Getting your students to understand and identify character traits within a story isn’t always easy. In fact, sometimes it’s downright challenging. Using some anchor charts is my favorite way to teach new skills and concepts like character traits. Any excuse I have to get my students actively involved in the lesson means they are actively involved in the learning. If the thought of teaching your students character traits makes you feel nervous or overwhelmed, have no fear! I am here to help get you started on your journey with some fun, engaging, and easy easy to use character traits anchor charts. I am so excited to share my successful tips and tricks with you whether you are an anchor chart novice or newbie!
What Are Anchor Charts And Why Should I Use Them?
Anchor charts are simply tools that help to support your instruction. They are seriously the best way I have found to introduce, practice, and review almost anything we are studying in my classroom. Instead of hanging a ready made poster about a skill or concept I like to create one with my students. These anchor charts remind them of the lesson and give them a visual anchor in the brain for the rest of the learning to connect to.
Think of an anchor chart like a whole class note-taking activity with a little craftiness thrown in. It’s a great way for me to introduce new vocabulary and concepts as a group so that we all have a common understanding to build on. My students get so excited to sit on the carpet and start our first anchor chart activity for the book or unit we are focusing on. They love getting up to help move things around, offer suggestions, and overall collaborate with their classmates to create the anchor chart together.
Whether you have artistic skills or not, making your own anchor chart can be as easy as print, cut, paste. If you want to get a little fancier, consider drawing out some of the characters or main subjects of the lesson or unit you are focusing on. And if all that sounds like just.too.much then take a deep breath and head over to the Emily Education store where you can find ready to create anchor charts for so many different skills and topics. I literally put together everything you need so all you have to do it print it out.
Engaging Students With Character Traits
Any time I introduce a new reading skill or strategy I like to start with a book. What better way can there be to teach reading skills that with reading. There are many great mentor texts for teaching about character traits. I often recommend anything from Kevin Henkes as a read aloud for character traits. His characters are such a delight with wonderful characters to dig into. And with more than one character we can easily work on character traits and comparing and contrasting! Two skills in one is a win in a busy classroom.
Some of my favorite books to use for character traits analysis include:
- The Recess Queen by Alexis O’Neill
- Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes
- Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
- A Bad Case Of Stripes By David Shannon
- Sheila Rae, The Brave by Kevin Henkes
All of these books include characters that are fun and exciting for students to learn about. They also teach important lessons that go beyond academics.
Introducing Character Traits
Character Traits Anchor Charts are the best way to help my students analyze, compare, and contrast characters in a meaningful way. Teaching character traits is simple when you break it up into bite-sized chunks. And. . . building an anchor chart together is a great way to document the learning and create a classroom tool for future practice and review.
Day one of our character traits lessons begins with the read aloud of the book I chose. After reading the book, using an anchor chart to introduce them to character trait vocabulary words really sets them up for success.
We then focus on identifying different character traits. We start with words to describe characters in the book and then continue to practice with words to describer out classmates.
To start we list out words that can be used to describe a person or character. Any words the students provide are added to the chart. If I don’t have a premade word card I write out the word and let a student draw a picture to match.
Practice the Basics
Day 2 begins with another read aloud. When selecting this book I try to choose one with characters that are different from the first book. This gives students an opportunity to think of new character traits to add to our chart. As I read, we talk about the characters. We focus on what students about those characters throughout the reading of the story. By questioning throughout the reading, students start to see how characters can change through the book.
I ask questions including:
- How is the character acting right now?
- Would you want to be friends with this character?
- How does this character make you feel?
Questions like these help students to start thinking about how they would describe the characters.
After reading, I ask my students to describe the characters like they are talking to someone who had never read the story. We take time to add these words to our anchor chart.
Inside And Outside Character Traits Anchor Charts
Once students have an understanding of the character traits concept, then its time to dig a little deeper. Categorizing character traits by internal and external character traits is the next step. And it shouldn’t surprise you that we start with an anchor chart!
Similar to the first anchor chart, the inside and outside anchor chart is interactive and hands-on for my students. By this time students are quick to provide character traits. We focus not just on the trait but on whether it is internal or external.
I start out by asking students to describe the external “outside” character traits because this one is much easier. Starting off this activity by taking time to describe ourselves really helps get students thinking about what outside characteristics are. I start by describing some of my outside characteristics and asking some students to volunteer to do the same.
I ask guiding questions including:
- What color hair does the character have?
- How tall is the character?
- Does the character wear anything on their head or face like a hat or glasses?
- What is the character wearing?
- How old do you think the character is?
Next, it’s time to have students start thinking about the internal characteristics of the characters. While these can be a little more difficult for students, once they get rolling they will come up with a great list. I also model this for my students by listing some of my internal characteristics and asking them to do the same. We talk about how inside characteristics tell us how the character feels or acts.
I ask guiding questions to get them started including:
- Tell me how the character feels when…?
- Why does the character behave like this when…?
- How does the character make the other characters feel?
I like to use the printed character trait pieces to have students categorize the character traits. Keep this class-made anchor chart somewhere in your classroom so your students will be able to access it when they create their own inside outside anchor charts.
Digging a Little Deeper
The final lessons on character traits have students digging even deeper. Now instead of students just identifying the trait, they have to explain what happened that makes them think of that character trait. They have to explain their reasoning. This activity really takes students up the spectrum of higher level thinking.
When we get to this stage you will often hear me ask, “What is a character trait that ________ (name of character) has?”, and then I follow it up with asking, “How do you know?” At first this might be a little difficult. With some modeling and practice students quickly learn how to support their thinking with examples.
Grab Your Character Traits Anchor Charts
You can find these character traits anchor charts in my Character Traits Unit in the Emily Education store. Grab your copy and fill your lesson plans with everything you need to teach character traits in your classroom.
More Fun With Character Traits
The anchor charts are our starting point, but by no means the end of our character traits activities. You can learn about all the other fun we have with character traits in this post. Without giving too much away, let’s just say students will so engaged in applying what they have learned that they will be character traits masters in no time.
Save these Character Traits Teaching Ideas
Teaching character traits is tough. Pin this to your favorite classroom Pinterest board. Then you can quickly come back when you need ideas for teaching character traits and other reading skills.