Character Trait Essays and Wordle

This is a higher tech way of analyzing character traits.
The novel Tuck Everlasting (affiliate link) is so full of rich characters that examining their character traits is a must.  Last year, I wrote about how we did that in a decidedly low-tech version here, but this year, since I have access to a class set of chrome books, we took it up the tech notch a bit.

reading and writing in fifth grade
To begin, I asked the students to think about one of the characters what stood out to them in the book.  This could be any character, though I did preface by saying that those characters with more information (ie: Jesse or Winnie) would be easier to discuss than those with only a passing mention (ie: the grandmother).  Once the character was chosen, I had the students list all of the character traits they could.  To help them along, the students used this character trait list from Read.Write.Think.  Using those traits, they had to search through the book to find evidence of that character trait and list their own background knowledge justifying why they thought the trait matched the character they chose.

Just like last year, I had the students choose the three most prevalent character traits (in their own opinion and with their own justifications) and write one paragraph explaining these character qualities.  They used this FREE form here (from my Character Traits in 5 Days pack) to construct their paragraph.  Then, once the writing piece was done, we moved on to the visual representation of those character traits using a program called

Wordle creates a word cloud based on the text that it is given.  Those words that appear more in the text show up bigger on the word cloud.  Those words that are in the text less often appear smaller in the word cloud.  So to make sure that the proper traits were emphasized, I gave the students the following parameters.

Write the name of the character 7 times.
Write the three main traits (that were written about in the paragraph) 5 times.
Write the four traits that also stand out (but weren't in the paragraph) 3 times.
Write seven more minor traits of the character 1 time each.

Using in fifth grade.
The students then had a list of traits, written in order of importance and "weighted" with the number of times those words were repeated, and they typed those words into the Wordle box.

When they pressed the button to create the word cloud, the words automatically were sized based on the times it was repeated within the text box.  I then allowed the students time to play around with font and color choices (they literally just push the buttons.  The font and colors are predetermined by the program but there are many different predetermined templates the kids can choose from.)  Once they found the word cloud configuration they liked, the students printed and were done.  I did ask them not to choose the black backgrounds so that we could save a bit on ink.

When the final products were hung on the wall, you could really see just what traits were evident in each character.  Those words in bold and bigger font were a great way to emphasize just what the students felt were important in each character.

Have you used Wordle?  How did you incorporate it into your class?

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  1. These are so cute. I wish we had color printers at school, it makes such a difference!

  2. We've done character traits for fictional characters and historical figures. When we revisit character traits I'll have to add in some of these ideas! I keep forgetting about Wordle!

    ♥ Stephanie

  3. I have enjoyed learning about this project and we are in the middle of reading Island of the Blue Dolphins and can't wait to apply this to what Karana or any of the major characters within the first few chapters. Wordle can be done in black and white and you can have the students color it in. We do have color printer but it is nice to see the students adding thier own touch of color and creativity to their wordle by coloring it themselves. Thanks for the creative idea, can't wait to use it with my kiddos!

  4. I love this idea and it's perfect for our upcoming 4-day week after returning from spring break. We are wrapping up our novel study, Stone Fox. Can't wait to use this! Thanks for the inspiration/idea.


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