One of my all-time favorite lessons to teach is identifying character traits. It is a lesson where students can easily find connections to themselves or to other people they know. In so many ways, a character in a text, whether it be from a fantasy story or a realistic fiction, reminds them of somebody they know in real life. The key is to choose the right story to use for read-aloud or as a mentor text.
There are various ways to teach this reading skill, which is part of the inferential skills that students need to be familiar with. In 1st grade ESOL, I try to focus on terms that they can easily understand,, such as:
WHAT THE CHARACTER LOOKS LIKE
WHAT THE CHARACTER DOES
In 3rd and 5th grade, students are usually given a list of character traits they can use as reference when thinking about how to describe the characters in the text. The curriculum framework mandated by my district includes a copy of this character traits. You can also find this list on www.readwritethink.org. As an ESOL teacher, I try to differentiate this lesson by letting them match images or pictures showing different emotions with the descriptive words before introducing the lesson. Then,I now expand the concept with these phrases using an anchor chart:
WHAT THE CHARACTER LOOKS LIKE (APPEARANCE)
WHAT THE CHARACTER DOES (ACTIONS)
WHAT THE CHARACTER THINKS OR FEELS (THOUGHTS/FEELINGS)
WHY THE CHARACTER ACTS AS HE/SHE DOES (MOTIVATIONS)
For my ELL’s, especially those in the beginning proficiency levels, being able to use common adjectives or descriptive words such as NICE, HAPPY, or SAD is already a big accomplishment for them. As they gain more confidence in using the language, it is important to let the students think about words to replace these ordinary adjectives.
To facilitate discussion, I use an anchor chart to identify character traits of a main character as we read the story. Below is an example of an anchor chart I used in 5th grade using the main character from our read-aloud text, “Martina, the Beautiful Cockroach.”
Here is a suggested lesson outline for 3rd grade:
1. Warm-Up – introduce 5 adjectives. Play a match-up game of these adjectives and a set of pictures.
2. Whole-group activity – Introduce “character traits” using an anchor chart. Use a mentor text to read aloud to students. Focus on the main character to identify the character trait. Pause each time to analyze the character’s development in the story using the anchor chart as a guide. Chart students’ answers with Post-it notes.
3. Group Work – Divide students into pairs or groups. Let them choose a character from the story. Use a graphic organizer similar to the anchor chart to analyze a character’s appearance, actions, and feelings, and inference about the character.
4. Independent Work – Use a template to illustrate their character and write a character analysis. You can find a lot of different templates on Pinterest. This year I used the character selfies template as more and more young people, even us adults, are becoming more fascinated with the “selfie” trends on social media. Below are links to templates you can use, which also appeared on my previous blog:
Suggested Read-Aloud Books for a Character Traits Lesson:
Happy 1st Day of November!