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There is no shame in asking the question, “how to teach character motivation?” Character motivation can be tricky. Kids have to know how to read, have good comprehension, and be able to make inferences, not to mention they need to know what motivation means! It can be super complicated, but I am here with some tips and tricks and ways to make your job teaching just a little bit easier!
I remember the first time I heard someone ask about character motivation. I was a SEIT at the time and was with a student adapting curriculum in a school setting. This was a student who had reading comprehension problems and difficulty processing language.
I looked at the teacher, asking them about it, and just shook my head. No way was that happening without some build-up.
They got the question wrong, and it was no big deal. Because then, I went home and started working on a way to teach them to identify character motivation in a systemic way with clear, easy-to-follow steps.
Within a few months, they were a character motivation finding fiend!
And now, I want to share that system with those easy-to-follow steps with you!
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How to Teach Character Motivation
The basics of my system!
When you are teaching character motivation, the first thing you have to do is teach students what it is.
That’s going to involve teaching them what motivation is. We all know that motivation is a complicated concept, especially in the world of teaching.
But for our purposes in these lessons, I always just say it’s a want. When a teacher asks you, “What is the character’s motivation?” they mean, what does the character want.
Next, I like to brainstorm some things characters might want with kids. They can pull from their real lives, and it’s an awesome way to keep them engaged.
I also provide a list I’ve premade.
Then I teach them my five steps for identifying a character’s motivation. It starts with a ground-up approach for finding evidence first and then making your inference.
That is how I prefer to teach making inferences, to learn why check out this blog post!
- Read the text. If you don’t understand it, read it again.
- Underline the important things the character does and thinks. (Evidence collection)
- What does this tell you about their motivation? (Inference)
- Does your evidence match your inference?
- Write a sentence about the character’s motivation and connect it to your evidence.
I like to go over these steps, practice them together, and then do a drag-and-drop activity where kiddos have to put them in the right order.
If that’s sounding good but not like something you want to prep, then you should buy my premade presentation.
The hardest of all these steps, by far, is step number two. How do you know what an important thing a character does or thinks is?
The answer is to practice, practice, and then practice some more.
That is why my pre-made character motivation presentation comes with five interactive practice sessions.
There’s a story with clickable buttons that students use to identify the motivation and matching evidence.
Of course, students will need more chances to practice than the five I’ve provided, but it’s a great engaging way to get them going.
My students love the clickable buttons and the stories that go along with this presentation and have called it “that one reading game.”
I think, as teachers, we all know that when kids think a lesson is a game, we know we’re on the right track!
I hope that all these steps and tips have answered your questions about how to teach character motivation.
I always say teaching inference-making explicitly is the way to go, and that’s why all the interventions, lessons, and reading passages I’ve created ask students to find their evidence before making the inference.
They’ve been super effective at helping my kids with low comprehension or those who struggle with executive functioning skills, and I want to make sure they get into the hands of teachers who need the help as much as I did when I made them.