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The Character of Characters

When readers open the cover of a book and enter the pages of a story, they begin a journey.

Each of our Literature and Writing Discovery Guides, Earlybird through Level 4, is a personal journal of that journey. Each section of the journal begins with the observations the reader makes about the characters. Over time, students will encounter diverse characters who introduce them to themes common to real people. At first, at the Earlybird level, the way students describe the characters they encounter will be very simple, single words—kind, happy, silly. As they progress , readers will discover that the character of the characters is complex and will want words at their disposal to accurately communicate what they observe.

How does this happen?

Beginning in the 2nd grade, we inspire our students to begin collecting words. What better way than to follow characters in beautifully illustrated books as they collect words? Operation Lexicon provides 10 years of word collecting for students in grades two through twelve!

In the 3rd grade, with Operation Lexicon: Character Traits, word collecting is specifically related to the characters we read about and the people we encounter in the real world!

Additionally, we have created FREE downloadable character trait flashcards tied to our Levels 1, 2, and 3 for students to have a collection nearby as they construct observations.


As students progress in their journalling skills, they will learn to defend their observations with examples from the story. Overtime, it is important to teach students to discover a wide variety of traits—both permanent and transient. Sometimes situations that characters encounter determine character in the moment, other times we observe characters growing and changing.

During the first two sections of The Westing Game, this student was attending to momentary reactions which is not wrong, but narrow:

When encouraged to step back and observe Turtle Wexler’s overarching traits, the task was easy because of a treasure trove of specifically descriptive words:

It is difficult to describe the power of integrating reading and writing through journalling, but it is easy to SEE, and wonderful to be a teacher whose sole purpose is to stand beside and truly mentor students in the important work of becoming literate.