Lesson 3: Inferring characters' feelings

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English

Reading and Viewing, Literature: Examining literature

Level 5: 

  • Recognise that ideas in literary texts can be conveyed from different viewpoints, which can lead to different kinds of interpretations and responses (Content description VCELT315)

Reading and Viewing, Literacy: Interpreting, analysing, evaluating

Level 6: 

  • Analyse strategies authors use to influence readers (Content description VCELY345)
  • Select, navigate and read increasingly complex texts for a range of purposes, applying appropriate text processing strategies to recall information and consolidate meaning (Content description VCELY346)

Speaking and Listening, Language: Language for interaction

Level 5:

  • Understand how to move beyond making bare assertions and take account of differing perspectives and points of view (Content description VCELA335)

Speaking and Listening, Literacy: Interacting with others

Level 6: 

  • Participate in and contribute to discussions, clarifying and interrogating ideas, developing and supporting arguments, sharing and evaluating information, experiences and opinions, and use interaction skills, varying conventions of spoken interactions according to group size, formality of interaction and needs and expertise of the audience (Content description VCELY366)

Links to the Victorian Curriculum – English as an Additional Language (EAL)

Pathway B

Level BL:

  • Negotiate familiar social situations and learning activities with the teacher or with friends (VCEALC166)
  • Rely on other speakers to scaffold, interpret, clarify or elaborate short, simple conversations (VCEALC165)
  • Demonstrate listening behaviour, attending to tone and intonation (VCEALC162)

Level B1:

  • Understand the language of classroom routines (VCEALC244)
  • Participate in extended conversations with reliance on other speakers to scaffold, interpret, clarify or elaborate (VCEALC243)
  • Demonstrate active listening skills, attending to tone, intonation and body language (VCEALC240)

Level B2:

  • Use a repertoire of common classroom and schoolyard language (VCEALC325)
  • Comprehend social English in most familiar contexts, and use conversation partners to support understanding (VCEALC324)
  • Demonstrate independence in extended conversations (VCEALC321)

Level B3:

  • Understand increasingly de-contextualised and more complex spoken language (VCEALC405)
  • Initiate and participate in casual exchanges and in learning contexts (VCEALC404)
  • Contribute information, express ideas and give reasons for opinions in group tasks or classroom discussions (VCEALC401)

Reading and viewing

Level BL:

  • Give a personal response to a text (VCEALC188)
  • Engage with a small range of picture books in the classroom (VCEALA197)
  • Make simple predictions or inferences about a text, with support (VCEALC189)

Level B1:

  • Provide responses to texts (VCEALC268)
  • Engage with a diverse range of picture books that reflect a variety of cultural beliefs, practices and views (VCEALA277)
  • Make simple predictions or inferences about a text (VCEALC269)

Level B2:

  • Engage with a diverse range of texts that reflect a variety of cultural beliefs, practices and views (VCEALA358)
  • Express a personal response to an imaginative text or elements of the text (VCEALC349)
  • Make and substantiate inferences and predictions when reading or listening to a text read aloud (VCEALC350)

Level B3:

  • Engage with a diverse range of texts reflecting a variety of cultures and perspectives (VCEALA437)
  • Express a personal response to a small range of imaginative texts
  • Discuss texts with some understanding of meaning beyond the literal level, moving towards the inferential level (VCEALC429)


Level BL:

  • Use high-frequency words accurately, although sometimes repetitively (VCEALL234)

Level B1:

Level B2:

  • Select some descriptive vocabulary appropriate to context (VCEALL396)
  • Use a varied and appropriate vocabulary (VCEALL394)

Level B3:

  • Use some antonyms and synonyms (VCEALL473)
  • Create mood and feeling through the selection of appropriate vocabulary and idiom (VCEALL475)

Theory/practice connections

Characters' feelings can be described through words and images. In the verbal mode, adjectives tell us how a character feels. The islanders felt threatened. The islanders were scared. The man was lonely.

Verbs can also provide information about the characters' feelings. However, here we need to infer what the feelings might be by focusing on the action. The islanders grabbed their pitchforks. They locked their doors. Inference also needs to occur when reading the visuals.

The characters' actions, body language and facial expression all serve to provide information about their feelings.

Learning intentions

We are learning to identify and explain characters' feelings.

We are learning to identify our own responses and feelings to texts.

Success criteria

  1. I can name characters' feelings and infer why they feel that way.
  2. I can use the text's visuals to support my thinking.
  3. I can identify my feelings and responses to a text.

Role of the reader

Text user: Texts can elicit an emotional response from the reader.

Group size

Whole class, small group, partners.

Lesson sequence

Sequence over several sessions.

Explore the title page of 'The Island'. Examine the raft that is foregrounded and the skyline in the background. Discuss the colour of the skyline, and what it might mean. Link this discussion with the class's findings around the front/back cover. Make predictions about what will happen with the raft.

Read the text to the students, stopping at the double page, where the islanders express their fear. (Ending with "Foreigner spreads fear in town.") Recap what has happened in the text.

Students work with a partner and role play an island character. They can draw upon the characters in the text or upon their knowledge of van Gogh's peasants. Partners role play a discussion between two islanders, where they articulate how they feel about the stranger and what should be done with him.

 Conduct a whole class discussion, which focuses on the feelings driving the characters in the role play.  What did these characters feel?  Why did they feel this way? Remind students of their use of adjectives when describing feelings. Throughout the discussion refer back to the illustrations to examine the characters' feelings through their facial expressions, body language and actions.

One of the images references Edvard Munch's The Scream (1883). Explore both of these images and discuss what they are portraying.

Complete the reading of the text and refer back to the predictions made when the title page was examined. Allow students time to reflect.  This can be done individually by writing or drawing, or in quiet small group discussions.


This task can act as a self-assessment activity for students.


Discussion prompts to assist reflection could be used as a thinking tool:

  • What happened in the text? Which action verb(s) help the reader understand this ?
  • How did the characters react and feel and the adjectives used to describe the feelings?
  • How do I react and feel?