Teaching character traits will not only enhance your students’ critical thinking skills and enjoyment of reading but may also help them discover parts of themselves. As they learn more about a character, they might also see who they are and who they want to become being mirrored back at them through the character’s odyssey.
Isn’t that awesome?
So how do you teach character traits in a way that’s enjoyable and engaging? Here are some practical tips and fun character traits activities that will help you steer those promising, little detectives in the right direction.
Introducing Character Traits
Of course, you can tell just them what character traits are, but where’s the fun in that? Your task is to wake up your students’ curiosity and imagination to prepare them for the detective work that lies ahead.
After all, character traits in many pieces of literature are not always obvious. Most often, kids first have to piece together clues and infer these traits based on the character’s thoughts and actions.
Below are some character traits activities you can try for introducing the topic.
Draw Your Future Self
This activity will help clarify what traits students need to look for when reading a story. Give them about 5 minutes to draw an ideal picture of themselves 10 years from now on a piece of paper and then another 10 minutes to write words around the drawing to describe their future looks and personality.
Here are some prompts you can use to help them visualize their future selves:
- What are you doing 10 years from now?
- Where are you?
- What do you look like?
- What are you wearing?
- Who are you with?
- What are your interests?
- What or who do you value the most?
Discuss as a class what words they used to describe internal and external traits.
Make sure to clearly distinguish the two.
On the board, write the words “character trait definition” for students to try and explain what it means based on the activity.
Inside and Outside
Are you wondering how to teach character traits to visual learners?
Give each student a piece of white cardstock paper and ask them to fold them into two widthwise like a greeting card.
Ask them to imagine a book character and draw what it looks like (external traits) on the front of the card. And then ask them to open the card, draw an outline of that same character and write words describing its internal traits inside the outline.
Here are prompts you can use to help your students visualize their character:
- What’s your character’s name?
- What’s their age?
- What do they look like?
- What hobbies and foods do they love?
- Who do they love the most?
- What do they fear the most?
- What are their best and worst qualities?
- How would their best friend describe them?
The Classic Charades
I think this is the most simple and yet most enjoyable of all the character traits activities I’ve listed so far. This is ideal for kinesthetic learners. First, start your character traits lesson by eliciting some of the external and internal traits your students are already familiar with to activate their vocabulary. Then simply divide the class into two.
Players from each team then take turns acting out words (that you have supplied) for their teammates to guess within a set time limit. The team with the most points wins!
Teaching Strategies for Character Analysis
Once you feel that the kids have grasped the concept of character traits, it’s time to dig deep into the wonderful world of character analysis.
Here are exciting activities you can try to make diving into text less boring:
Play a Shooting Game
If you have a bunch of sports lovers in your class, here’s an active way of teaching character traits.
Help them remember these by using the acronym “F.A.S.T.”. Prepare a ball and four baskets. Label the baskets with the acronym letters.
Place the baskets in front of the class (within shooting distance from the students) while you hold the ball in your hand. Read passages from a book that describe character traits and challenge the students to think F.A.S.T. and identify which kind of passages they are by shooting the ball into one of the baskets. Then ask the class what trait each passage describes.
If someone is struggling to shoot the ball, encourage others to help and make it a fun team effort!
Create a Collaborative Anchor Chart
Put a character’s picture in the middle of a poster. Divide the class into 4 groups and ask them to brainstorm the internal and external traits of this character. Ask them to back up their claims with supporting text from the source material. After brainstorming, ask for volunteers to write the traits in sticky notes and stick them to the poster.
Detective, Help Me Find the Clues
Divide the class into two teams. Challenge your students to channel their inner detectives with this game. Hide papers containing book excerpts describing character traits all over the classroom. On the board, write the traits that match the excerpts.
Ask the teams to find the paper clues and match them to the words on the board. The team that finds the most clues and matches them correctly wins!
The Voice: Character Traits
In this hilarious activity, students will act like The Voice judges to sort character traits into positive, negative, and neutral categories.
Divide the class into three groups and assign a category to each of them. Ask the students to stand up and face the wall opposite you and the board.
Read aloud passages describing different traits and ask the groups to identify what category they are by turning towards you and saying “That’s ______ (category name e.g. positive, negative, etc.)”. Ask the same group to identify which trait is being described.
Other Practical Tips and Strategies
Differentiating Emotions From Character Traits
Some students may confuse emotions with character traits. Explain to the class that emotions can vary from time to time while character traits are developed in a span of time. For example, a character may be a cheerful person in general yet they may feel sad or lonely when they get a failing mark in an exam.
Character Traits Can Change
This is called character development.
You can visually explain this concept to the class by drawing a timeline on the board detailing the events in a character’s life and then have the students identify the character’s traits at the beginning of the story and plot how it changes within the timeline.
Why Are Character Traits Important to Learn
Analyzing characters and identifying their traits can help prepare students for deep thinking. Not only are they asked to look for text clues to make inferences, but they will also need to support their reasoning with actual details from the story. This helps hone their critical thinking skills.
Discussing the traits can also help them build their vocabulary of interesting adjectives. They can withdraw from this growing bank of words as they venture into writing their own stories.
Learning character traits from literature can also be instrumental in drawing students into discussions that lead to personal development.
This free teacher’s resource book from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement has listed the best materials to use to help children and young adults learn positive character traits (e.g. responsibility, honesty, integrity, etc.) through literature.
I hope all these ideas can help you teach character traits in a way that’s not only fun but also meaningful to your students’ lives. I’d like to add a quick final note that your resource materials don’t have to be confined to written pieces alone, picture books and short videos can be a great, entertaining resource for character analysis as well.
Your character traits lesson doesn’t have to be boring and text-heavy. With a bit of preparation and creativity, it can be that spark that inspires your students’ imaginations to run wild.
Last Updated on July 25, 2022 by Emily