Lesson Plan

Ben Franklin:  What a Character!

This 19th century image shows Benjamin Franklin in a Union Fire Company uniform in front of the Union Fire Company building.
Grade Level:
Upper Elementary: Third Grade through Fifth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
60 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
5.SL.4, 5.SL.5, 5.SL.6
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Analyzing: Break down a concept or idea into parts and show the relationships among the parts. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations.

Essential Question

What do your character traits say about you?


1. Students Will Be Able To (SWBAT) analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone;
2. SWBAT cite specific textual evidence when writing or speaking to support conclusions drawn from the text;
3. SWBAT determine central ideas or themes of a text; summarize the key supporting details and ideas;
4. SWBAT use information gained from illustrations (i.e. photos and primary sources) and the words in a text to demonstrate understanding of the text


Some good examples of short read aloud Ben Franklin biographies are:

Barretta, Gene. Now & Ben: The Modern Inventions of Benjamin Franklin. Henry Holt & Co. 2006.

  • A picture book that compares modern inventions with those designed by Franklin.

Murphy, Frank. Ben Franklin and the Magic Squares. Random House, 2001.

  • A Step Into Reading Book (Step 4), that discusses Ben’s sayings, discoveries, and inventions.

Pingry, Patricia A. Meet Benjamin Franklin. Ideals Children’s Books, 2001.

  • A biography in picture book form that presents Franklin simply and with humor.

Schanzen, Rosalyn. How Ben Franklin Stole the Lightning. Harper Collins, 2005.

  • Focuses on Franklin’s role as an inventor; a picture book appropriate for ages 6 and up.

Schroeder, Alan. Benjamin Franklin: His Wit and Wisdom from A to Z. Scholastic, 2011.

  • A collection of interesting facts and anecdotes categorized alphabetically. Great read-aloud.


  • printed cards of Franklin's accomplishments and history (one set per pair/group)

  • printed copy of Franklin's character traits (headings)(one set per pair/group)

  • list of vocabulary words and definitions

  • chart paper

  • discussion directing prompt card (one per student)

    • My card shows:

    • I think it belongs in this category:

    • My evidence to support this choice is:


To be used by students.

Download Character Cards

Lesson Hook/Preview

Teacher will review common character traits that will be referred to in the lesson (Caring, Industrious, Thoughtful, etc.) and ask students to be mindful of those as she reads a grade appropriate Ben Franklin informational biography (some are listed below). There are many different types of traits a character can have. You could list those traits and an example on a chart so students can begin to think about them.


Body of Lesson:

1. Once students are familiar with character traits and how our actions define our character, teacher will read aloud a biography of Benjamin Franklin and list character traits that have evidence in the text. Teacher will write this student generated list on chart paper or in a T-chart format stating the trait and its corresponding evidence.

2. Teacher introduces specific vocabulary that will be referred to in this lesson. These are related character traits defined in several words to show different shades of meaning. Teacher places the three sets of character traits on board (or on smartboard) and then models with the cards the thought processes used to categorize it into one of the three headings. Teacher will cite the specific evidence used to make this categorization, and explain possibilities of other choices. Teacher then asks students for the evidence supporting or not supporting the choice.

3. Teacher reviews with students the rules of collaborative discussion per class norm.

4. Teacher hands out:

1. three character trait headings per group,

2. one set of Character Cards per group,

3. one discussion directing prompt per student

5. Teacher explains how the team will work as a group to categorize the cards by following the discussion direction prompts:

A. Students will place the "headings" of character traits on desk.

B. Students will place cards in a pile (shuffled, random order)

C. Each student in group/pair will take the top card from the pile, discuss which category they believe it fits in, using the discussion directing prompt card to justify their choice.

D. Students work as a group to categorize the cards and understand they will be presenting and defending their choices to the class.

Concluding Activity:

Each student chooses one card and presents their choice of character trait to the class, using the discussion directing prompt card. The students may then question the audience on alternative categories for this card and have the audience explain why that category would also work, using the discussion director cards.

Final Reflective Conversation:

Ask students to name a few "challenging" cards and ask them to explain what specifically made them challenging.


Industrious - constantly or regularly active or busy 

Hardworking - known of taking on difficult tasks and “stick-with-it-ness”
Practical - good at putting ideas or plans into action 
Sensible - having, using or showing good sense

Generous - free in giving or sharing
Team Player - works well with others to solve problems
Caring - to feel interest or concern
Thoughtful - considerate of the rights and feelings of others

Clever - quick in learning; showing wit 
Problem-Solver - looks at a problem as something that needs to be solved
Imaginative - showing creativity, especially in inventing
Curious - eager to learn

Negotiate – to work with other people to reach an understanding
Establish – to start or begin something that is permanent
Publish – to make publicly known, present formally
Committee – a group of people with an assignment to complete
Apprentice – a person who works for another to learn a trade
Political – referring to the government actions or people

Assessment Materials

Assessment sheet

Pre-and Post- assessments can be done to determine the knowledge of Benjamin Franklin’s achievements and character traits that students acquire. Note: each answer is worth 10 points.

Ben Franklin Assessment

Download Assessment

Enrichment Activities


1. Write a “five paragraph” informational essay stating a set of traits and its corresponding evidence.

2. Use a main idea/detail outline (boxes and bullets) resulting in a paragraph. Main idea is one character trait and details are the supporting evidence obtained through the character cards.

3. A descriptive/creative writing assignment in which the student identifies a contemporary problem and how to go about solving that problem using Benjamin Franklin as an inspiration.

4. A first person essay, in diary form, in which Benjamin Franklin explains why he created one of his inventions or the problem he felt needed to be solved.

5. Improvise a “scene” in which Ben either sees a problem to be solved and solves it, or works with others to accomplish something.

6. Think of a contemporary problem in daily life today. Draw a picture of an invention that might help.

7. Draw, or act out, Ben exhibiting one character trait. What is he doing? What action is he taking?

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Last updated: April 18, 2020