Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Who Are They Really?

Characterization in the Outsiders

Adam Yeargin, Keristy Nieto | Published: November 22nd, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 8th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 115 minutes


This lesson focuses on grade level standards that require students to identify examples of characterization as well as construct an argument. Students will identify examples of characterization in both film and text, then construct an argument on a character’s personality based on the characterization. This lesson can be completed before starting The Outsiders or after reading Chapter 1.

Essential Question(s)

How do characters come to life to the reader?



Students complete a quick-write on characteristics of someone they admire.


Students identify examples of characterization from a short video.


Students are introduced to the "STEAL" method of identifying characterization in a text.


Students apply knowledge of the "STEAL" method to an excerpt from The Outsiders. ?


Students create a Claim-Evidence-Reasoning argument in groups regarding their chosen character's personality.


  • The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton (one per student)

  • Computer

  • Projector & Speakers

  • CER Notetaking (attached; one per student)

  • STEAL (attached; one per student)

  • Darry Character Description (attached; optional; one per student)

  • Two Bit Character Description (attached; one per student in the group)

  • Sodapop Character Description (attached; one per student in the group)

  • Dally Character Description (attached; one per student in the group)

  • Johnny Character Description (attached; one per student in the group)


As students enter the room, have slide 3 projected in the front of the room. Ask the students to think about someone they admire. It could be a family member, a friend, an athlete, etc. Tell them to brainstorm words that could be used to describe that person and write down a list of those words on a blank sheet of paper.

Display slide 4 and share the essential question with your students: How do characters come to life to the reader?

Display slide 5 and share the lesson's learning objectives.

  1. Students will be able to identify examples of characterization in both film and text.

  2. Students will be able to construct an argument on a character's personality based on the characterization.


Have the students flip over their sheet of paper. Display slide 6 and inform students that they are going to watch a video clip from a movie. As they watch the movie clip they should write down a description of the character(s) presented. Tell the students to use specific evidence. How do they know what they are describing? How is this shown in the video?

Option 1: Direct Characterization Mean Girls Edited - Mean Girls - What kind of people are the “Plastics?” (slide 7)

Option 2: Captain Jack Sparrow's intro - Pirates of the Caribbean - What kind of person is Jack Sparrow? (slide 8)

Option 3: Almost There - Princess & the Frog - What kind of person is Tiana? Or her mother, Eudora? (slide 9)

Have students share their character description with an elbow partner. Once they have had an opportunity to discuss their descriptions, ask a few to share out what they have. What evidence was in the video to support this description?


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 10 and inform students that characterization is the process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character.

Display slide 11 and tell your students that the STEAL mnemonic device can help identify the five elements of characterization. The elements of STEAL are Speech, Thoughts, Effects on others, Actions, and Looks. Tell your students that for each element of STEAL, they will look at their character descriptions from the movie clips and determine if that element was present. As you review each part of STEAL you may need to replay the movie clip for students. Do this as needed throughout the next few slides.

Speech (slide 12)- The words a person speaks can say a lot about them. When they speak to other characters, look at what they say and how they say it.

Thoughts (slide 13)- What is revealed through the character's private thoughts and feelings? Consider what a character thinks, believes, or values, along with what motivates a character.

Effects on others (slide 14)- This element focuses on the relationships the character has with others and how characters treat each other. How do other characters feel or behave in reaction to the character?

Actions (slide 15)- What does the character do? How does the character behave, including how they react to people and events?

Looks (slide 16)- How is the character's physical appearance described? This includes, physical features, clothing, body language, etc.

Next, ask students to apply STEAL to their original person from Engage activity. Did their initial notes have some of those same elements?


Distribute the attached STEAL handout.

Display the character description for Darry using a projector or computer display and model finding examples of characterization in the text. Align these examples with components of STEAL.

Display slide 17 and put students in small groups of 2 or 3. Give each group one character to examine (Johnny, Sodapop, Two Bit, and Dally). Pass out the accompanying Character Description attachments for each assigned character. Instruct them to find at least four examples of characterization for an assigned character from The Outsiders and identify which component of STEAL each one meets.


Display slide 18 to introduce the class to the Claim, Evidence, Reasoning (CER) strategy. Distribute the attached CER Notetaking handout (see attachments) and ask each group to create a claim regarding the character they examined in the Extend section. Distribute copies of the text to each student and inform them that based on the characterization in chapter 1 of The Outsiders, they should describe the selected character.

Ask them to record evidence they found that supports their claim in the "Evidence" section of the CER Notetaking Handout. They can use the "Reasoning" section to take notes for how the evidence they found supports their claim.

Once your students have completed the CER Notetaking, display slide 19 and have them write a three to four sentence paragraph that supports their claim, based on the evidence and reasoning notes. This can be completed on the back of their handout or on a separate sheet of paper.