EL Support Lesson

Inferring Character Motivation

In this support lesson, students will use sentence frames and short texts to make inferences about a character in order to understand their motivation. Use this as a support for the lesson What's the Theme? Analyzing Character Motivation.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theWhat's the Theme? Analyzing Character MotivationLesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for theWhat's the Theme? Analyzing Character MotivationLesson plan.

Students will understand that the theme is the central idea or underlying message of the text.


Students will be able to make an inference with sentence structures using sentence frames.

(2 minutes)
Vocabulary Cards: Inferring Character MotivationGlossary: Inferring Character MotivationDetermining a CharacterSentence Stems for Making InferencesStone SoupTeach Background Knowledge TemplateWrite Student-Facing Language Objectives ReferenceGraphic Organizer Template: Frayer Model
  • Tell students that today they will be learning some sentence structures and vocabulary that will help them make inferences to determine a character's motivation in a story.
  • Explain that in year six, they will be expected to understand the theme of a story. However, in order to find the theme, they must first understand what a character wants or the reason for their actions (i.e., their motivation).
(10 minutes)
  • Use vocabulary cards to introduce the definitions for the words Inference, Motivation, and Theme. Explain that these are some of the big ideas they will be thinking about in the lesson.
  • Tell students that they will be studying some additional vocabulary words that will help them describe a character's motivation. Display the word bank section of the worksheet Determining a Character’s Motivation and read the words aloud, having students echo you after each word.
  • Provide students with the Glossary worksheet with student-friendly definitions for some of the words. Allow students to review it with a partner.
  • As a model, show students the picture vocabulary cards for two of the motivation words (Approval, Envy). Then, hand out two blank vocabulary cards (or index cards) to each student. Instruct them to pick one word from each column in the word bank (i.e., one "want" word, one "feeling" word). Tell students to write each word they chose, the definition (using the glossary or a dictionary), and a picture on each of their vocabulary cards.
  • After students have finished their two vocabulary cards, have them meet in small groups to share. Then, invite students to share with the class so that several different words are represented. Make quick drawings for any words that were not represented with student drawings.
  • Hand out the worksheet Determining a Character’s Motivation and have students complete the vocabulary matching exercise in section one with a partner.
(8 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will be studying sentence structures and phrases that will help them make inferences as they read.
  • Explain that authors do not always explicitly tell why a character is motivated to act a certain way, so a reader must use clues to infer what they want or feel to determine what their motivation is.
  • Display the worksheet Sentence Stems for Making Inferences and review the sentence stems with the class.
  • Direct students' attention to the picture of three children. Give them time to study the image, then instruct them to discuss it with a partner. As they discuss, tell students to use the prompts and sentence stems to make an inference about the characters in the picture.
  • Call on non-volunteers to share the inferences they made about the picture. Remind students to use the sentence stems when they share their answers.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the story Stone Soup. Read it aloud as students follow along.
  • Tell students to talk with their partner and make inferences about what motivated the characters to make stone soup. Remind students to use the sentence stems and the vocabulary words during their discussion.
  • After students have talked, write variations of the inference sentence stems on the board:
    • "In the story, the author suggests that the wanderers are motivated by ____Because they..."
    • "The description of the wanderer's actions suggest that they were motivated by ____Because..."
    • "When the author said ____, it suggests that the characters are motivated by..."
  • Hand out an index card and tell students to choose a sentence frame from the board. Have them write a sentence about the characters' motivation on their card, along with their name.
  • When students have finished their sentence, tell them to pass their card to a new partner (not the person they talked with).
  • Write some additional sentence frames on the board:
    • "I agree that the characters were motiviated by ____, because the author also said..."
    • "I disagree. I think the characters were motivated by ____, because the author said..."
  • Tell students to read the card recieved from their partner and respond with an agree/disagree statement, using the new sentence frames on the board. Provide a student-friendly defintion for the words "agree" and "disagree" and explain that if they agree, they should find another example from the text to support the inference. If they disagree, they should state what they think the motivation was and why.
  • After students have responded to their partner, invite them to discuss their responses together. Then, call on a pair of students to share their sentences aloud.
  • Remind students that an inference is based on our own reasoning and evidence, but we will not always make the same inferences as other people. Explain that whatever inference we make we should be able to find evidence to support it.


  • Complete a Frayer Model for the words "motivation" and "inference."
  • Pre-teach additional vocabulary terms that students will see within texts during the lesson, like "wanderers" and "ingredients."
  • Allow beginning ELs to use bilingual resources to define new words throughout the lesson.
  • Strategically pair beginning ELs with more advanced ELs or students who speak the same home language.


  • During the discourse level focus, challenge advanced ELs to write sentences using word banks as supports rather than sentence frames.
  • Allow advanced ELs to utilize a glossary, thesaurus, and dictionary for help with unfamiliar words.
  • Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions. Ask advanced ELs to add on, rephrase, or clarify what their peers say in class discussion.
  • Have advanced ELs repeat instructions and key vocabulary while summarizing important information for the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Direct students' attention to the short story at the bottom of the Determining a Character’s Motivation worksheet. Do a choral read-aloud with your students.
  • Instruct students to use the provided sentence frame and the vocabulary they learned to make an inference about Raoul's motivation in the story.
  • Allow students to share their responses with a partner before calling on non-volunteers to share their inferences.
  • Collect students' completed worksheet to check for understanding.
(3 minutes)
  • Remind students that the words they learned in this lesson are only a few of many motivation words.
  • Have students form small groups of four. Hand out a sheet of paper to each group and have students brainstorm as many other motivation words or phrases as they can, writing their ideas on their paper.
  • Call on students to share the words and phrases they brainstormed. For each word or phrase that is shared, draw a quick picture on the board as a visual support.
  • Explain to students that they can use these and other motivation words when they make inferences about a character in a story.

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