How to Teach Character Traits

I am excited to dive deeper into reading skills and share some ideas to apply to whole group and small group lessons. In this part of my blog series about comprehension, we will take a look at teaching character traits with options for differentiating instruction and helpful resources!

Introducing Character Traits

To begin to understand characters, our students need to know what are character traits? Simply put, traits are words we use to describe characters.  Since we are going to be discussing describing words a lot when it comes to characters, it’s important that students are solid in their understanding of adjectives. Activate students’ background knowledge by reviewing and brainstorming a list of adjectives.

 Building a collaborative vocabulary bank of adjectives will support students in identifying words to attribute to characters. If you students need a refresh on adjectives, this free adjectives mini-pack will help with scaffolding instruction.

Introducing Character Traits

Next, choose a person or a character everyone in the class is familiar with. You could use yourself or the principal! Or, choose a familiar character from a book you have already read.  We develop words to describe the character which we will use in several ways.

I just printed off a picture of myself and had students describe it using post its. Then, we sorted them by “inside” and “outside” traits.

Here we used Henry and Mudge because we read it the first week of school. I just projected a picture of Mudge on the Smartboard and I wrote the words around him. (Sorry the picture isn’t very quality!)

If students are having a difficult time coming up with words besides “happy or sad”, Workshop Classroom has an excellent free resource for students to reference.  You can find that here.

Next, we sorted the post-its in two ways.  First, we looked at the words that described his physical appearance vs. internal characteristics. I used this anchor chart to help my students understand the difference between inside and outside traits.

Then, we took a look at the positive vs. negative traits.  This prompted a great discussion including students defending reasons for their choice.

Next, it is time to work on HOW we choose character traits based on a character’s actions, words, thoughts and feelings. For this, I used Rosie Revere, Engineer. We kind of worked backwards and started with naming the character traits.
Then, we went back in the book and used post it notes to mark evidence to support each of the character traits we chose. I simply wrote each word on a post it and as we re-read, students were thinking about which word best matched with Rosie’s words, actions or thoughts.  Then we marked that spot in the book with the post-it!

Guided Practice

I used the same post-it lesson with my small group except this time in reverse.  As they were reading, they had their post-its ready to mark.  For my students who still needed some support, they just marked the spot.  Others wrote a character trait on the post it AND marked the evidence.

Mentor Texts

Here’s a list with links to mentor texts mentioned above PLUS other fantastic books that are perfect for teaching character traits. You can click the link to grab a copy on Amazon. Or, check your school or local library!

For more resources to help teach understanding characters, check out my Common Core aligned reference posters and graphic organizers for teaching Understanding Characters.

Not sure where to begin when it comes to planning comprehension skill instruction? I’ve got you covered! I put together a scope and sequence including the Common Core Standards that align with each skill in a suggested order for teaching.

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

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

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