Strategic Thinking Via Severity Charts

According to Webb’s Depth of Knowledge, Level 3: Strategic Thinking involves problems with multiple valid answers. Severity charts are the perfect way to do just that. Students need to take into account multiple events, details, points of view, etc. in order to determine and validate their answer.

Check out some of my examples below.

Character Morality

The example below is for Lord of the Flies. A group of boys crash-lands on a deserted island and slowly descends into madness and savagery. But not everyone. And some actions and motivations are more forgivable than others. Having the students rank characters on a scale of good to evil helps them determine culpability of characters in tricky, unusual circumstances.


Hang them up around the room and do a gallery walk to get the discussions flowing!

Another example is with The Canterbury Tales – depending on how in-depth you go with the characters and the stories. For my standard and special education classes, we usually go over the basics of how each character should look and behave and then compare it to how they are portrayed by Chaucer, either in a character’s story or as a character making the pilgrimage.

Tone Vocabulary

I give students different tone words and have them rank them on a scale of happy to sad, angry/mean to nice, guilty to innocent, and knowing to unknowing. I like doing this with vocabulary because it forces students to have a deeper understanding of the words.  For more details and for my free worksheets, check out my original post here.

A great way to get students interacting with their tone vocabulary words.

Narrator Reliability

This is part of my lesson for Monster (mentioned in this previous post and available at my TpT store here). Sometimes it’s not so cut and try the degree to which we trust the narrator. Monster is a great example of this. Using a scale of reliable to not reliable students need to take into account different character traits, actions, and thoughts in order to determine the overall reliability of the narrator. Using a severity scale to analyze the reliability of Steve as the narrator in "Monster" by Walter Dean Scott.

How do you use severity charts in your classroom?

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