Teaching Character and Idea Development in Middle School

Find out how I teach character and idea development in middle school! #ideas #lessonplans

At our school, the goal is to routinely discuss the standards to be taught with one's PLC.  So recently we took a look at how to teach character and idea development based on R.CCR.3:  Analyze how and why individuals, events, and ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Of course, that means there are two parts of this standard to consider:  fiction and nonfiction.

The fiction side of the standard focuses on plot and character development whereas the nonfiction side focuses on idea development.

Introducing the Entire Unit

I first like to start with an overview using a picture book.  For this standard, I have chosen "My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother".  I found a great reading of this on YouTube by Melissa Gilbert. This book is perfect for showing character development.  We discuss this book afterwards and focus on the concept of development.  

Then, it's time to dig into the vocabulary.  I use the test item specifications for my state and the standard itself to derive my list of vocabulary.

I like to play some games after we go over the words and have posted all the cards to the word wall.  I make dominoes and have partners work together just to complete the game at first.  Then I hold competitions to see which partners can do it in the shortest time.  

Playing dominoes is one way for my middle school students to learn the vocabulary of character & idea development.  #teaching #ideas

The Fiction Part of the Lesson

Next, it's time for the meat of the unit and I will start with the JUST the fiction portion of the standard (I'll teach the nonfiction part later.)  First we'll read "Lamb to the Slaughter" by Roald Dahl.  

Then I'll use a PowerPoint and notes to show students a 3-step process for determining how a character develops in story which in turn affects how the plot develops.  The notes I use are a blend of traditional two-column notes and visual/interactive notes.  I think of it as the left brain advantage of structure combined with the right brain benefit of visuals to get the best of both worlds!  I call these notes Pixanotes.

Pixanotes help my middle school students learn a process for determining character and idea development.  #teaching #lessonplans

The notes help students see how to determine character development in a very structured way.  Plus since I make these notes in 4 versions with the same content but varying degrees of scaffolding, I have differentiated the content so everyone can "get" it.

After the notes, it's time to practice with these ideas.  I have some task cards that ask specific questions about character development with "Lamb to the Slaughter".  I 'll probably play "Scatter" with the task cards and hang them all around the room and then have students visit all the task cards and record their answers.  Then we'll go over the answers.

The Fiction Assessment & Follow-up

After the practice, there will be a quiz based on another story "The Owl and the Grasshopper" which is a fable.  (Our state loves to use obscure fables on the state tests so I try to introduce them throughout the year.)

Students who earn an 80% or better, will be given an "Enrichment Menu" where they will choose between creating a character "tie" or writing a new version of the story from the quiz.

Students who earned less than an 80% will be given an "Enhancement Menu" for re-teaching that includes the choice of watching a video review and then creating a storyboard for their own video, or there's an option for students to use their notes to explain each question on the quiz. 

What happens when some middle school students "get" character & idea development and some don't?  #teaching #projectbasedlearning

In the end, each student will have a menu as follow-up from the quiz and each student will create a product.  So now I will have differentiated products too!  

Next up, Nonfiction!

I'll start with reading an article called "High Court Reviews Insanity-Defense Case" from CommonLit.  I chose this article because it connects to "Lamb to the Slaughter".

After we read the article, we'll complete new Pixanotes based on how ideas develop using this article.  

Idea Development can be tricky for some middle school students but Pixanotes make the job easier with a combination of structure and visuals!  #teaching #ideas

Then we'll practice with the information using task cards with specific questions about developing ideas in the article.  I think this time, I might play ZAP with the task cards to change things up a bit.

Now that we have practiced, it will be time for a quiz with a new nonfiction text.

After the quiz, students who score 80% or better will receive a nonfiction enrichment menu and have the option to create a poster or a paragraph response to the text presented in the quiz.

Students who scored less than 80% will receive an enhancement menu for reteaching.  They will have the option to watch the review video and create their own new quiz or to to use their notes to explain each question on the quiz.


I'll take some time and have students present some of their enhancement or enrichment products from both the fiction and nonfiction portions of the standard.  That will serve as a review for the final unit assessment.  

This entire unit will likely take about a month, but we will have covered both character and idea development with plenty of differentiation and opportunities for students to experience project based learning.

If this sounds like a lot of work, you'd be right - except that it was only a lot of work for me since you can get all of these things by clicking here!  

Standards-based Middle School ELA Developing Characters and Ideas Unit with BUILT-IN differentiation for content, process, and product using the teach-reteach-enrich format! #teaching #lessonplans

In this resource, you'll receive:
★ Editable lesson plans
★ Teacher script for each day
★ Vocabulary Worksheets with Word Wall Cards to match as well a Dominoes practice game!
★ PowerPoint to use with the Pixanotes (Picture notes)
★ Two sets of Pixanotes (one set for fiction and one set for nonfiction) that match the PowerPoint and come in 4 versions so you can differentiate the content.
★ Task cards for Fiction and another set for Nonfiction to practice the skills with directions for 3 ways to choose to use them so you can differentiate the processing of the content.
★ A Quiz for Fiction and another Quiz for Nonfiction
★ Student pages for reteaching (labeled as enhancement) and enriching for both Fiction and Nonfiction so you differentiate products.
★ 2 Videos to use for reteaching
★ Answer Keys
★ BONUS: Final Assessment that assesses both fiction and nonfiction

Or maybe you only need just the fiction or nonfiction portion:

Everything you need to teach character development with built-in differention so you can teach, remediate and enrich your middle school students!  Just print, makes copies and teach!  #lessons #activitiesEverything you need to teach idea development with built-in differention so you can teach, remediate and enrich your middle school students!  Just print, makes copies and teach!  #lessons #activities  

I hope this helps you teach character and idea development in your Middle School ELA class!

NOW you can get DIGITAL versions of the notes with embedded videos of the PowerPoints!

Teach your middle school students how to analyze the development of idea over the course of a nonfiction text with this digital lesson! Students will learn a 3 step process for determining how ideas develop in any piece of nonfiction with 2 videos, interactive guided notes that I call Pixanotes®, and a self-grading "quick check" activity.

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