Character traits are adjectives that describe a person’s personality. They are usually reflected by the person’s thoughts, words, and actions. Students in elementary schools need to be able to identify a character’s traits and use details from the text to support themselves.
I used to think identifying character traits is an easy task, but assessment data showed me that many students struggle with it. There are many reasons, for example, English language learners don’t have enough vocabulary to describe a character’s personality or the students haven’t seen people with all kinds of personalities in their life.
Today’s post is about some ideas and practices I found helpful and effective when teaching character traits in elementary schools. Here is also a freebie for you to use.
Start From Sentences Related to Kid’s Life
As I mentioned above, some kids either lack the vocabulary to describe certain kinds of people or lack the understanding of behaviors that reflect certain kinds of traits. Therefore, I asked my students to start with simple sentences with a word bank.
For example, when working on this worksheet with my students, I first went over the vocabulary in the word bank. Then, I read the first sentence and modeled how to find the best trait to fill in the blank.
I also did the second one with my students to make sure they are able to work on the rest by themselves. Finally, they worked on the rest independently.
Make Character Traits Vocabulary Cards
Being able to pick the right character trait to fill the blanks doesn’t necessarily mean they fully understand each word. Therefore, I asked my students to make their own character trait vocabulary cards on index cards (see above).
For each vocabulary card, students put the character trait, its meaning, and a picture of behavior or a scenario that reflects the character trait. The sentences on the worksheets helped them a lot with drawing the pictures.
Later, when they move on to longer texts and writing, they can use these vocabulary cards to help them identify the character traits.
Practice With Short Passages to Identify Character Traits
A short sentence can only show a bit of evidence of a character trait, while passages can present more. On this worksheet, most of the short passages include a person’s thoughts, words, and actions. Thus, I encouraged my students to annotate and color code each passage.
In addition, without the word bank, each passage may have multiple answers as long as the student can justify them. This makes the questions open-ended, so students can think deeper and more critically.
Long Texts With Different Types of Questions
No matter how diverse your student group is, every kid needs exposure to grade-level texts. Therefore, when the whole class moves to long texts, we need to provide various scaffolding to make sure it’s accessible to everyone.
Apart from the vocabulary cards and anchor charts, we can also differentiate our questions.
For instance, for students who need more support, let them work on multiple-choice questions. For those who need an intermediate level of support, they can work on the graphic organizer. Finally, for those who have already grasped the skill, they can work on short response questions and writing questions if they finish early.
Familiar Students With Different Wording of Character Traits Questions
Another difficulty regarding identifying character traits I noticed is that sometimes students don’t know the question is asking for character traits. For example,
Therefore, I have summarized some questions that ask for the character traits. Then, I made a chart and taught a lesson about it. This helped students know when they should use their knowledge of character traits to answer questions.
Follow-Up & More Resources
To sum up, teaching the skill of identifying character traits is very important in elementary schools, but we have to differentiate the learning materials and provide different levels of scaffolding. Moreover, familiarizing your students with different wording of character traits questions is also necessary and helpful.
If you would like to try the worksheets mentioned in this post, you can get a freebie here. If you want more but save your planning time at the same time, you can purchase the product here.
Another fun, efficient and flexible way to teach and learn is task cards. So I also prepared my students with different levels of task cards. I will talk more about them in another post.
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