Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

More Than Meets the Eye

Direct and Indirect Characterization

Jane Baber | Published: November 4th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 7th, 8th, 9th
  • Subject Subject English/Language Arts
  • Course Course
  • Time Frame Time Frame 2-3 class period(s)
  • Duration More 180 minutes


Willy Wonka: distant and devious or charismatic character? Like all well-rounded literary characters, Willy Wonka is multi-faceted. We can tell a bit about him by observing his quirky appearance. But, what lies beneath his eccentric surface? In this lesson, students will evaluate characters for direct and indirect characterization that reveals layers of personality by analyzing both video and static images. This lesson includes optional modifications for distance learning and resources for use in Google Classroom.

Essential Question(s)

How do authors add layers of complexity to a character's identity?



Students describe a character (Willy Wonka) based on information they can gather from two sources, a reading passage and a video clip.


Students are introduced to the definitions of direct and indirect characterization and revisit notes taken during the Engage activity to apply these definitions.


Students read character descriptions from Roald Dahl's novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and watch a video clip from the 2005 movie adaptation.


Students work in groups to engage in a Pass the Picture activity where they generate a character profile of Willy Wonka or one of the children in the story.


Groups present their character profiles, which detail the direct and indirect characteristics from their Pass the Picture exercise.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Chart paper

  • Markers

  • Characterization Note Catcher (attached, one per student)

  • Character Descriptions handout (attached, one per student)

  • Edpuzzle Questions (attached)

  • Pass the Picture handout (attached, one copy)

  • Student devices with internet access


Display slide 2 to introduce the lesson. Explain to students that to begin the lesson they will listen to a description of a person that is read aloud. Ask them to take notes as they listen to the description and consider the following questions, which are displayed on slide 3:

  1. How does the passage describe this person?

  2. How would you describe this person?

Read the following passage aloud:

A man with brown hair walks out of a grand house to a crowd of eager onlookers, many of them children. The man has a noticeable limp and walks with a cane. He takes care walking down the red carpet from the gates to the crowd. Once anxious and rambunctious, the crowd is now quiet with anticipation as the man approaches. He is dressed in a brown top hat and deep purple overcoat. It is a long walk down the red carpet to the onlookers, and when he reaches them he stops, drops his cane, and falls face first into a rolling flip and then to his feet for a grand presentation to the crowd that has erupted in cheers and applause.

Give students time to capture their thoughts about how they would describe this character. As students are working, draw a T-Chart on a sheet of chart paper, with one column labeled "In the Reading" and the other labeled "Context Clues."

After a few minutes have passed, ask students to share their descriptions. As students share, record their descriptions in the appropriate column of the chart. This activity challenges students to consider whether the descriptions they gathered were straight from the reading that you shared or from interpretations they made based what they heard.

Display slide 4. Introduce the Willy Wonka grand entrance video clip, which shows the character and the events described in the reading. As they watch, ask students to compare their notes and the notes on the T-Chart to the clip.

Many students will have recognized the character in the video clip as Willy Wonka from the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. After watching the video clip, students might want to add additional information about the character of Willy Wonka to the chart. If so, have them decide which column they should put the information in.

Display slide 5. Share with students the lesson's essential question:

How do authors add layers of complexity to a character's identity?

Display slide 6. Discuss the lesson's learning objectives with the whole class. Reinforce that when they have completed the lesson, they will be able to do the following:

  1. Identify direct and indirect characterization in texts.

  2. Write a character description using information gathered from the two different sources.


Return to the T-Chart and remind students of the columns labeled "In the Reading" and "Context Clues." Explain that the next activity is designed to help them answer the essential question: How do authors add layers of complexity to a character's identity?

To begin the conversation about characterization, ask students the questions found on slides 7-11.

After students share their responses, ask them how the questions connect to the notes on the T-Chart about Willy Wonka’s characteristics. Explain to students that they have been analyzing both direct and indirect characteristics of Willy Wonka. These are characteristics that come directly from reading and indirectly through context clues. Point to the T-Chart and choose a few example responses to share in order to flesh out the definitions. Then, display the formal definition text on slides 12-13.

After sharing these definitions, return to the T-Chart and write "Direct Characterization" above the column labeled "In the Reading" and "Indirect Characterization" above the column labeled "Context Clues."


Pass out copies of the Character Descriptions and Characterization Note Catcher handouts.

Students will identify examples of direct and indirect characterization from two different sources:

  1. The original text (1964) of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

  2. The 2005 film version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Instruct students to write the definitions for direct and indirect characterization and any new character traits they discover from the reading or the video on the Note Catcher.

Use the link on slide 14 to access the EdPuzzle video activity titled The Four Rotten Children. The video is approximately three minutes long and includes six embedded questions. Students can respond to these questions in the space provided on page 2 of the Note Catcher handout. For your reference, the questions and timestamps are also printed on the Edpuzzle Questions attachment.

Display slide 15. Revisit the essential question with students:

How do authors add layers of complexity to a character's identity?

Remind students of the multiple versions of the same story that they have addressed in this lesson:

  1. The 1964 book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

  2. The 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

  3. The 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Each of these versions of the story illustrates character development in a way that has been carefully crafted by its authors/creators. Ask students whether they think access to three different versions of the same story adds greater depth to these characters. As they share out, have them explain their answers.


Display slide 16. To bring the pieces of this lesson together, assign students to work together to complete a Pass the Picture activity. As they Pass the Picture around their group, they will compile information from their Note Catchers to generate a "Character Profile." The goal is to reveal a rich description that accurately illustrates what the character is like based on both direct evidence and indirect inferences.

Organize students into five groups and distribute one page of the Pass the Picture handout to each group. Each page depicts a different character from the story:

  • Willy Wonka

  • Charlie Bucket

  • Violet Beauregarde

  • Veruca Salt

  • Augustus Gloop

Once students have assembled into their groups, share the instructions for the activity.

  • One student in each group will start the activity.

  • Each group member should add one detail to the Character Profile, writing it in the space below the image, before passing the picture on to the next group member. Students will continue rotating through the group until time runs out.

  • The details that students provide can be either direct or indirect character information gathered from their various sources. Students should indicate whether the detail they are providing is direct or indirect.

  • Remind students to use strong writing skills, including complete sentences and direct quotes when appropriate.


Ask groups to share their character descriptions, reading them aloud to the class.

Display slide 17. As a summative evaluation for this lesson, revisit the essential question. Ask students to explain how they added complexity to their character description through the composition of their Character Profiles.


  • Dahl, R. (2018). Charlie and the chocolate factory. London: Puffin.