The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 40

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First graders are new explorers. First, they work hard learning different reading strategies so that they can establish themselves as readers. Then, we dive deeper into character study and story elements. We spend time in different settings as our books take us to faraway places. We learn how to relate to our characters, as well as, learn from their mistakes and trials. It is the second half of the year that I see their excitement grow, as their books come to life.

For first graders, and most adult readers, the character in a story is the most important part. In her book on reading strategies, Serravallo (2015) says, “Characters can become our friends, can help us learn about our lives outside our own, and can help us think differently about or better understand people in our own lives” (p. 162). Getting to introduce so many wonderful characters to my first grade readers is one of the biggest joys of my job. I have always had a love of books, and getting to see my students make connections to these timeless characters is why I can’t wait to get to school every morning.

Together we just wrapped up our Character Study unit. We began by revisiting many of our class’s favorite characters: Chester Raccoon from the Kissing Hand, Jack and Annie from the Magic Tree House series, Rainbow Fish, Junie B. Jones, David from the No, David books and so many more! We spent the majority of our unit discussing the characters in our stories and how the adventures that they go on can teach us many different things. We learned to never give up from Alice in Touching the Sky. Annabel, from No Flying in the House, taught us how important it is to have a family, no matter what it looks like and Flat Stanley taught us to do what its right and have an adventurous attitude. We also discussed how many of these characters are similar to us. While we may not be training for the Olympics, living in a tree, or traveling back in time, we can still connect to these beloved characters. Calkins (2015) says, “Characters are the most important ingredient in any story, and that when readers go on reading adventures, they pay attention to details to learn all they can about the characters they meet along the way” (p. 32).

Each of my students was given a character log at the beginning of the unit. As they read independently and met new characters, they logged information. They were asked what the name of their character was, a trait to describe them, and the evidence from the book to support their trait. Many students ended up filling out multiple pages of these logs. I even had some ask if they could continue to fill them out at home. My answer was, of course, YES! We discussed that as they read and meet these marvelous characters, whether it be at home with their parents, independently in class, or together during read aloud, they should always be taking the time to make these connections because that is what brings their books to life and into their hearts.

Characters Coming to Life

By Michelle Martignoni

"We spent the majority of our unit discussing the characters in our stories and how the adventures that they go on can teach us many different things."