Are you looking for the perfect picture book to teach perseverance? I came across Brave Irene by William Steig years ago, and instantly fell in love with it. Irene, the main character, has many insurmountable challenges facing her as she struggles to deliver a ball gown to the Duchess for her sick mother through a terrible storm (on foot no less!). Your students will hang onto every word and wonder, “Will she make it?”
When I teach with this book, I focus on teaching character traits, point of view, personification and the art of personal narrative writing. One of my favorite tools to use is a character graph. It’s great for listening comprehension and building vocabulary. Here’s how I’ve used it:
- First, I handed a graph out to each student before I begin reading the book aloud to the class. At the rug they’d each have a clipboard, graph and pencil. (maybe a crayon or colored pencil)
- I ask students to listen carefully to the events in the story.
- Every time they think a character displays that character trait, they shade in a box on the graph next to that trait.
- I remind them to be selective. Some traits fit a character better than others, depending on the event.
- Taking this a step further, I’ve made blank character trait graphs where I fill in 7-8 words from a large list of character traits. (I always like a large poster sized list to display).
- I may include some traits that would definitely be the antithesis of the character’s actions just to mix it up. That way I can use it with any book. You wouldn’t believe how well they pay attention to the story! They will hang onto every word…trust me! Plus they love to see which character trait “wins”.
The beauty of this activity is it opens up serious vocabulary discussion (which is a great comprehension builder), and a chance for them to locate and discuss specific examples from the story. This is a lot different than the typical open response format we assign on a regular basis.