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Character Analysis


When students read fiction, biography, history, and some poetry, thorough understanding of the text requires a deep appreciation of the characters involved: their beliefs, motivations, desires, and intentions. Through character analysis, students learn to use the text to develop accurate and rich representations of the characters involved, and to consider the ways in which the characters’ traits and interactions help to shape and give significance to the story.


Most storytelling centers around the action of characters: either humans or personified non-humans. Novels, short stories, and most of history tell the stories of characters whose interacting beliefs, motivations, desires, and intentions shape the arc of the stories. Since characters and character interactions are so central to most stories, students cannot fully understand these stories without a sophisticated ability to analyze the characters themselves. Students who are able to analyze characters effectively comprehend stories more easily, and relate to them more fully. Character analysis also can strengthen a student’s ability to analyze people in the real world, and to better appreciate the points of view of people very different from themselves.

Content Area Adaptations 

Character analysis is central to the study of human history, since most historical actions and activities are best appreciated through the lens of the individuals involved. In science and math, character analysis would be relevant whenever students are studying historical figures. In the arts, character analysis should be included in the study of particular artists.

Learning Strategies 

  • Connecting
  • Determining Importance
  • Inferring
  • Predicting
  • Questioning
  • Synthesizing

Common Core Standards 

  • CCRA.L.5
  • CCRA.R.1
  • CCRA.R.2
  • CCRA.R.3
  • CCRA.R.5
  • CCRA.R.6
  • CCRA.SL.1
  • CCRA.SL.3
  • CCRA.W.1
  • CCRA.W.2
  • CCRA.W.3
  • CCRA.W.9

Content Areas 

  • ELA
  • Social Studies

Learning Strands 

  • Listening
  • Reading
  • Writing

Holden Meets Hamlet

Through this fun activity students develop a rich understanding of characters by imagining an interaction between characters from different texts.  Variations of this activity include writing a scene from a play, a dialogue, or a set of letters.

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Through this creative activity, inspired by Burke’s The English Teacher’s Companion (1998), students reimagine a story through the perspective of minor characters. This process can help students to gain new insight into the action and meaning of the story, and the motivation of all of the characters.

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Launching Into New Content
  • Synthesis

Attribute Sorts

This activity helps students to organize and remember important and distinguishing information about key people, places, or other ideas from their reading.  Students sort a set of prepared attributes under the label of the person, place, or idea to which each attribute corresponds.  This activity works well as an initial learning activity...

Lesson Plan Stages 

  • Investigation
  • Synthesis