Studying a Character’s Motive

Contributor: Danielle Childers. Lesson ID: 10198

Why do we do the things we do? Sometimes, we misunderstand what people do because we don't know why they do it. Learn to understand the motives of characters and even create your own story or cartoon!



learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Has there ever been a day when you just dragged your feet and didn’t want to finish your chores? Need I ask? What if that same day your parents said that once you finish your chores, you can go get ice cream; would you still drag your feet?

I bet you would finish your work quickly!

Ice cream is a good motivator! You might finish your work more quickly if there were a motivating factor, right?

Just like you finishing your chores quickly for the ice cream, the characters in books take action based on their motivations. A character’s motive is something he or she wants; it’s the goal.

Authors can tell you directly what a character’s motives are, but more likely, you will have to find clues in the text to reveal a character’s motives. You can find clues in the text by looking for the character’s traits, thoughts, words, feelings, and actions.

Finding and understanding the motive will give you a deeper understanding of the events in the story.

Here is a great MdGraw-Hill Education PreK-12 video to explain more about the motives of characters. After watching Introduction to Reading Skills: Character Analysis - 2, answer these questions:

  • What were “Great Leader's” actions? What did he do for “Little Leader"?
  • Why did “Great Leader” take those actions? What was his motive?


You could think of the “Great Leader” as a parent who is spoiling the child, but if you look deeper and see what they are thinking and their motive, you get a much better understanding of the characters and their story. You see that the “Great Leader” is trying to be a good parent, and thinks giving “Little Leader” everything he wants will make him happy.

Continue on to the Got It? section to practice looking for character motives.

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