Characters Your Students Need to Meet

By Lauren Salisbury
October 14, 2021

At Scope HQ, we’re strong believers in the power of great stories—and great characters—to help us understand and manage the anxiety, uncertainty, and difficult situations we face in real life. It is our hope that the characters your students meet in Scope are ones they can carry around in their pockets to help them feel supported, reassured, and encouraged when life gets messy.

Here’s a round-up of characters from stories, poems, and plays that will bolster your students and give you entry points for powerful SEL discussions.

In this super-short work of fiction, a boy makes a big mistake and struggles with what to do about it.
Essential Questions: How can we build and maintain positive relationships? How can we resolve conflicts constructively? 

This is a lovely poem by Jennifer Dignan about identity. (It’s especially great for the start of the year.)
Essential Questions: What makes me who I am? What is important to me? What are my strengths and limitations?

In this timely work of fiction by Lauren Tarshis, a boy struggles with the ways that Covid-19 has changed his life.
Essential Questions: How can we adjust to difficult changes in life? What role do friends play in our lives? How can we build and maintain friendships? 

In this touching coming-of-age fiction story, a surprising find at a used-book sale helps a boy navigate a tough period in his life. 
Essential Questions: What brings meaning into our lives? How do we get through difficult times? How does life change from childhood to adulthood? 

In this heartfelt play, a girl who lives in the shadow of her astronaut mother learns to see herself in a new and more positive way.
Essential Questions: How can we gain self-confidence? How can we cope with fear and anxiety? How is the way we see ourselves different from the way others see us?

In this beautiful poem by Georgia Heard, the speaker explores how to be present in the moment.
Essential Questions: What is the relationship between our thoughts, emotions, and behavior? How can we observe and navigate that relationship? 

In this powerful work of fiction, a boy comes face-to-face with his worst nightmare.
Essential Questions: How can we deal with fear? What is it like to have a parent with a risky job?

This is a beautiful poem by Jennifer Dignan about identity. 
Essential Questions: What factors make up a person’s identity? Is identity constant—or does it change?

This moving play tells the story of a homesick teen, a gravely injured sea turtle, and a summer that changed everything.
Essential Questions: How do we cope with change? How can one person make a difference?

In this inspiring poem by Joyce Sidman, the speaker lacks confidence but acts in spite of her feelings of worry, uncertainty, and fear.
Essential Question: How do we find our courage?

This beautiful work of fiction tells the story of a young girl living in Tokyo when Japan was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.
Essential Questions: How do we cope when bad things happen? How do we grow and change as people? What truths can we learn from fiction?

This sweet work of fiction by award-winning author Jason Reynolds tells the story of a boy who overcomes his fear in a surprising way.
Essential QuestionsWhere can we find comfort when we are in distress? How can we help someone who is suffering? How can one thing be many things?

A work of fiction and a short nonfiction text explore what life is like for military families.
Essential Questions: What are the risks of pretending to be something we are not? How do we deal with stress and fear? What is it like to have a parent in the military?

This heartfelt Fiction In a Flash begs the question: Who needs perfection anyways?
Essential Questions: How do we find happiness? What does it take to be yourself?

This is the true story of 15-year-old Salvador Gómez-Colón, who kept hope alive after Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Essential Questions: What is the value of hope? How can one person make a difference?

This moving Fiction In a Flash feature tells the story of a teen who fears her best friend has forgotten her after she moves away during the pandemic.
Essential Question: What is the value of friendship? How do we cope with change? How can we help others when they are down?

Credits: Alex Nabaum (“The Worst”); Angela Garland (doodles), G Allen Penton/ (face profile); Dave Wheeler (“Back to Normal?”); Dave Wheeler (“Dear Future”); Randy Pollak (photo illustration), Andrey Shelepin/Roscosmos Space Agency via AP Images (rocket), Suthin_Saenontad/ (palm tree), iStockPhoto/Getty Images (girl, mother), Adobe Stock (owl), NASA (all other images); Dave Wheeler (“When My Noisy Mind Quiets”); Gary Hanna (“Bearing Up”); Dave Wheeler (“Song of Bravery”); Conetha Stilley/EyeEm/Getty Images (beach), Simon Eeman/ (turtle), Genuine_life/ (footprints); Dave Wheeler (“Aftershocks”); Alex Nabaum (“The Broom Dog”); Randy Pollak (“The Perfects”); Sebastian Crocker/ (saxophone); (music notes); Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo for The Washington Post via Getty Images (“Island of Sorrow”); (“The Stars Between Us”)

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