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Identifying Character Traits in Literature

December 9, 2017 4 Comments

Readers learn about a character  through their actions and words. Rarely does an author directly say the character is curious or hardworking. Instead, the reader is actually using the skill of making inferences to figure this out. For developing readers, identifying character traits can be a challenge.

When I introduce this skill, I like to read aloud a story that has a very strong character such as the little wolf in The Wolf Who Cried Boy.

the-wolf-who-cried-boy cover


After reading and discussing the story, I ask the children to come up with a few words to describe how the young wolf acted. Often they suggest sneaky or dishonest. Then I ask them to explain which actions in the story support this. It is important that the students don’t just chose random words, but rather can give concrete examples to support their conclusion.

To anchor this lesson into our learning, I print a copy of the book’s cover and add the character traits words to a bulletin board display.


It is a great reference tool for future stories. We can compare characters, connect similar traits, and the children refer to the spelling of words when they are writing their answers.

Other times, the words we are trying to come up with seem elusive. That is when I have my students refer to their character traits list. I’ve organized 135 character traits in alphabetical order. The students keep them in their Reading Notebook for handy reference.

CharacterTraitssample3 In order to provide several opportunities for the students to practice, I wrote several mini-stories. Each one requires the student to identify a character trait as well as evidence to support that conclusion.

CharacterTraitssample2 Throughout the year, we continue to identify character traits, expand their vocabulary, and add to our bulletin board. If you would like a copy of my character traits list and minilessons, click here.

Character Traits rev 2014

Here are some other books I recommend for teaching character traits:

9 Character Trait Books

Please let me know in the comments below how you teach character traits to your students.


Alison Monk

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  • Carla Fedeler March 11, 2014 at 4:02 AM

    First of all…love your new blog design! Your post is fabulous, and I love the idea of the book jacket and traits explored. I mentioned it in my post, but my kids struggle with the meaning of trait language sometimes, so by naming it and posting it, perhaps they get a reminder. Thanks Allison!

  • Krista Mahan Teaching Momster March 10, 2014 at 3:17 PM

    I love “The Wolf Who Cried Boy”!! I think it is so important for the kids to explain their thinking rather than just use adjectives to describe the characters.

    Krista Mahan
    Teaching Momster

  • Wendy @ Read With Me ABC March 9, 2014 at 10:13 PM

    I love your new design! It’s so fresh and colorful…it makes me wish spring was here. 🙂
    The Boy Who Cried Wolf is perfect for character traits! Your bulletin board idea is so clever, and I love the character traits list and practice stories that you’ve compiled! Thanks so much for linking up!
    Read With Me ABC

  • Grace Clark March 9, 2014 at 5:30 PM

    Alison – I really like this. Always did these kinds of activities to encourage kids to form their own opinions and thoughts regarding character development. Enables them to begin to look for clues when determining the character traits in those around them.

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    Welcome! I'm Alison Monk, a primary teacher with a passion for creating educational materials that engage kids and teachers love! I hope this blog encourages and inspires you. I'm so glad you are here! Read More

    About the Literacy Garden

    My name is Alison Monk and I love helping teachers like you be successful. My passion is to support you with effective tips and engaging resources. I love children's literature, Golden Retrievers, and coffee!

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