Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Changes in Character Emotions

As students work on literature circles, I try to introduce ways of thinking about a text that can apply to multiple novels. One fun chart that we've been using lately is a chart that shows changes in a character's emotions. This kind of chart creates a neat visual summary of the emotional journey of a book. (Note: I didn't come up with this idea. I totally forget where it came from! I couldn't find any charts online, so I made a new one)

First we read the story Shortcut by Donald Crews. If you don't have this book on your mentor text shelf, it's certainly worth it! It works on many levels--as a personal narrative, a model of creating mood and suspense with sentence variety, and, as in this activity, a quick read aloud.

Then we went back through the book and talked about how the children might be feeling at different points. Students went back to their emotion word charts to do this! We created a map that showed the different emotions of the children in the book. (A few students decided to illustrate it during indoor recess.) If you've read Shortcut, you'll see that this really represents what happens--the kids start out happy and playing, are terrified as the train approaches, and end up relieved and subdued.

After we practiced with the read aloud, students used the chart to map out the main character's feelings in the short story "Juggling". Finally, they tried it out with their own literature circle books. The results were tremendous. Not only were students finding more specific emotion words, but they were also matching story events to emotions in a very visual way.

You can download the initial chart for Shortcut, as well as a blank form for any story,  here at Slideshare.


  1. Hi Emily,
    I don't seem to be able to download the chart for Shortcut.I have never read the book, but it sounds good. I ordered it at the library and I plan to do the lesson when we go back to school. Christine

  2. Hi! I'm glad you've ordered Shortcut--it's great for lots of different purposes.

    Here's the link to Slideshare:


    If it still doesn't work, write to me at elkissn@yahoo dot com and I'll send you a copy.

  3. Hi Emily,
    Do you think this would be an assessment for the common core standard-how a character changes as the plot moves towards a resolution? I'm looking to come up with assessment for that--grade 6. Thinking this might just work!

  4. Hi Erin! I think that this would be a great assessment for looking at how a character changes. The student might have to create the chart, and then write an open-ended response to explain how the character changes throughout the story. This would really bring together a lot of higher order thinking skills. Great idea!