It's In The Bag ...

26 April 2011
Paper Bag Character Study
OK. I've got my evaluation coming up this week. So ... I've spent the last week sprucing up my bulletin boards and posting new student work. And I must admit, the classroom is looking FANTASTIC (I hope). My Word Wall makeover was just the start. I'm very excited about my "It's In The Bag" bulletin board. I wasn't sure the student projects would work as a bulletin board display - I was planning to display the projects on a table - but it worked ... well!

This year I've been reading the Shadow Children series, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, as my oral read to the class. Normally, I would just read the first book of a series, knowing I'd spark enough interest for at least a few students to continue the series independently. Not this year, though. I have a boy in my class who has Aspergers and can be quite difficult to engage. He has sat, entranced with the novels, from the day I started the first book. Although he can't read indendently at this level, he is definitely comprehending the material at a very deep level, and his insights often WOW me! How could I not finish the series???

I use my oral reading sessions to spark deep conversations about the novel, and I model aloud the reading strategies I use. The only thing I require from my students during our reading of the novel is participation in our discussions. This has never been a problem. In fact, I often have to cut our conversations off 5 to 10 minutes AFTER the bell. At the end of each oral novel, I do have a summative task. These tasks are varied. We've had comprehension quizzes, book talks, made comic strips, written reading responses, etc. For our last novel (our fifth in the series), the students completed my Paper Bag Character Study.

Paper Bag Character Study
For this assignment, students were given a plain paper bag. On the front of the bag they had to draw an illustration of the main character. On one of the side panels they had to write about the character's likes and dislikes, and on the other side panel they had to write about how the character interacts with other characters in the novel. On the back panel the students had to write about how the character changed throughout the novel, and what events were responsible for the changes the character made. Our current reading focus is inferring, so this assignment fit perfectly. My favourite part of the assignment was what was "in the bag". Students had to put 10 objects in their bags that represented or reminded them of the main character. On the day the assignments were due, students orally presented the 10 objects they chose. I was amazed by some of their choices. One student pulled a box from her bag, stating it represented the symbolic box the character had previously been trapped in. Another student included a poppy to symbolize the courage and bravery the character displayed. Yet another student (my student with Aspergers) pulled a book about Hitler from his bag, telling the students the autocratic regime in the book reminded him of Hitler and his control of Germany during WWII. (Did I mention his insights often WOW me?!). These are eleven and twelve year olds ... chills, I tell you!

This Paper Bag Character Study is available in my TpT store.  You can take a peek at it by clicking HERE or on the picture to the right.

A smaller, more condensed version of this assignment can be found in my Characterization Bundle. The 29 page resource includes: a set of 3 mini-posters, bookmarks, a full page of activity ideas, a full page of reading response prompts, a page of internet resources, and a book list. It also contains many different reading and writing graphic organizers, as well as two full ready-to-use assignments, success criteria, and rubrics (1- paper bag character analysis, 2- character journal writing).
Characterization Bundle

This characterization bundle is also included in my much larger resource, Literary Elements Resource. This HUGE 156 page resource contains creative resources and assignments to support your students’ learning of literary elements. Resources can be used to study ANY text. Literary elements included in this resource are:
• Author's Purpose
• Characterization
• Figurative Language
• Point of View
• Tone and Mood
Each literary element section (30 pages in each section) contains a set of colorful posters, bookmarks, a full page of class activity ideas, a full page of reading response prompts and questions, a page of internet resources, and a book list. Each section also contains a variety of resources for oral language, reading, and writing (anchor charts, handouts, graphic organizers, etc.), ready-to-use student assignments, and rubrics.

Literary Elements Resource


  1. Jen-
    I love this project! Will definitely be adding it to my list of "I just have to do this" ideas for next year in my 6th grade room! :)


  2. My eighth graders loved those books. They had a system of how the books were passed through. They read one book a night and passed it on to the next person on the list. If someone didn't read the complete book that night, the people behind them on the list made their day miserable. They waited with anticipation for the next book to be released. (The entire set had not been released then, it was just finishing up.) It was awesome to see them reading that year!

  3. I love this idea. Thanks for sharing!

  4. It was the first year I did this, and I will definitely be doing it again next year. The objects that they picked were so interesting!
    Pam, my students LOVED this series. I never read an entire series to them, but it was worth it this time. We're almost done the last book, and we're pushing to finish it this week.

  5. I did something similar on the first day of school using paper bags and filling it with something that represents them. I love how you incorporated that into a lesson. I think I might do this again on the first day and use the likes and dislikes and the timeline of each student's life on the back... not sure though :) Thanks for the idea!!!!

  6. So cute...I love that display! Thanks for the great idea. I just found your blog today and I love it.
    I have a freebie giveaway for people become followers on my blog. I'm still new to all of this. Come check it out and share with me!

  7. What a great response you got from your kids! Can't wait to try it. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Love this idea. Thanks for sharing.
    Marcia :)

  9. Thank-you! It really was a fun activity - I'll definitely do it again next year.