top of page

Empowering Your Student with Better Comprehension: Unraveling the Layers: A Guide to Understanding Literary Characters

In the world of homeschooling, teaching literature presents both challenges and rewards. As students dive into the realm of books, it becomes essential to equip them with the skills to uncover the complexities of characters that bring stories to life. This blog post aims to explore strategies for homeschooled students to deepen their comprehension of characters in literature, examining both external and internal traits.

Understanding External Traits:

External traits refer to the visible characteristics of a character, including physical appearance, actions, and speech. Focusing on these details lays the groundwork for a more profound understanding of literary characters.

Visualizing Descriptions:

  • Encourage students to create mental images of characters based on the author's descriptions. This can involve illustrations, mood boards, or simple sketches, fostering a clearer understanding of the character's external traits.

  • Mental Imagery: Illustrations: Mood Boards:

  • As students read, prompt them to actively visualize the appearance of a character based on the details provided by the author. What color is their hair? What kind of clothes do they wear? Are there any distinctive features or accessories? By actively engaging their imagination, students can form a mental snapshot of the character.

  • Simple Sketches:

  • For those inclined towards drawing, encourage students to create simple sketches of the characters. This hands-on approach allows them to focus on specific details and nuances, reinforcing their connection with the character. Sketching can be a fun and interactive way to bring the character to life beyond the written word.

Analyzing Actions and Reactions:

  • Characters are shaped by their actions and reactions. Guide students in observing how a character responds to various situations, as it offers insights into their personality, motivations, and relationships.

Exploring Dialogue:

  • Paying attention to a character's speech can unveil significant information. Analyzing tone, vocabulary, and speech patterns provides clues about a character's background, education, and emotional state.

  • Dialogue serves as a powerful tool in literature, offering a dual-lens through which both external and internal traits of a character can be revealed. Let's break down how dialogue provides insights into both aspects:

    • External Traits through Dialogue:

      • a. Speech Patterns and Vocabulary:

  • The way a character speaks reflects external traits such as their education, cultural background, and social standing. A character using formal language and an extensive vocabulary might be perceived as well-educated, while colloquial or slang expressions might indicate a more informal background.

    • b. Tone and Emotion:

  • The tone of a character's speech can convey external traits related to their emotional state. For example, a character expressing excitement, frustration, or sadness provides visible clues about their immediate feelings, contributing to the external portrayal.

    • c. Contextual Behavior:

  • External traits can be observed through how a character adapts their speech to different contexts. Their language may vary when interacting with various characters or in different situations, shedding light on their social adaptability and external demeanor

    • Internal Traits through Dialogue:

      • Thoughts and Reflections:

  • Dialogue often serves as a window into a character's internal world by revealing their thoughts and reflections. Through spoken words, readers gain access to a character's inner monologue, allowing for a more intimate understanding of their fears, desires, and uncertainties.

    • b. Motivations and Intentions:

  • Characters express their internal traits through dialogue by articulating their motivations and intentions. When characters share their goals, dreams, or reasons behind their actions, readers gain valuable insights into the driving forces that shape their decisions.

    • c. Subtext and Unspoken Emotions:

  • What characters don't say can be just as revealing as what they do say. Dialogue often involves subtext, where characters may hint at emotions, fears, or hidden motives without explicitly stating them. Readers must read between the lines to decipher these internal nuances.

Understanding Internal Traits:

Moving beyond surface-level traits involves delving into a character's thoughts, feelings, and motivations.

Inference through Internal Monologue:

  • To comprehend a character's internal traits, students can engage in the practice of inferring internal monologues. This involves imagining what the character might be thinking during key moments in the story. By placing themselves in the character's shoes, students develop a more empathetic connection and gain insight into their innermost thoughts. This process not only enhances comprehension but also encourages a deeper emotional engagement with the narrative.

Tracking Character Development:

  • Characters are dynamic entities that evolve throughout a story. Understanding internal traits requires students to track the changes in a character's beliefs, values, and emotions over time. By identifying pivotal moments in their development, students can analyze the factors influencing these changes, fostering critical thinking and a nuanced interpretation of character growth.

Reflecting on Motivations:

  • Delving into a character's internal world involves reflecting on their motivations. Why does a character make specific choices? What drives their actions? Prompting students to consider the underlying motivations behind a character's decisions adds depth to their understanding. Encourage them to explore how a character's past experiences, desires, and fears shape their behavior, allowing for a more comprehensive analysis of the character's internal landscape.

Empowering homeschool students to read literature with a focus on both a character's external and internal traits unlocks a world of depth and complexity. By honing these skills, students not only enhance their comprehension of characters but also cultivate critical thinking, empathy, and a lasting love for literature. As they embark on their literary journeys, homeschool students armed with these tools will find themselves well-prepared to navigate the rich tapestry of characters that populate the literary landscape.


Try our English Literature Course in FAFlex!

FAFlex Curriculum Memberships

Join us in redefining education through a flexible, dynamic, all-in-one online and hands-on curriculum with FAFlex.

All-in-one K-12 curriculum:

  • Customized Core Curriculum with Exact Path's Math, Reading, and Language Arts, including printable worksheets and guided notes.

  • Personal Finance with Budgeting and Investing Games.​ (6-12 only)

  • Writing with a Purpose with detailed teacher feedback.

  • English Literature with Novel Studies with unique hands-on learning activities.

  • Civics, Sciences, and Histories with unique hands-on learning activities.

  • LIVE Teaching Support

  • Student social events and activities.  

  • Optional LIVE-lab classes for all courses.

Price: *Includes a 12-day free trial.

$24.99 monthly per student


$216 annually per student


bottom of page