Teaching Character Traits

Often times, when kids read a story, they’ll love a certain character, relate to the character and learn valuable lessons.  But sometimes, the most valuable lessons are buried deep within a story’s framework, which means that kids need reading strategies to best understand a story and character’s full value.  One such reading strategy is determining character traits.  This is important because it allows students to examine characters and their growth, helps them obtain more meaning out of texts and helps them become more conscientious readers.  Here are a list of steps to help with teaching character traits.


 

Brainstorm Vocabulary for Traits and Emotions

There is a long list of adjectives we can use to describe characters, most of which our students need help recalling.  It’s beneficial to come up with a list of traits vs. emotions/feelings to help students expand their vocabulary and better describe characters.

A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
Here’s a list of great words, as well as a distinction between traits and feelings.  (Seen on Pinterest)
A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
Vocabulary cards: Have students write down what each character trait might sound or look like, to help give their vocabulary further context. (Taken from Tales of a Tenacious Teacher)

 

Differentiate Between Emotions & Traits

It’s important for kids to know the difference between a character’s emotions and their traits.  Often times, emotions are indicative of traits, but not always and it’s important students know this.  A character might feel scared in a certain scene of a story, but overall that character may be classified as “brave” due their overall accomplishments.  Talk with students about the difference between feeling emotions and possessing traits (which may help to overcome such emotions).

A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
A comparison anchor chart.  (Taken from Teacher Trap)

 

 

Distinguish Between External vs. Internal Traits

 

Another useful comparison to discuss is between external traits and internal traits.  A character may be externally very strong, but internally very timid.  Help students define the two types of categories, and read lots of stories so they have examples of each type of trait.

A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
A worksheet to complete after reading a story.  (Taken from Primary Paradise)
A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
A nice anchor chart to have up on your walls.  (Taken from Teacher Trap)

 

Make it Personal

Give students an opportunity to list character traits about the character they know the best: themselves! This is a great self-esteem activity.  It gives students a chance to reflect on who they are, and gets them practicing to list traits too.

A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
Here’s a great example of character traits.  You could also have your students make collages with words they find in magazines or newspapers.  (Taken from Who’s Who and Who’s New)

 

Encouraging Citing Evidence

How can we claim a character is perseverant, stubborn or kind?  We gather evidence from the text, of course.  The sooner kids realize that the text in front of them is riddled with valuable evidence to support their thoughts and feelings about a character, the sooner their reading comprehension will expand. Get students to read a text, and then describe the character’s traits with evidence.

A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
A worksheet, with 3 character trait slots. (Taken from TPT)
A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
A good beginner worksheet. (Taken from Sarah’s First Grade Snippets)

 

Discuss the Importance of Inference

Not every text will spell out a character’s traits.  Sometimes, it’s up to the reader to infer things about characters based on the context and clues provided, as well as our own schema.

A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
A great way to have students gather information from the text, in order to make a conclusion about a character. (Taken from A Walk in My Shoes)

 

Track A Character’s Progress

Once your students have become masters at examining character traits, the next step is to get them to track a character’s progress throughout a story.  This is especially useful in chapter books, but if you’re dealing with a particularly young group, the right picture book could also suffice.  This is an important step because it allows readers to see a character progressing along a line within a story, with all the ups and downs of regular life.

A wonderful list of steps and lessons for teaching character traits.
A character chart for Charlie & The Chocolate Factory. As the novel progresses students add new or changed character traits they’ve discovered. (Taken from Language Arts Anchor Charts

Yay for reading strategies!

 

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