OER Administrator
English Language Arts, Reading Literature
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Community
  • Customs
  • Grade 12 ELA
  • Things Fall Apart
  • Values
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Analyzing Character Traits

    Analyzing Character Traits


    Can a person be both admirable and flawed at the same time? In this lesson, students will look more closely at the character of Okonkwo. Students will figure out what his most admirable qualities are, as well as some of his flaws. They will also decide whether Okonkwo has the potential to be a tragic hero.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Think about examples of modern-day tragic heroes that will be familiar to your students. You can use these examples in the discussion of the term.


    • The purpose of this Quick Write is to provide some modern-day examples when you introduce the concept of a tragic hero.
    • As students share, try to comment on aspects of the people they mentioned that are negative, or might fit the definition of a tragic hero. Tiger Woods is a modern athlete who might fit this definition.


    Complete a Quick Write:

    • Think about someone currently living (this person could be famous, or only known within his or her community) who is very respected by society. What makes this person respected—does this person have any less-positive qualities?

    Open Notebook

    Share your response with your classmates. What do you notice about their examples?

    Tragic Hero

    • Explain the concept of tragic hero to your class. Think of some figures from current events—politicians, celebrities, athletes, etc. who may be familiar to your students. Also, see if any of the people they described at the beginning of class can be used as examples.
    • Ask the class whether they think Okonkwo could be a tragic hero. Talk about this only briefly; they will be discussing this further in groups.
      • ELL: Allow ELLs to share about tragic heroes from their country of origin. Invite them to share the story behind each of them (since students in the United States might not have heard of them), and be sure to draw parallels with the figures they know in the United States.

    Work Time

    What happens when a hero is imperfect? Such a hero is often referred to as a tragic hero. A tragic hero is usually a person of high standing and great ability, who has one or more character flaws (such as greed, arrogance, lust for power, etc.) that directly lead to his or her downfall. Commonly, the protagonist (main sympathetic character) of a tragedy is a tragic hero.

    As your teacher explains the concept of a tragic hero, think about whether any of the people you discussed in the Opening meet this definition.

    • Brainstorm examples of tragic heroes with your classmates.

    Things Fall Apart, Chapters 3 and 4

    • Students will be working in their character groups, but for this part of the assignment everyone is analyzing the text in the same way.
    • Try to check with each group to get a sense of how the class understands the events and Okonkwo’s character.
    • As they think about how their character does or would view Okonkwo, some students will be working with direct interactions from the story (Nwoye, Ekwefi, etc.) while others will need to rely on inference (Mr. Brown, Reverend Smith, etc.).
    • During the Whole Group Share, try to hear from each group, but don’t allow for too much repetition.
      • ELL: When calling on students, be sure to call on ELLs and to encourage them to participate as actively as their native counterparts, even if their pace might be slower, or they might be more reluctant to volunteer due to their weaker command of the language.

    Work Time

    With your group, review Chapters 3 and 4 of Things Fall Apart , looking for details about Okonkwo. Does he have the potential to be a tragic hero? Look for quotations that reveal his heroic side, as well as his flaws. You may want to follow the following steps in your group.

    • Review and summarize the chapters you read for homework. Make sure everyone understands the basic events.
    • Clarify any parts of the reading that were confusing and answer any questions that anyone had.
    • Create a Dialetical Journal #2 in your notebook.
    • Split up the reading and look for quotations that reveal key details or characteristics of Okonkwo. Each member of the group is responsible for a Dialectical Journal entry with at least three quotations.
    • Discuss your findings together, sharing what you found, and come up with an overall summary of your understanding of Okonkwo’s character to this point.
    • What would (or does) your character think of Okonkwo? Look at the quotations that your group found for clues. Together, select one to three quotations that you think best reveal a side to Okonkwo that your character might care about. This will help you with your Closing writing.

    Share your insights with the class.

    Character Journal Entry

    • If any students have had trouble accessing or sharing with the community group, try to check in with them and make sure they know what to do.
      • SWD: Monitor that students are comfortable accessing and sharing comments. In addition, make sure they know how to read and respond to others’ entries.


    Based on the work you did with your character group, share a character journal entry with your community group.

    • What does your character think of Okonkwo?

    Open Notebook

    Write at least one solid paragraph using evidence from the book. Remember, you should be writing in the first person from your character’s point of view.

    Personal Journal - Entry #6 and Things Fall Apart

    • Encourage students to continue the conversations with their community group’s entries. The more these entries are used, the richer the conversation will be.


    Complete another personal journal entry.

    • Choose a person (perhaps the same person as from the Opening Quick Write) who is respected based on what society approves of. Do you respect this person? Explain why or why not.

    Open Notebook

    Return to your community group’s entries and read through those from this lesson. Continue the conversation, commenting on at least one other entry or reply.

    Read Chapters 5 and 6 of Things Fall Apart. Continue to add to your Personal Glossary as you read.