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Getting to the Heart of Story Characters

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The following is a guest post from Pam Barnhill of edsnapshots.com.

Sure, everyone thinks that plot is the most important thing in a story — after all that is where all the action is. Honestly, though, well-drawn characters do more for my enjoyment of a story than anything else in a book.

Teach kids how to investigate story characters with this free printable.

photo credit jenny kaczorowski on flickr

Characters are fun — they are like us, they are not like us. A good author draws the characters for us through their words and deeds. Teaching kids to recognize the traits of characters can lead to many fun and insightful conversations with your kids. By asking the right questions and providing a sounding board for good conversation, kids can come to see the tools that authors use to create characters who will touch us.

Some Questions to Ask About Characters

  • Is the character male or female? Old or young?
  • What is the character good at?
  • What does the character struggle with?
  • What do other characters say about the character in question?
  • What does that character say about him or herself or to others?

Once we have a few ideas about the character, then we look for evidence in the story to support the ideas we have about that character. If we think that a character is kind, then we should be able to find evidence of kind words or kind deeds that the character is done. The opposite is true if we think that the character is evil.

You’re Such A Character Notebooking Page

One way to get to the heart of a character is to use the Such a Character notebooking page to create a portrait of that person. You can see the one my daughter has done here about Tinker Bell from the Disney Fairy Series of books.


I let her choose one of her favorite characters in a series she is most excited about to encourage her to actively participate in the process. Once she has done this for a few characters she loves (and she went on to complete a few more about other fairies in the series at her own request) it will be easier for her to tackle tougher characters like Laura from Little House on the Prairie or Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia.

Olivia started by drawing a picture of Tinker Bell based on the description in the novel. Be sure to turn to a descriptive passage as they work and have the student underline some of the key elements in the description like age, hair color, clothing, etc.

characterization for young children

Once the drawing was in place, we began by discussing some of the questions above. Every time Olivia made a statement about Tinker Bell’s character I encouraged her to try to find evidence to support that statement from the book. For her first attempt I was pretty pleased with her ability to think about the characteristics of Tinker Bell.

book study ideas for young children

Finding evidence to support her findings was a bit tougher, but I think we are off to a good start and it will grow easier over time. What surprised me most was the enjoyment we both got out of the discussion we were having about the book and the characters in it. She was thrilled to tell me about the characters she loves, and her enjoyment was contagious.


The You’re Such a Character notebooking page can also be used for a biographical sketch of a real person. Use the sheet to highlight a historical figure and write facts about the person on the available lines.

How do you study characterization in your homeschool?

>> Download the You’re Such a Character notebooking page.


Pam is the author of Plan Your Year: Homeschool Planning for Purpose and Peace. She lives in the deep south with her husband and three kids, and helps homeschool moms live their best life with great resources and practical inspiration at edsnapshots.com.

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This article was written by a Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers guest author. See the author's full bio in the body of the post.

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One Comment

  1. What a great way to get discussion going around a book. Sometimes having concrete questions helps the flow get started, and who knows what teachable moments might come along the way. Great post, Pam!

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