Authors use several elements of characterization to illustrate how a character feels. Writing about the character’s actions, words and interactions with others will help readers understand the character’s emotions. Fourth graders must be able to infer how a character feels from these clues, according to the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
Cut out pictures of people from magazines, catalogs or old books. Paste them onto different sizes, colors and shapes of card stock and pass them out to students. Have students write about how that person is feeling, and then have each student explain why. Take one of the characters and apply different experiences and ask how the character is feeling now. For instance, for a picture of a soccer player from a sports magazine, say, “This is Bob. He just missed a shot that would have won the championship for the team. How does he feel? What will he do? What will he say to his teammates?" Use several characters and scenarios to explore different feelings.
Body Language Broadcast
Have students take turns posing in the front of the class using body language to indicate how they are feeling. Classmates can then write physical descriptions of their classmates to suggest how a character is feeling and create a scenario that describes why. For instance, “After Jim commented on her new clothes, Sue stood with her hands on her hips, rolling her eyes and smirking. None of the boys in the class wanted to go near her after that.”
Practice personifying emotions. List several “feelings”, such as fear, sadness, happiness, joy, nervousness. Then have students imagine a feeling is a person. How would it act? What would it do? For example, one student wrote, “Fear crept slowly up my body until it found my neck and gripped it tight.” Have students incorporate their personification into a scene with the character. For example, “It was too dark for Sally to see. She felt for the light switch as fear slowly crept up her body and gripped her neck. She could hardly breathe.”
Have each student create two different characters and describe them on index cards. They should include a brief bio of the person along with character traits. For instance, “Alan Argus is the oldest of four brothers. His mom has been sick, and he has been taking care of a lot of things at home while she recovers. Lately, his grades have been slipping and he has been acting mean to his classmates.” Then collect the cards, shuffle them, and deal two of the cards to each student. Have the students create a dialog between the two characters that reveals their feelings and suggests why they are feeling that way.
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