Teaching About Character Traits

This week, we began discussing character traits and how an author uses those descriptions to get you emotionally invested and interested in a book or story.  We did a few things that I found very successful, and wanted to share the ideas with you.  We did these lessons over the course of a week, so I am going to break down what happened each day, in case you want to recreate that timeline in your own room.

Day 1 -- Introduction to Character Traits

We gathered as a group to discuss what exactly character traits are.  Why does an author use them?  What purpose do they serve?  Together we created this anchor chart.  I made the chart while the kids took notes in their Reading Journals.

I asked them to then look at the specific "Ask Yourself" questions and we opened up our class novel (Gregor the Overlander) to the first chapter.  We have read this chapter a few times, and dug into it quite a bit, so they are rather familiar with it.  I read the first question aloud and then modeled a discussion with them, pointing to parts of the story where Gregor does things that would be specific to him.  I thought out loud about actions he took that tell us more about his character.  I then sent them off to do the same with a partner for the remaining questions.  I wanted them to specifically discuss the character of Gregor, so that we were all keeping within the same ideas for our modeled practice.

After they discussed in partners, we shared out a bit whole group.  This was all done orally.  Aside from the notetaking, no writing was done.

 Day 2 -- Digging into the book

Now that we have discussed what character traits are in general, I wanted to get a bit more specific.  I found a great list from Read, Write, Think of adjectives that can be used to describe the character traits of a specific person in a story.  I gave each student a list and then we looked at it to think about which ones could be used to describe Gregor (again, going back to the main character in our story so that we have some consistency.)

Since we use Thinking Maps, I asked the kids to help me create a bubble map to describe Gregor.  The first word they thought of was "responsible".  We added that to our bubble map (making an anchor chart as we went.)  Then I asked them HOW they knew Gregor was responsible.  One student pointed to a line on page 3 of the book.  We all turned there and read the line.  I then added that to the bottom of the bubble (see the anchor chart??)  Another kid chimed in saying that he also watched his sister, but that there was no direct quote that would work as it was sort of an inference at the time.  So we just paraphrased and wrote that in on the bubble map too.

We went on like this for a bit, until I felt that the kids had a good idea.  Then I sent them back to their seats to finish the bubble map.  They had to find 3 more character traits WITH EVIDENCE FROM THE TEXT to complete their bubble maps.  

Day 3 -- Inside and Outside Traits

Most of the students tended to focus on the PHYSICAL traits associated with our main character.  I mean, they are easy to focus on because they are so concrete.  But when writer's write, it is the PERSONALITY traits that really make you connect with a character.  So Day 3 was focused on telling the difference between the two different categories.

Looking at our character of Gregor, we talked about the "Outside Traits", those things that were physical, and then "Inside Traits", those things that were personality based.  We made a new list of all of those adjectives (from the previous day's character trait list) that could be used to characterize Gregor and then categorized them into Physical or Personality.

I then set the kids off to create two new bubble maps.  This time, one had to represent the physical outside traits only, with evidence from the text of course.  The second map had to represent the inside personality traits.  Again, the bubble maps needed to include EVIDENCE from the TEXT.

Day 4 -- Writing about Character Traits

Now that we looked at character traits from the author's perspective, we wrote about them as a reader.  I used this anchor chart and taught the kids to write a response (like they are going to have to do on the TEST.)  I gave them a simple frame (ala Paragraph of the Week) which they instantly recognized and were confident they could use.

Click here to get this generalized organizer
We talked about how the traits from the bubble maps would become the "trait #1" et al sentences, and the evidence would become the "evidence" sentences.  Then the kids set off to write.

Day 5 -- Revising and Extending

After the paragraphs were constructed, I realized that they were bare bones basic.  So this day was dedicated to a mini lesson on extending sentences.  We focused solely on the trait sentences, as those, across the board, were the most simple.  I gave them a few sentence starters that could extend their sentences with and the students were sent off to revise their paragraphs.

Now, we have some great final drafts, the kids are able to dig into the text to find evidence of character traits, AND they are that much more prepared for "the TEST."

If you would like the ideas (and a few more) described above in lesson format, I have compiled them all into my Character Traits in 5 Days resource.  It is available here in my TpT store. 

What is something you do to teach Character Traits?


  1. Wow - thank you for going into such great depth in your post here. I love seeing how other teachers teach some of these big ideas. Thank you for sharing your ideas, they are great!

  2. Thank you for being so detailed in sharing how you did this reading lesson with your class over several days. It's so nice to share ideas!


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