4th Grade - Characterization

Stories and Literature
Use knowledge of the situation and setting and of a character's traits and motivations to determine the causes for that character's actions.
The ability to determine the reasons, or causes, for characters’ actions based on their setting, context (situation), traits (characteristics, personality), and motivations.

Sample Problems


What are traits? (characteristics, personality details, qualities, behavior, etc.)


What is a situation? (context, plot, condition, circumstances, etc.)


What is a setting? (place and time of the story)


What is a motivation? (inspiration, cause, reason, purpose, incentive, etc.)


What is an action? (what someone does; the way something behaves, etc.)

Learning Tips


Analyze your favorite character’s actions using graphic organizers. Choose a character from a comic, television, movie, or book. Choose a graphic organizer to analyze the patterns of their behavior. Here are possible ways to analyze using the graphic organizers:

  • compare and contrast their good & bad actions with a Venn Diagram

  • make a T-chart showing their behavior before and after the problem in the story is solved

  • use a bubble map/ spider web to brainstorm all of the character’s traits


What is your point of view about the character? What gives you the right to judge them? Have a discussion/ debate about why you like or dislike a familiar character based on their actions, traits, and motives for doing what they do, considering their situation and background.


Read a new story out loud. What is the effect of the character’s actions on the overall plot? Do their choices and motivations drastically change the story? Why or why not? What does that tell you about the character?


In addition to actions, we can tell things about a character based on their thoughts and dialogue as well. Not all stories portray the inner thoughts and feelings of characters, just as some stories do not include dialogue. Find a story that does both. What insight can you find through analyzing the actions, dialogue, and thoughts of the character?

Some example stories are:


Read a new story silently or out loud. Judge using criteria whether or not the character seems real to you. The criteria are: Do the actions of the characters make sense? Can you relate to the character? Does the character change or stay the same? Remember, even if the character isn’t a person, their personality can still seem real, like Shrek or Charlotte (from Charlotte’s Web), for example.

Extra Help Problems


What is characterization? (description, portrayal, depiction, classification, categorization, etc.)


What is dialogue? (discussion, talking, conversation, etc.)


What are three ways you can collect information about a character? (their actions, dialogue, and thoughts or feelings)


What is a protagonist? (the “good” character in a story)


What is an antagonist? (the “bad” character in a story)


What is a hero? (a male character that saves lives or saves the day, sometimes with special powers superhero)


What is a heroine? (a female character that saves lives or saves the day)


What are some characteristics of protagonists? (honest, resourceful, funny, caring, handsome, respectful, independent, hard-working, creative, imaginative, inventive, daring, dreamer, adventurous, witty, ambitious, etc.)


What are some characteristics of antagonists? (wild, messy, fighter, mad, daring, mean, disagreeable, selfish, bossy, messy, rude, etc.)


What are some characteristics of heroes/heroines? (brave, courageous, intelligent, successful, bold, leader, etc.)


What are some characteristics of villains? (conceited, rude, mean, selfish, mischievous, etc.)


What are other words for characteristics? (traits, attributes, details, etc.)


What is a reason? (a cause, motive, rationale, etc.)


Does there always have to be a protagonist and antagonist in a story? (usually, yes because therein lies the conflict, or problem)


Can there be more than one protagonist and antagonist in a story? (of course – there can be teams of good characters, gangs of bad characters, a couple of each, etc.)


Does every story have a hero(ine) and a villain? (no – some tales just have a character that learns something or makes a point, which is a protagonist but not a hero(ine))


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