Character Study Part 1: Using The Westing Game to Study Characters

Read aloud time is a very sacred, coveted time in our classroom. My kids beg for more of it and some of the best conversations and deepest thinking happens during this time.

We are starting my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE read aloud in our classroom this week, The Westing Game.

Studying Characters with The Westing Game - Young Teacher Love by Kristine Nannini

We are knee-deep in our character unit and this book is perfect to use in any character unit for upper grades because there are over 26 characters to keep track of.

Before we started our read aloud, I wrote all of the characters’ names on anchor charts.

I then typed up all of the characters names, folded them up, and put them in a container.

I went around and had each student close their eyes and pick a character.

Students are responsible for keeping track of their character for the duration of our read aloud.


I cut sticky notes in half and gave each student a stack to hold onto while on the carpet. Anytime we learn something new about a character (whether it be a physical trait, personality trait, interaction with another character, etc.) we write it on a sticky note.


Then, at the end of our read aloud time, students walk up to the anchor charts to quickly slap their notes under their character’s name.


This is such an easy way to introduce our character unit.  It gets them excited and makes them accountable.


Stay tuned to part two of our character unit where we have fun exploring character traits more in depth!


For those of you inquiring, click HERE to check out these posters!


Click HERE to check out part 2 of this blog post series!!


Do you need more passages to help you teach character analysis? Check out my Characters: Differentiated Reading Passages and Questions resource. I provide teachers with 10 differentiated character reading passages. Each passage has five short answer questions for students to analyze characters. Click HERE or the button below to check them out. If you download the preview, you can see the entire resource.

Just added: I wrote a blog post on Inferring Character Traits Through Dialogue (Plus a Free Graphic Organizer). Click HERE to check it out! 


Grab a copy of The Westing Game to use in your own classroom!


  1. This is a nice way to introduce characters! What a way to hold them accountable, and so much that you can do with this! I could see some of my SpEd kids getting into something like this.

    I have not read this book, and will have to look into it! :)

  2. This is a great idea! Interesting because we are exploring doing a mystery book club themes and it would be great to find a good read aloud to use as a model. Interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  3. I am totally LOVING this post! This was one of my favorite books as a kid, and I read it with my 4th grade gifted students as a book club. We normally have a graphic organizer to keep up with the characters, but I love your idea so much more! Great way to include everyone and give them a purpose and some responsibility during read aloud. I may have to take it out of the book club rotation and add it to our read aloud queue. Thanks so much for the fab idea!!

    Twenty-Six Minutes for Lunch

  4. This is a great idea! Where can I get a hold of your great character posters?

  5. Thank you, thank you everyone for your kind comments! It always amazes me how the simplest lessons can often mean the most for our kids!

    @Sarah- stay tuned for Part 2!!!! :)

  6. I love this idea of using an interactive read aloud to get students interested in the idea of characters. Also the fact that you break it down for them to concentrate on one character is very manageable. The final product is very cool as well to have a chart created by the entire class that will be helpful while reading the book and analyzing characters. Thanks so much for sharing!

  7. Wow – what an awesome idea! I did a similar-type activity with the book The Homework Machine (there were 4 main characters and each chapter was from a different perspective) but I LOVE the sticky note and the anchor chart idea.

    The Westing Game is such an awesome book – my kiddos are really into msyteries this year, so maybe I’ll add it to my read-aloud list for the end of the year.

    Thanks for sharing!

    Joy in the Journey

  8. My students in 4th grade always love this boom. I always did it towards the end of the year because even when they have summer on their minds, this story keeps them engaged. Are your posters available??? Enjoy your week:)
    Leading and Reading

  9. I have never heard of this book! I need to check it out! I love how you are using it for character analysis. Does every student have a book (it looks like it) or are you just reading it aloud?

    Thanks for the ideas!
    Collaboration Cuties

  10. Thank you! For most read alouds I just have a book, but for this read aloud I offered my kids the option to follow along.

  11. I just finished this book with my class as a read aloud. It was the book to read when I was in 5th grade and couldn’t wait to share it with my chickadees. Even though I teach Math and Science to my classes it is still great to read aloud in Homeroom. I will definitely use these activities next year when I read it to get everyone engaged.

  12. Isn’t it the best?! I didn’t read it last year, and the second I picked it up this year I felt so happy. :) Not to mention, it lends itself to some fun read aloud character voices (always my favorite!). Thanks so much for your comment!

  13. I LOVE The Westing Game! One of my favourite read-alouds! I love how my students’ never love the book until the middle, and then can’t get enough of it! :)


  14. Dawn, we’re about there! I finally got the nooo don’t stop reading, which is a teacher’s dream come true! :)

  15. What an awesome idea! I am a first year teacher and I teach 5th grade. Any other suggestions for read alouds?

  16. Thanks @Elise and @Kelly!

    @Elise- YES!! Where the Red Fern Grows is my FAVORITE (just be careful, the ending is sad!), Wonder, Tuck Everlasting, Watsons go to Birmingham, etc., etc.!! I love read aloud time!

  17. I am doing this unit next week! I was wondering if you have a copy of the 26 characters you used from the book… I can only find 16 already typed up! If you do I would love to see the ones you use! Thanks so much!

  18. Rose Treacy says:

    I love this idea! Is it possible to get your list of all of the characters to set up for the kiddos?? I have exactly 26 kids. This would be perfect!

  19. I’m glad to see another teacher using this book in upper elementary! I am currently using this book as a read aloud in my summer school reading maintenance course and have been second guessing that the book may be too complex/mature for my fourth, going into fifth, fifth grade students.

    Once we return from this extended holiday weekend, I plan to do something similar with having students focus on one particular character.

    Thank you for your resources!

    1. Kristine Nannini says:

      Thanks so much for your comment! I think having students visually keep track of characters is very helpful! It can be a bit complex for students, so this strategy really helps!

  20. Love this idea. I teach 3rd grade and my students range from level K to S. Do you think this book would be appropriate for them? I used to love this book when I was in school but didn’t read it until I was in 6th grade.

    1. Kristine Nannini says:

      Hi Abby- Thanks for your comments! This book may be a bit tough for 3rd grade. However, it’s tough to make that call without knowing your students. You may want to skim the book first to see if it would be a good fit for them. I hope this helps!

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