Grade level:


Approximate Lesson Duration:

Unit/Lesson New Jersey Student Learning Standards (NJSLS):

RL.6.3. Describe how a particular story’s or drama’s plot unfolds in a series of episodes as well as how the characters respond or change as the plot moves toward a resolution.

RL.7.3. Analyze how particular elements of a story or drama interact (e.g., how setting shapes the characters or plot).

RL.8.3. Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.

Brief Summary of Cultural Competencies Related to the Unit/Lesson:

What makes this lesson culturally relevant?

Typical lessons in characterization ask students to consider the way a character looks, acts, and feels. Terms like “glamorous,” “sad,” and “helpful” may expand one’s vocabulary, but limit students’ understanding of the dynamic features of identity that contribute to building empathy. This lesson creates a platform for the examination of a more comprehensive and inclusive vocabulary for discussing characters and gender diversity.

This chart shows some of the standard language offered to students for discussing character traits:

Lesson Overview:

Essential Question(s)
  • Why should readers consider an LGBTQIA+ perspective?
Enduring Understanding(s)
  • A reader can gain a better understanding of a text as a whole by considering multiple diverse perspectives, including marginalized groups (i.e. LGBTQIA+)
  • Inclusive language creates cultural awareness, compassion, and opportunities for transformational learning in a classroom community.
Potential Misconceptions
  • Students may have a preconceived notion that there are “fixed” character traits based on gender (i.e. boys vs. girls). 

Learning plan, experiences, intstruction and learning activities:

What is Expected?
  • List the intentional learning objectives on the board.

Students will be able to:

  • Identify gender-diverse character traits 
  • Use gender-diverse character traits to describe the main character in Better Nate Than Ever 

Today we will be working on…

Becoming better readers through the lens of expanding our vocabulary around character traits.  We’re going to revisit our main character in Better Nate Than Ever.

What is expected?
How will we hook (Introduce this to) the students?
  • Activate thinking
  • Consider the language you will use to introduce the lesson (See example in the table)

Link to Engagement

Recently, we read Chapter 1 and became familiar with the main character.

Turn and talk to a partner about…

  • Who does the main character in the story remind you of?
  • How is Nate developing as an individual in the story?

You are really beginning to understand what makes Nate unique as a character.  Many of you are recognizing Nate’s eclectic personality and love for the performing arts. Unlike many boys his age, Nate does not appear interested in sports.  One character trait we might use to describe Nate is: talented.  

Today, we’re going to dig deeper with a new focus.  This focus is on gender-diverse character traits.

What equipment, resources, or materials are needed?

Recommended Text: Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

How will we rethink or revise our thinking throughout the lesson?
  • What learning is confirmed?
  • What misconceptions are uncovered?
  • What is your new thinking?

At the end of the lesson, students will be given an opportunity to reflect on their new thinking around the main character.

How will students self-evaluate and reflect on their learning?

Refer to the exit ticket as a check for understanding.

How will we tailor learning to varied needs, interests, and learning styles?

How will we organize the sequence of learning during the lesson?

Scaffold the Instruction


Chapter: A Quick but Notable Conversation with Mom, a Week Ago

The teacher will use pg. 27 to model that there is more to Nate than what meets the eye.

I’m thinking about how Nate brought up his sexuality as “way off-topic and unrelated,” but if the author chose to bring that up it might have something to do with his character.  Moving beyond “talented,” I’m thinking of some gender-diverse character traits that can be used to describe Nate.  

Guided Practice

The teacher will continue to read the passage(s) in which Nate’s sexuality is brought up.

Ask students to define gender-diverse terms that are more appropriate and less hurtful than the ways in which his peers make fun of him.

Ask students to work with a partner to develop a list of three descriptions of Nate.. For each trait, the students should also be able to provide an example from the chapter.

Independent Practice

When you go off to read your choice novels on your own, be sure to think about your characters in new and evolving ways. Ask yourself: What are some gender-diverse character traits that can be used to describe the main character in your books?

Check for understanding:

(Formative evidence such as conferencing, group Q/A, teacher observation, exit-slip, etc.)

Exit Ticket:

Students will respond to the prompt below.

How do gender-diverse character traits allow you to better get to know the character when reading?

Quiz/Test (optional):
(attach copy of assessment)

Performance Task/Project:
(attach rubric)


Supplemental Resources:

There are many companion texts that can be used to introduce students to prominent LGBTQIA+ actors and performers who have made lasting social contributions historically.  An incomplete list of suggestions follow to facilitate such discussions:

  • I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
  • Harrison Dwight Ballerina and Knight by Rachael MacFarlane
  • Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

This focus on gender-diverse character traits can also be applied to informational texts.  An incomplete list of suggestions follow:

(Choices can be reviewed based on teacher discretion)

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