I don't usually teach my students to steal, but that's exactly what I'm going to do today. Sort of.
"Steal" is an acronym I use to develop character-analysis skills with my 4th-grade students (aged 9-10). It looks like this:
What does the character say? How does what the character says reveal his or her personality, values, motivations and feelings?
What does the character think and how does that reveal his or her personality, values, motivations and feelings?
What effect does the character seem to have on the people around him or her? How do others react when they are with the character? How do others behave when they are not with the character?
How are the character's actions described? What do these actions reveal about his or her personality, values, motivations and feelings?
How is the character's appearance described? What does it reveal about his or her personality, values, motivations and feelings?
By "Stealing" these details, students deepen their understanding of the ideas in a story and the problems a character faces.
First, we work through an example text together to understand the method. We Steal five details that reveal something about a particular character, then we try to identify which of these details are relevant to the build-up of the character or to the plot of the text.
Now the children are ready to go it alone. Differentiate the instruction by providing students with reading material that is appropriate for their level. Working either independently, with a partner or as a group, students begin to hunt for clues that help them to understand more about the characters in question and the overall themes of the story.
The children absolutely love this task, pretending to be master thieves who uncover the treasure.
Greg McGrath teaches 4th grade at Charles H Bullock Elementary School in New Jersey, US