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Personality profile: Finding a theme and gathering information


In this lesson about what makes a good profile subject and how to gather information, students will begin by reading a third profile and discussing it. They will then explore what makes a good subject and angle as well as what a reporter must do to construct a good profile. Finally, the teacher will introduce the rubric and clarify expectations.


  • Students will be able to explain, orally or in writing, what makes a strong subject and angle/focus for a personality profile.
  • Students will be able to explain, orally or in writing, what reporters must do to research and develop a good profile.

Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1a Come to discussions prepared, having read and researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence from texts and other research on the topic or issue to stimulate a thoughtful, well-reasoned exchange of ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1b Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.9-10.1c Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that relate the current discussion to broader themes or larger ideas; actively incorporate others into the discussion; and clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.2 Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.3 Analyze how the author unfolds an analysis or series of ideas or events, including the order in which the points are made, how they are introduced and developed, and the connections that are drawn between them.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.9-10.5 Analyze in detail how an author’s ideas or claims are developed and refined by particular sentences, paragraphs, or larger portions of a text (e.g., a section or chapter).


50 minutes


Class set: Personality profile rubric

Class set: Profile analysis worksheet

Class set: Look fors, ask fors

Lesson step-by-step

1. Connection — 20 minutes
Review concepts from previous lesson. What is the purpose of a personality profile? How did our two examples differ? Have you begun finding a framework for your profile of a classmate?

Distribute another personality profile from the supplementary examples. Teacher should read aloud while students highlight areas they find noteworthy. Solicit examples and discuss. How is this different that the other two profiles we’ve read? What makes this an interesting subject? How is the angle intriguing? How does the author reveal the subject’s character? What details support that? Are there portions that show observation? How do you know?

2. Direct instruction — 5 minutes
Profiles can be written about people or groups. Either way, they should shed light on what makes the person or group tick – what makes them unique and interesting. Good profiles require research (backgrounding), patience and curiosity. It’s important to find an angle on the profile that you will be interested in writing because this will take a lot of independent time and legwork.

When deciding whom to profile, the writer should look to the news: Who’s currently an interesting figure? Is the person interesting because of something he does or doesn’t do? Is there a person who exemplifies a newsworthy population or group?

Regardless of the subject, the writer must do more than list the subject’s history and accomplishments. Profiles dig deeper to the human side with the quirks, flaws and other things that make a person (or group) real. They get behind a person’s interests and passions. Therefore, backgrounding is essential in determining and building the profile’s theme.

Writers must do more than interview the subject. They must do background research. They must also observe the subject and interview others. Writers must observe the subject and spend time with him or her to gather scenes that reveal details about the subject’s personality. Writers must also interview people who can provide insights about the subject (family, friends). Whom the writer interviews will vary depending on the profile’s focus.

Reporters must gain the trust of the subject to get to know him or her to reveal a true personality, but reporters must be careful to neither cheerlead nor cast the subject in a negative light – just keep it real and show the subject for who he or she is.

3. Clarification — 20 minutes
Teacher calls on students, asking for one aspect of what makes a good personality profile. The goal list should include things like details, biographical info/background, strong description, emotional impact, reveals the hidden, has a strong angle to help the story, makes reader want to meet the person, etc. Teacher writes on board or posts so everyone can see and refer to it at the next exercise.

Teacher reviews personality profile rubric with students, checking against the list provided. Does the rubric demand the same aspects they demanded? Yes, and probably more (headline package, word count, etc.)

Teacher clarifies upcoming profile assignment – answers questions, anticipates misconceptions, makes sure everyone knows what a good profile looks and sounds like, clarifies length and format requirements, discusses who needs to be interviewed and how that should go, etc. Teacher should elicit answers before providing them (Who knows the answer to that one? Who can tell me…?) Teacher then repeats answer, refers them back to aspects they listed and to rubric.

Direct students to return to their profile examples (from this lesson or previous lesson)and look for examples of imagery and detail that will help them see how to build their own profiles as they work. Use profile analysis worksheet  to develop a list of questions the reporter had to have asked to get the material he/she used.

4. Extension and evaluation — 5 minutes
Using “Look fors, ask fors” handout, students create a set of things to look for as they interview their subject. Will the classroom interview be enough? Why/why not? Where else should they go to get a real feel for what this person does? Who else should they talk with to develop a well-rounded picture of this person?

5. Homework
Students should do some background research on their teacher to gather basic information in order to conduct an interview and develop a profile angle during the next lesson. (For instance, they might ask a few of their other teachers about the teacher or check the teacher’s bio on the school website.)