangement:
Standard--Students desks are in large semicircle for discussion
[Changes in this arrangement that become necessary later will be noted in the plan]
1. [10 mins.] Bridge/Hook/Opening to lesson: Point of View
Students will come in and I will ask them to find their seats.
Welcome back, everyone! I hope you enjoyed your first weekend back. Well be starting
our first unit today, which will last about three weeks. Were going to be looking at
tensions between individuals and society in some short texts, one of which will include a
certain superhero.
Our focus this unit will be split between reading and writing, because were looking at
one of the most important aspects of creating and understanding compelling writing:
developing character. So while we look at the ways certain characters interact in their
worlds and how the writers make us interested in their stories or actions, were all going
to be writing our own character snapshots as well! Yes, me too. At the end of the unit
well have read six stories and written several different character snapshotsshort,
detailed pieces of writing that reveal important things about our charactersto create a
short character portfolio. Were going to be trying to create compelling characters as we
read some short texts with them. Youll know more about this part when we do our first
writing lesson on Friday. Does anybody have any questions?
(Are we reading them outside of class?)
Well be primarily reading them in class, but if we dont get to one of the stories for some
reason I might ask you all to read it outside of class. None of the pieces well be reading
are very long, a few pages at most. Anything else?
(How are we being graded?)
Ill have a few exit slip-type written activities here and there, and I want to see you all
participate in discussion, but mostly your writing will be graded.
(How long are the snapshots?)
No more than four pages, but at least two, double-spaced.
(Are those homework?)
There will be time to work on them in class, but if you need more time to work on them I
expect youll finish them at home. Our writing days for this unit are the Fridays, so you
get the whole weekend right after we write so its fresh in your mind.
Ok, before we get into todays reading and discussion, Im going to show you guys a
short song to get one really big aspect of character writing into your heads.
[I put on point of view song on projector, students laugh; during the quiz part, ask
students to shout out the answers]
Good! I think we get the idea, that song starts to get just a little repetitive. So first
person is

Right, second is, Naomi?

Yes, me. And third is

Right. All of these points of view let writers develop strong characters, though sometimes
its hard with second person, and I dont recommend trying that for your snapshots,
because it might sound like youre writing about the reader, even if the writing is actually
about another character. If I read, You biked to the store, my first thought is, no I
What about the narrators perspective; did you guys catch that part? What would it
mean if I was writing in third person omniscient?

Sort ofwhat do you mean by know everything?

Yes! Omniscient means the writer can see into everyones minds and talks about how lots
of characters feel, and maybe they even tell us things that none of the characters know.
So that means limited is what?

Right. With limited were restricted to knowing just one or maybe two characters
thoughts, and we mostly see things their way. Both ways can produce really strong
characters, but limited usually works better if you want it to feel like your writing came
from that character.
Excellent! I have a poster up in the back of the classroom that describes the different
points of view if you ever need to refer to it! Onto todays story.
2. [5 mins.] Step 1: Descriptive Character Vocabulary
I will hand out the Walter Mitty text, descriptive character words sheet, and vocabulary
guide for students.
Dont start reading yet; before we get into it I want us to be thinking about how the
writer, James Thurber, develops his character, Walter Mitty. The two primary ways we
come to understand a character are dialogue and detail. Who knows what dialogue is?

I hear you, Walter. And I think youre right. Thats dialogue. When one character says
something and another responds. We get to know characters by what they say to others;
we get to think,oh, ok, theyre a person that responds like this. Characters might be
thinking or talking to themselves sometimes, and we call that monologue. Mono is one,
dia is two. Logue comes from the Greek for speak. So we get a lot of personality and
ideas from what characters speak. Description tells us everything else. Details,
including what the character looks like, how they feel, and what they do let us get a sense
for what the character cares about. And once we know what a character cares about, we
can start to care about them, because we see that maybe we would care about those
things too if we were that character. On the sheet that says descriptive character
words, theres a big list of descriptive personality words. These words tell your reader
something about your character, and are good ways to start thinking about a characters

personality. Well talk about telling and showing on Friday, but for now, know that you
dont want to tell your reader all these things about your character, because even if I say
that Manny is clever a hundred different ways, all the reader knows is that I said Manny
is clever. I need to show why hes clever with details about him. But were looking at
this today because were going to add words from our story into this list if they are also
personality trait telling words. Were going to see how telling wordswords that
talk about a charactercan be really useful in small doses. So on the other sheet, the
vocabulary guide, there are several words that I have defined, and several that I havent.
I want you to do two things as we listen and follow along with the story: first, see if you
can figure out the definitions as we listen and read the story, then second, add them to the
list of personality trait telling words if they are also personality trait words. Listen for
how the words that are personality traits fit into the story. When we read in class, we
always have a pencil in our hand, so make any notes youd like in the marginsthings
you notice, things that seem strange or jump out, things you dont understand. After the
story, well have our first discussion. Any questions?
3. [10 mins.] Step 2: Read-Aloud (Students listen)
I put on the recording (Ben Stiller reading The Secret Life of Walter Mitty) and pick up
myself where the recording stops (if I cant find the entire recording by this point).
4. [20 mins.] Step 3: Debrief/Discussion
Alright, set aside your vocabulary guide for a moment; take a minute and read back over
any parts you were confused on or glazed over. Make a few notes if you hadnt before.

Great, lets have a little chat. Remember our class discussion norms that we made last
So, what did you all think of the story?
[Initial impressions: Hes dumb, I dont like Mrs. Mitty, I dont get it.. was he a
doctor? etc.]
So who thinks they understand where Mr. Mitty is going when he, all of a sudden,
changes into a doctor or a lawyer or a pilot? Sally?
[Hes like, thinking about it?]
Not just thinking about it

Who here has ever been in math class or, dare I say, English class, and thought about
being somewhere else, someone else, doing something else?
[I also raise my hand]
What do we call that?
Daydreaming. What have you all daydreamed about? Anyone?
[Climbing mountains, being a superhero, driving racecars, painting, etc.]
I daydream about food sometimes. When I want a big, huge burger or large pizza..mmm.

Walter Mitty daydreams, why?

Why do we daydream?
[Because were bored. laughter.]
Thats right though! Were bored, or tired of what were doing, or fed up, or frustrated.
So we think about other situations and often put ourselves in them so we feel a little less
bored or frustrated.
What do we think about Walters daydreams?
[Theyre way cooler]
They certainly are much cooler than buying overshoes. Let me rephrase. Do you all feel
like we know Walter pretty well now?
Why might that be?
[We get to see, like, what he wants and stuff.]
We see Walters desires and we, perhaps have similar, or at least relatable, desires for
adventure or achievement or greatness. And we feel like we can relate because maybe
were also not quite achieving those aspirations even though we want them. So in terms
of how James Thurber wrote Walter Mitty, is it these [gesture with personality trait sheet]
words that make us like Walter?

No, we like him because the story honest with us about this guy whos maybe not quite
happy. Hes a little spacey, a dreamer. But they dont tell us those things. They show us.
Is this story believable?

Is Walter believable?

Does Walter fit in where he is?

[This discussion may go other directions and I will never tyrannically preside over all
discussion as long as it is productive. Above is what Id personally like to get across
during it, regarding character.]
What point of view is this?

[Um, first? Or third! Its third, in his mind.]
Which makes it what perspective?
Youve got it.

5. [5 mins.] Step 4: Review Vocabulary

Excellent discussion! I look forward to many more. Ok, so quickly, lets go back to those
vocabulary sheets.
I goo over the vocabulary words, ask students what they think they mean, and which ones
fit into the personality traits sheet. (All but initiative do).

Notice how Thurber used these wordshe never just said this character is so insolent
or this character is a cur. These words are used in very specific ways, to relate
indirectly to Walter or to compare him to another kind of person.
6. [30 mins.] Step 5: Characterization Journal and Model
Please grab your journals from the back of the room. Turn to the first blank page, write
the date at the top and characterization.
[Pull prompt up on projector: Think about a friend or relative who you can characterize
with one or more of the words on your personality traits sheet. If you have a good word
thats not on the sheet, you may use that as well. Write the trait(s) at the top, then write a
short story (fictional or true) that shows the reader how this person is or has those traits
without just telling the reader that they do. Just because the person is real doesnt mean
the story has to be, but it can be. Use the story to prove the personality trait.]
Were going to use these ideas on Friday when we craft our first snapshot, but for now I
want you to apply what weve talked about to a real person. It can be anyone as long as
you have a good sense of their personality, and can choose one or two traits that define
that person. If James Thurber was writing this prompt about Walter Mitty, he might
choose imaginative and disconnected. Im going to write about my friend Zach, a
scientist. My trait for him is going to be zany. Ill write the first paragraph up here
and show you how Im going to think about showing his zaniness. Feel free to start
working as I talk.
[Sets up writing projector.]
So my friend Zachthe first thing I think about is that he likes to make odd noises and
put silly words together. Im not sure why he does it, but I think its a good place to start.
And I need some kind of story to go with thatI could talk about a road trip, meeting
someone new, a delivery, a strangerhmm I think Ill write in the first person, from
someone elses perspective, who is meeting Zach for the first time, and their reaction to
the strange words and noises he likes to make.
Lets see:
It was a loud rowdy Friday evening at the bowling alley when I met Zach H. Im not
normally a bowler, but I had tagged along with my cousin Garrett who was in town for
the weekend, and had known Zach in high school. When I got out of the car and looked
over at the silver sedan Zach was sitting perched on, I knew it would be an unusual night.
He was on top of the hood, legs crossed, as if he were meditating, looked over sideways
with wide eyes, and shouted OOOH SHA BA-BA! At first I thought he might be
homeless, but then Garrett returned the call: BA-BA SHA BA-BA! he cried. It
wouldnt be until much later that I confirmed these words meant absolutely nothing to
either of them.
Students write for the rest of the time, I circulate and inquire how theyre showing their
characters trait.
7. [10 mins] Closure: Character Development Sheets

Great work today everyone, I look forward to seeing where our journeys into character
take us. At the end of the unit, well be putting together a portfolio with at least three
snapshots youve written about a character, and if you like the one you did today, youll
definitely have time to tweak and revise it. Before you go, I want you all to take one of
these little packets. Its a character development sheet, and as we work through the unit,
our goal is to create a fully developed character. So this sheet has a ton of questions to
think about when you create a character, and well be working on it in class throughout
the next few classes. But for crafting a character, and there are no restrictions on who or
where or when this character lives, use this as a good starting point. Im not making you
turn them in, but I want to see that youve used them, and take the last few minutes of
class to begin brainstorming your own original character. Im also happy to talk to
anyone who doesnt know where to begin.
Methods of Assessment:
[How will you know if the intended learning occurred?] List all methods of assessment
used in this lesson or which are related to this lesson and come in a future lesson. After
each assessment, indicate in brackets the number(s) and letter(s) of the unit objective and
the related lesson objectives that the assessment is evaluating.
1. I will use student journals as diagnostic tools at this point, with students having
written introductory week journal entries and now characterization-personality trait
journal writes. This will allow me to tailor all upcoming writing instruction to my
students needs and differentiate my individual feedback and attention.
1. Students will listen to and discuss The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, specifically
watching for characterization and point of view. (Objectives 1a, 2, 6a, 6b, 7a, 10a; SoL
6.2d, 6.4f; CCSS RL6.4, SL6.1C).
2. Students will craft a journal entry with the purpose of showing (not telling) a character
trait of a person in their lives. (Objectives 1a, 2, 6a, 6b, 11; Sol 6.7g; CCSS W.6.3A).
Differentiated Instruction to accommodate one or more of my profiled students:
(This is where you identify specific aspects of this lesson which have been differentiated
in order to address the needs of one or more of your profiled studentsidentify them by
This is a chance to get my students talking and thinking out loud, and I want to make it
my priority to encourage and open up discussion. The norms we set during the
introductory week are vital to helping this open community grow. The listening aspect of
this assignment should really help the slower readers in my class, such as Manny, and the
discussion further supplements this whole-class-gets-it approach with this relatively
difficult text. My modeling will hopefully provoke my students (and especially
Mannys) interest about character and spur a productive journal-writing session.

Materials Needed:
Copies of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for all students
Copies of vocabulary guide for all students
Copies of Character Development Sheets for all students
Projector/sound system for read-aloud and video
Projector to write on for model
Extra pens/pencils/paper
Student Journals

Materials Appendix: (e.g., supplementary texts, Ppts, overheads, graphic organizers,

handouts, etc.
The Secret Life of Walter Mitty Vocabulary Guide
Some words are defined; define the others to the best of your ability as you listen to the
reading of the story and follow along with your text.
Hurtling: adj. move wildly or uncontrolled at great speed
Intimate: adj. closely familiar, having close connection; v. to imply or hint at
Overshoes: n. a shoe worn over shoes, typically for wet weather
Hydroplane: n. a seaplane
Anaesthetic: n. a drug to numb pain
Insinuate: v. to suggest or hint
Pandemonium: n. disorder, confusion, or uproar

From what point of view is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty written? Limited or

Descriptive Telling Personality Trait Words



















































Credit: to audio at:
Link to Point of View video at: