Teaching Character Traits and Motives with Brave Irene

February 4, 2021 1 Comment
Brave Irene – Storyline Online

I have loved the book, Brave Irene by William Steig, since I first embarked on my teaching career in 1987. It was first published in 1986 – the year I graduated from college! One reason I love the book so much is because I have been able to read it with kindergartners, fifth graders, and every grade in between and every group of students has loved it, as well. William Steig was a magician with words and his books are perfect for read alouds.

For many years, I focused on the brilliant figurative language – namely personification – in the book when using it in the classroom with my students. Recently, I started using it during our annual character unit because Irene is an incredible character with a range of admirable traits and motives. Irene embodies bravery (of course), compassion, creativity, perseverance, and responsibility, among other traits. In addition, she is motivated by love and is so determined to achieve her goal of delivering the dress her mother made to the duchess that she battles the elements – often to the point where the reader becomes concerned that she will not succeed – to achieve her goal.

When talking about Irene’s traits, I prompt students to brainstorm Irene’s positive traits and guide them to identify compassion, creativity, perseverance, and responsibility, but am always interested in the traits they notice that I have not emphasized. For an independent or partner activity, I distribute graphic organizers. I have two levels – a higher level where students find examples of traits in the text and a lower level that includes cut and paste options.

After we discuss Irene’s character traits, we move on to her motives. It is abundantly clear that Irene loves her mom – so much so that she is willing to brave the elements to deliver the dress her mom made to the duchess in time for a ball. We start by discussing different things that motivate characters and what, specifically, motives Irene. Some ideas I toss around are accomplishment, compassion, happiness, love, respect, and satisfaction, but again, I’m always interested in what my students are thinking. After our discussion, I distribute graphic organizers for an independent or partner activity. Again, I have two levels – a higher level where students identify motives and find examples in the text and a lower level that includes cut and paste options.

I hope that you and your students enjoy these lessons and this freebie and are able to have some great discussions about character traits and motives using this wonderful book.

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Currently, I teach fifth grade and have taught fifth grade since 2011. Before teaching fifth grade, I taught third grade, first grade, kindergarten, preschool, baby and toddler music, college, and graduate school. I am a mom of two daughters, a Maltese dog, and a tuxedo cat.

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  • […] be adding to a new growing bundle that currently includes How to Read a Book, Lotus and Feather, Brave Irene, and Here Comes the Garbage Barge. In August and September, I plan to update and expand Brave Irene […]

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    The letters of my first name inspired the name of this blog and the names of my other business ventures, so when you think of me, just remember AM4Y. I started my teaching journey in 1987 and have taught every age from babies to fifth grade as well as college and graduate school in Tennessee, Florida, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Colorado, and Virginia. I have a B.A. in English and Psychology from The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and an M.A.T. in curriculum and instruction from The University of Memphis. In addition, I have completed more graduate work at The University of Maryland and The University of Colorado, Denver. I am a mom of two young adult daughters and a cute Maltese dog. When I am not teaching, you can find me traveling, reading, hiking, or cooking. Read More

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