Characterization Reading Response Exercise

Characterization Reading Response Exercise; Debby Zigenis-Lowery's Literate LivesReading fiction and reflecting on, writing about, and discussing what has been read is a great way to build reading comprehension and other reading skills, as well as deepen understanding of the various elements of fiction.

For the writer, it is a way to learn the craft by examining and analyzing the practices of others.


Read a novel or short story for fifteen to twenty minutes.


Think about what you have read.


  • Make a list of things you like about a character in the story.
  • Pick one trait from the list and explain why you like it.
  • Explain how this trait contributed to your liking of the character.


Share your response with your reading partner, partners, or as a comment here.  If you share here, please remember to include the title of the book and its author. Your “response” could prove intriguing enough that someone else might like to read that book as well.

Building Pre-readers’ Literacy Skills

Read a picture book that contains a storyline together.


Ask your pre-reader which character they liked best. Once your pre-reader has identified a character, ask what he or she liked best about that character.


Enjoy a lively “book talk” with your pre-reader!

Your Turn

How did it go? Please share any of your actual responses, observations, or comments. Let’s encourage one another!


Teacher’s File Drawer: Character-Based Reading Response Exercise

Good teachers know, the more time our students spend reading or writing, the more they strengthen both their reading and writing skills. Using reading response exercises after a timed reading, either of a class novel or self-selected novel, gives our students time to practice both.

To make it easy for you to incorporate this practice in your classroom, feel free to use the reading response jpg below.

Character-Based Reading Response

Character-Based Reading

Your Turn

l have always loved reading my students’ responses to literature. I’d love it if you would share any responses that delighted you. (Of course, do not use student names to protect privacy.) Enjoy!


Alack and Alas…A Change of Schedule

New Blog Schedule: Literate Lives

Alack and Alas…

It has been fun blogging twice per week through my recovery from mono and over the summer, however, like summer itself, this too must come to an end.

While I love blogging, sharing my life, my reading, my love of writing, and my encouragement for parents and educators, I will be returning to the class room as an educator and will therefore have less free time for blogging.

A Temporary New Schedule

Next week I will begin blogging once per week, and next week’s post will come out on Tuesday.


I will only continue the Tuesday schedule if I do not hear from you.

Your Turn

On what day of the week would you prefer to see Literate Lives bounce into your inbox? Please voice your opinion using the comment box below. Based on your preferences, I will determine and begin blogging on your chosen day for posting.

Reading Response: A Focus on Vocabulary

Want to help your children or students build their vocabulary? Try this exercise.

Prepare to Read

First, either instruct your children or students to read for a set amount of time. When I was a classroom teacher my standard “student choice” reading homework assignment was to read for 10 minutes, 3-5 nights a week.

You might do the same with your children or students, or you might read aloud for a set time period or length of pages. Be sure, if you are a parent, your child is sitting beside you so he or she can see the text as your read. If you are a teacher, be sure you are reading from a text that all the students can have a copy of, so they can follow along.

Print the following statements onto a note card, project them on your Smartboard, or write them on your whiteboard:

  • A word I did not know or was not certain of the meaning of was…
  • I found it in this sentence…
  • I think it means…
  • I looked it up in the dictionary and it means…

As you or they read, tell your students to be on the lookout for a word for the exercise.


Instruct your child or student to begin reading, or you begin reading. It is best if you do this in a quiet room without a lot of distractions. Tell him or her to write down the word and page number when they spot it and then continue reading for the allotted time.


When done, instruct your students or child go back to the page they noted and copy down the sentence in which he or she found the word. Instruct them to fill in the remaining statements or, if your group is small enough, discuss the remaining statements together.


Challenge your students or child to look for ways to use their new word for the next few days.

Your Turn

How do you like to help your children or students to expand their vocabulary?

Literate Lives 2017

Litlives PurposeWelcome to Literate Lives 2017!

In the week between Christmas and New Year, I have been doing some much-needed housecleaning here on the blog, and ended up reading a lot of old posts. The process charged me with excitement for this next year together, and instead of making you new promises, I want to touch back to my original intentions here at Literate Lives. So here is a blast to the past: excerpts from (and a few additions to) my very first post, June 6, 2010.

Literate Lives: The Vision

The concept of a blog is interesting. It is a challenge to be both personal and useful-to others. This is my second version (now my third actually) of my first blog post here in “Literate Lives.”

In the first version of this post, I eagerly shared who I am and the things I love, believing if readers and I share some common passions, you might come back to read more. And I do want you to come back for more. I love reading, writing, and teaching, and I want to contribute to the reading, writing, teaching community in a positive way.

However, having completed that first post, I was aghast to discover it was all about me! Me, me, me—as if I were some kind of navel-gazing egomaniac who has nothing to offer save my own glorious vision of myself. (Definitely NOT my intention.)

While a revised “version one” will likely soon appear as a post (because I do feel, if you and I are to become friends and colleagues in pursuit of a literate lifestyle, I must be willing to share who I am). What I want to say here, however, is that I hope “Literate Lives” will be a “place” to which you can come, a quiet corner where you can think about reading and books, writing, and creativity. I hope it will be a “place” where you can share your love for these things with a like-minded community and glean from the blog posts, comments, “Play with Your Words” writing prompts, and reading response exercises treasures to enrich your own literate lifestyle and that of your students or family.

The Support and Nurture of Lovers of Reading and Writing

J Tower LogoToday, as I moved, tortoise-pace, through my day, I felt a deep sense of sweetness in this slowing and reorienting of my life as a result of last week’s visit to the ER. I savor it. I want to hang onto it, and fear I will forget it as my health improves. And so I memorialize it, in hope I will not completely forget.

I don’t want to hurry anymore. My spirit has been so at peace while unburdened by deadlines. I feel so much more open to and able to embrace the people in my life. And I am convinced the world cannot experience peace if we are all running and grabbing.

One of the cares that has driven me these last few years is a burning desire to be published. I have been writing fantasy novels for a long, long time. While my hopes for publication have not changed, I pray, as I re-embark on my routine pursuits, I can cease to rush after it with such urgency. I want to write and reach readers, but I want to write, revise, and submit my novels in a sustainable manner. Let God’s timing rule. Patience is sweet.

And, I want to return to blogging regularly. When I started Literate Lives, and again when I interviewed for my job, I said, “I love to encourage readers and writers.” But tonight, it feels like so much more. I long to nurture and encourage readers and writers. I want to be an instrument of blessing in your lives. I want to provide ideas and encouragement to help you embrace stillness, reflection, gratitude, and peace; facilitate your engagement in a literate lifestyle as a way to experiencing these things; and support the teaching and spread of literacy as a means toward a life well lived.

I want to love and nurture lovers of reading and writing. I want to support you in developing your own literate lifestyles and fostering literacy in your homes and classrooms.

So tell me, what would you like to see here? How can I support and nurture you?

It’s a New School Year: What to Expect at Literate Lives

Back to School

School houseHappy New Year!

September always feels like the true new year. Maybe that’s because nearly all my life the school year has determined mine and my children’s schedules.

What You Can Expect at Literate Lives This Year

I have spent some time reflecting over the summer and have determined a number of features I would like to commit to for this upcoming school year.

For the 2015-2016 school year, readers may anticipate a variety of blog posts and the following regular features:

  • “Play with Your Words” writing prompts to inspire you, your students, or your family to write in a variety of genres
  • “Reading Response Exercises” to develop the skill of extending your understanding of and responding to reading, in writing or discussion
  • “Poetry Writing Prompts” to engage in work play, capture memories, develop word choice and writing fluency skills, and just plain have fun
  • Introduction of  Greek and Latin roots to develop vocabulary and new-word “attack” skills
  • Quotes to ponder
  • And my monthly, annotated reading log

Why Might You Want to Follow Literate Lives?

You love to read.

You love to write.

You have children you want to encourage to read and write.

You are a teacher eager to help you students improve their reading and writing skills.

My Hope

My heartfelt desire is to help you nurture a reading and writing lifestyle, be it at school or in the home. Literacy is the key that unlocks the door to bright tomorrows. A committed adult can make a world of difference in a child’s life. I hope to help you make that difference and wish you a wonderful back-to-school experience and a rich and literate life!

Literate Lives Summer Hiatus

Desire by Jane Kiskaddon
Desire by Jane Kiskaddon

Despite my best intentions, I seem to have stumbled into a summer hiatus.

I had intended to get back into regular blogging once school got out and I finished my revision of The Swallow’s Spring for gerunds and non-simultaneous “as” statements. (I thought this would take a week after school let out. Ha ha, the joke is on me. Due to ongoing issues with my concussion recovery, I only finished yesterday.)

This does not mean I will be ignoring the blog this summer. I need to do some behind the scenes work on the site in general and some organizing of my “Inspirations” system (which right now is little more than a folder that says “blog this”).

I hope to track down and create some original art for the blog.

And, I need to dream up a workable “rotation” for next year. Some things I would like to do include:

  • share interesting and inspiring quotes with you
  • share interesting and inspiring articles with you
  • reflect on my writing and teaching practices
  • update you on my writing projects
  • encourage engagement in literacy in the home
  • provide “Play with Your Words” exercises every week or two
  • provide reading response exercises to use with your child, your students or for your own journalling
  • begin a very slow, but somehow, still irresistable-to-me, exploration of Greek and Latin roots.

What a wish list! Please let me know what you would like to see. Look for a fresh start in September–a new adventure in nourishing our literate lifestyles.

About the Artwork, Ms. Kiskaddon  writes:

My name is Jane Kiskaddon  and I am a painter. Please walk with me for a while in a magical inner landscape of color and light…

Working from my imagination, I conjure up interesting landscapes, drawing from all the places I’ve been lucky enough to visit (Vietnam, Peru, Egypt and the Australian rain forest). Walking in beautiful Marin and traveling in my Airstream also informs my paintings.

Most of the time I use only five colors… black, white, yellow, orange and purple (once in a while I’ll sneak in a little magenta or blue).  Because these colors have become so familiar to me it’s as if they’re in my blood.

The forgiving nature of acrylic paint (its rapid drying time) allows me the freedom to make quick decisions and run with them. I build up many layers of paint to give the painting a richness and depth.  Reproductions are available.

Coming Soon to Literate Lives

Reading In the weeks to come, look for me to start blogging more regularly. You can expect to find writing prompts and teacher’s file drawer activities, “Wonderful Words” quotes, and of course, more posts about pursuing a literate lifestyle both in the classroom and at home, for both our students and ourselves. After all, if we can’t model it, how can we expect young people to embrace the idea that literacy is crucial to both their bright futures and their humanity!


Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil McBeth

402700I loved this book! I read it in one sitting, just gobbled it up.

In Praying in Color, McBeth discusses how she is often eager and willing to pray for others, but then finds that her prayer time turns into something more like a series of prayer snippets as her short attention span–and don’t we all have one of those nowadays!–keeps pulling her off topic.

The outcome of her seeking a way to deal with this challenge is the book, Praying in Color. Basically, McBeth advocates for doodling your prayers. She also emphasizes this has nothing to do with being a skilled artist. These doodled prayers are not intended to be works of art but rather an outpouring of our good wishes for the person or object of our prayer. Once complete, they also serve as visual reminders to continue praying in the days and weeks that follow.

In Praying in Color, McBeth suggests you allow yourself about a half an hour to sit down with paper, pens, and colored pencils or markers. Write the name of the person or object of your prayers and draw a shape around it. Then as you continue to pray, embellish the shape in whatever manner your thoughts lead you. By utilizing this process, she has found that what once were a minute or two or three brief moments of prayer have been transformed to 30 minutes of dedicated praying.

Furthermore, she shares how this technique can also be used for meditating on scripture (another tough job for those of us blessed with butterfly brains), weighing and discerning complex issues in our lives, and memorization of texts (Something that, as a visual learner, I find challenging. I’m excited to try doodling something I want to memorize soon. In addition, as a Language Arts teacher, I can see great uses for this as another format for responding to reading.

I prayed for a friend of mine who is battling cancer while I listened to this morning’s teaching in church. I just used a pen and an unlined 3/5 card. (I am going to add some color with my colored pencils–because I want to give her the card and the book–she is an artist). I found this did not distract me from the message, and yet, through my pen, I was able to weave a net of healing about her.

Praying in Color is an awesome little book, and I highly recommend it.