The Trumpet of The Swan


Book Cover By E.B. White

Character IconNames and physical description of Characters are generally not problematic for a child. However, personality traits, motivation, and perspectives are more difficult. Multiple characters may be difficult to hold in memory. Our Character maps help in this area (Braidy the StoryBraid map, below left; Story Grammar Marker map, below right).

Braidy Character Map SGM Character Map

When we use our character maps, we focus on:

— WHAT Character Icon THINKS.

— WHAT Character Icon SAYS.

— WHAT Character Icon DOES.

Review the SGM character with the students. Read Chapter 1 of The Trumpet of the Swans to the students. You may have the students work individually, in pairs, or in a teacher led group lesson depending on the students. Filling in a Character Map as you a begin a book with the students is a wonderful intervention activity for those who are working with students who struggle with comprehension.

Review the chapter with the students, reading short segments at a time and filling in the map(or discussing what the students have filled in) with the students. One strategy we have found helpful is to read short segments, make a list of characteristics, and then go over each one and put in the appropriate category on the Character Map.

Page 1:

  • Put SAM BEAVER around the character icon
  • Male (age, gender)
  • 11 years old (age, gender)
  • Black hair (physical appearance)
  • Dark eyes (physical appearance)
  • Strong for his age (physical appearance)

As you can see from the sample above, a listing and then putting into categories would serve as a great teaching stragtegy.

Page 2:

  • Careful (Characteristic) — Why did we choose this word to describe Sam? Careful means to take care and be cautious. “Every four or five minutes Sam took his compass out of his pocket and checked his course to make sure he was headed in a westerly direction.”
  • Observan (Characteristic) — Why did we choose this word to describe Sam? Observant means to be ”good at watching and listening: good at noticing what is going on around you.” (Merriam-Webster). I can tell that Sam is observant by the way he described that nest: “The nest was big, too — a mound of sticks and grasses.”
Notice how we are using evidence from the text to support our choices.

Page 3:

  • Likes to explore (Stated by Mr. Beaver in the text and this is what Sam had been doing.)
Page 4:
  • Secretive (Characteristics) — Secretive means “not letting people see or know what you are doing or thinking: tending to act in secret.” (Merriam-Webster) It is stated right on this page that Sam “liked to keep things to himself.”
  • Likes to be alone — stated in the same paragraph
  • Likes — the cattle ranch; his pony, Duke

Page 5:

  • Likes watching guests who came to the ranch (notice again this could be used for Observant); camping trips with his father in Canada

Page 6:

  • Likes: studying birds
  • Thoughtful (Characteristics) The fact that Sam kept a diary tells me he thinks about what he had done…he is thoughtful.
  • Curious (Characteristics) Curious means you are interested in learning about something. Sam kept a diary and always ended with a question so that “he would always have something to think about.” This tells me he was a curious person.

Notice how at times we used an actual definition. A suggestion that proved helpful to one of our teachers was to have a students keep a “Characteristic Dictionary” where they would write the word, a brief description of the characteristic, and the character the showed this trait. Another teacher kept an ongoing list of characteristics and character names from various stories throughout the school year. It made for a great review of stories and character traits at the end of the school year and was well worth the effort.

Below find the completed character map from the first chapter of The Trumpet of the Swan. Yours may vary a bit.

Available on the reverse side of our Building Characteristics mini-poster is a wonderful activity that would be perfect for a partner activity or center activity. See the sample below using the characteristic, observant.

CHARACTERISTICs Worksheet

On a closing note, this chapter is an excellent choice to combine narrative and expository text structures. You could begin mapping the story out using the SGM icons and then focus on gathering information on Trumpeter swans. Sam, as observant and knowledgeable about birds as he is, has given us some good starting information to build on in this one chapter!


Sheila Zagula
Sheila Zagula

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