Teaching Character Traits

•The Common Core State Standards in 3rd grade fictional literature calls for students to identify and describe characters’ actions, thoughts, and motivations, which is no small task for an 8-year-old who is just beginning to read longer text. Character traits can be positive or negative. Begin with positive traits. Give examples.

A great way to do this is to introduce adjectives. Have students use words that describe themselves. Brainstorm adjectives together. What is great about them? Are they fun, creative, nice, silly, brave, quiet, loud, sporty, curious…… Transfer the skill of describing to a character analysis of the whole character. Remind students that character traits can be postive or negative, and traits include how a person acts and thinks. You could have students draw a main character and use adjectives to describe that person. A thought bubble could be used to note the character’s thoughts.

You can shift the focus to motivation. What do you think this character is thinking? What gives you that idea? You will be guiding students to give evidence. That is a skill they will need for upper grades. Use Think-Alouds so students get an idea of how to begin the process.

This link will provide positive and negative character traits:


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