Saturday, March 27, 2021

Text Set: Keeping Track of Characters

 Texts for this Text Set have been posted daily on Instagram. 

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Knowing and keeping track of characters is important for readers at all levels.  There are many ways to think about character, but one challenge readers sometimes have is keeping track of characters across a book. Keeping track of characters requires readers to know characters and to slow down and think about them. This week's text set will focus on books to support conversations on ways to keep track of characters across a text. 

When we talk about keeping track of characters across a text, I love to begin with books that have two characters who have a strong relationship. Often in books with 2 main characters, the two characters have similarities and differences and those differences often become important to the story. Using books such as Ginger and Chrysanthemum and Ling and Ting start great conversations about stopping to think about each character individually as we read. Sticky notes on the cover with things we learn about each character as we read is one way to make this thinking visible.

Making sure to include nonfiction in conversations around characters is important. This fabulous nonfiction picture book--Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams-- would invite conversations that build on the work in fiction. Keeping track of people in a story requires that you pay attention to the details about each character.  Connecting the strategies readers use for fiction to nonfiction is important. 

I like Salma the Syrian Chef as part of this study on keeping track of characters because Salma is clearly the main character but she has several people who support her.  These characters are typically flat characters who help the main character solve her problem in different ways. As readers move into more complex texts, flat characters and those in supporting roles become more and more important. These characters are often hard to keep track of because readers don't get to know them well.  Charting these new characters as they come up is a good way to keep track of characters when there are several. 

One of my favorite graphic novels, The Cardboard Kingdom, is one that is filled with interesting characters. Not only are there many characters to keep track of but they also have fictional characters they portray in their play throughout the book. So, to understand each character, you need to know both of the characters identities.  This is a more complex book and probably best for grades 3-6. 

Operation Frog Effect is perfect for middle grade readers to think about characters and keeping track of different characters by knowing them well. This story is told from several perspectives--students in a class- and each is a different writing style, a different font, etc. Hearing from characters in their own voices makes this perfect for this conversation and learning. 

This week's books were linked at Cover to Cover Children's Bookstore. If you are looking for a fabulous children's bookstore to support, this is an amazing one. We are lucky to have them in Central Ohio!


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