Book Talk Thursday ~ Characters and Setting

It's Thursday, and you know what that means?

It is assessment week at our school for grades K-3.  I always like to help out by teaching the class while the teacher does the assessments, since they are required to do them at our school.  When I can, I try to incorporate fun lessons into the day with some of my favorite books.

The second graders have been working on writing personal stories, and I have been working with them for writing this week.  We are using a super scripted program, but I decided to waver and use one of my favorite books by one of my favorite authors to help them understand both setting and characters.  I read aloud the book Thunder Cake by Patricia Polacco.
The book features a young girl who is at her grandmother's house just as a storm is coming along.  The girl is scared of thunder, and her grandmother tells her they are going to make Thunder Cake.  As they go around the farm gathering items for the Thunder Cake, they count the time between the thunder and lightning to see how many miles away the storm is.  As it gets closer, the girl counts and helps.  Once they get back to the house, the storm comes just in time to put the cake into the oven.  The little girl and her grandmother talk while they wait for the cake to bake.  In the end, the girl is no longer scared of storms because her grandmother helped her overcome her fear.

The book paints a vivid picture of the setting and gives us many clues about the characters.  After reading the book, we talked about the setting, describing the where and the when.  Then, I had the students complete the graphic organizer below.

After they told about the setting, the where and the when, they created the same graphic organizer in their notebooks and wrote a personal story based on the setting.

Today we worked on describing character.  We reviewed the young girl and the grandmother in the book.  We worked together to describe the grandmother, using many character traits and telling how the character looks and acts.  The students then completed the graphic organizer for the girl in the story.  Here is an example.
Tomorrow they will think of a new personal story and use this graphic organizer to describe a character in their own stories.  I cannot wait to see what is will come out of it all!

I really enjoyed working with the second graders to think about setting and character and then use it to help with writing.  If you click on the images below or {here}, you can grab your own graphic organizer freebies.
What do you do to help your students create vivid pictures of characters in their writing?  I would love to hear your ideas!

Thank goodness "testing week" is almost over!  I am ready for a normal week again!!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday


  1. I love Thunder Cake! It is one of my favorite books. It is an excellent choice for creating vivid images. Patricia Polacco has wonderful descriptive language!

    Eclectic Educating

  2. Thank you finishing writinv fundamentals unit on Patricia Polacco. What a great way to review what we've been learning.

    1. I sure do hope that it helps you out! The second graders really had fun doing this, and I saw how it improved their writing about the setting. I can't wait to see how they do with characters today!


  3. I love this book. And I forgot how much I liked it, until just recently when I read it to my girls. What a great text for personal narratives. I love the sheets you have to go along with it! Thanks.

  4. Thanks for the great graphic organizer. It will help my students with character and setting.

    Smiling and Shining in Second Grade

  5. I love using Amelia Bedelia books. I linked to this post from my "Book Talk' post (Book Talk: Amelia Bedelia here) about it. Thanks for the resources and guidance!
    Reading and Writing Redhead


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