Grade: 4th

Interest Building Activity:

Ask students to think about some of their favorite books. Now ask them to think about any books that had a “bad guy” in them. Have several students tell the class their book and the bad guy from that book. Now ask them if they can name the corresponding “good guy” from the book. Admittedly, the class may think the terms “good guy” and “bad guy” are a little childish…let them know that today they’ll be learning bigger, more sophisticated words to describe these characters in a story.

Lesson Development:

Write the words “Protagonist” and “Antagonist” on the board. Tell the students one means the good guy, while the other means the bad guy. See if anyone can identify which is which, and ask them to explain why they think so. Ask students to think about what makes the words different. They should come up with the fact that the beginnings, or the prefixes, are different. The prefixes are ‘anti’ (in antagonist it shows up as ‘ant’, a shorter form of ‘anti’ when the prefix precedes a vowel) and ‘pro’. Ask students to consider the following words: antibiotic (medication that works against harmful bacteria), antisocial (someone who is not very social), etc. The prefix anti means against. The prefix pro means the opposite of anti. Ask students to think about what the prefix pro means. The antagonist is the person or people in a story that are against the hero or protagonist of the story.

Now read students the story of Snow White. Ask them to pay attention to who the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) are in the story as you read the story to them.

After reading, ask students to name the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) in the story. Write the names of these characters under the appropriate columns on the board. Under Protagonist should be Snow White, the Seven Dwarves, and the Prince (possibly the King and Queen as well). Under Antagonist should be the Stepmother. Students can discuss under which column they feel the huntsman belongs, since his role in the story is a little more complicated.


Have students choose their favorite book. Ask them to make two lists: the antagonists of the story as well as the protagonists of the story. They will share these lists with the class the next day.


History is full of protagonists and antagonists. Enhance the students’ memory of the meaning of the two words by asking them to identify protagonists and antagonists in their history book.