Strategies for Teaching Character Traits with a Free List of Mentor Texts

Are you looking for an effective way to teach your students about character traits? Do you want to find some relevant mentor texts that will help teach character traits? If so, then this blog is perfect for you! Here we will be providing a free list of engaging titles and authors associated with teaching character traits and creative strategies for using them effectively.  Let’s look at teaching character traits with options for differentiating instruction and helpful resources!

Scaffold Learning

Before you can confidently begin teaching about character traits, it is crucial to ensure your students have a strong understanding of characters and adjectives. Reviewing these two skills will help guarantee all of your students are on the same page. I like to do two mini-lessons.

Introduce Character Traits

Introducing character traits of characters in stories to students is a wonderful way to deepen their comprehension. I love to begin with the familiar. My favorite way to introduce character traits by having students describe someone they all know–me!

Next, gather books you have already read together and put them on display to introduce the lesson. Make a list of the characters you have read about. Facilitate a class discussion by asking open-ended questions such as, “What words would you use to describe this character?” or “How did the character act? What did they say?”. Record students’ ideas as they respond to each question. 

Use Visuals

Using visuals to teach students about character traits in stories is an incredibly effective strategy. When students have visual reminders to refer back to throughout the lesson or unit, the information is more likely to stick with them. 

Visual aids, such as graphic organizers, posters, or lists of traits, provide a tangible representation of the character’s traits. These visuals not only make the traits more accessible and memorable but also cater to diverse learning styles, ensuring that visual learners can grasp the concept more readily. 

Visuals also encourage critical thinking as students can infer traits based on a character’s appearance, expressions, and actions, fostering a deeper connection to the story and its characters. Overall, integrating visuals into character trait lessons not only makes learning more enjoyable but also promotes a more comprehensive understanding of the narrative.

Categorize Character Traits

 Once students have a basic understanding of how to identify traits, it’s time to dive deeper. There are many layers to understanding character traits. It’s helpful to break it down into smaller parts and focus on one at a time.

  • Internal and External: Internal character traits are those that are not physical and cannot be seen from the outside, such as honesty, kindness, and perseverance. On the other hand, external character traits refer to physical features or actions, such as hair color, clothing choices, or facial expressions. It is important for students to understand the difference between these two types of traits in order to accurately analyze and categorize characters in literature.
  • Actions, Words, Feelings, and Thoughts: Teaching students to use a character’s actions, words, feelings, and thoughts as evidence to support character traits is key.
  • Positive and Negative: Identifying whether a trait is positive or negative will help students analyze a character’s motives and make inferences. It’s also important to note that characters often have a combination of both positive and negative traits.
  • How characters change over time: As students learn about character traits, it’s important to also teach them how characters can change over time. For example, a character may start off as selfish but learn to be more generous as the story progresses. This demonstrates to students that change is possible and can lead to personal growth.

Character Traits Mentor Texts

Incorporating a variety of mentor texts will help expose students to many different characters.

Differentiate Independent Practice

Using different graphic organizers paired with leveled or decodable text will help students be able to practice character traits in an appropriately challenging manner. Allowing students to choose their graphic organizers is also a great way to provide students the opportunity to take ownership of the way they show their understanding. I love having ample choices of graphic organizers to use with each text!

Understanding characters is essential to comprehending a fiction text. Teaching the skills and strategies for identifying a character’s traits based on words, feelings, actions, and thoughts helps students more deeply interpret an author’s words.

Learn more about the resources highlighted in this post about teaching character traits. 

Grab this FREE Scope and Sequence + BONUS list of mentor texts to use for each reading comprehension skill to help you plan! —> FREE Comprehension Skill Scope and Sequence

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