Naming character traits can be challenging. Even with a nice, long list of character traits to choose from, students may have a difficult time choosing the ones that fit a character best. This is especially true with younger students or struggling readers whose idea of a character may be based more on the illustration of that character than on the text.
For example, look at the picture of the girl flying through the air to kick the soccer ball. We can see what she is doing, but we don’t know what she is thinking, what she might say about it later, or how others may be reacting. Maybe the crowd erupts into cheers when she makes the kick, or maybe her team is already way ahead and the onlookers mumble about a player showing off. We just don’t know. Maybe, later she will talk excitedly about her big play, or maybe she will be saying quietly that the other team blocked her best shot ever. We don’t know. What about the other picture – the one showing the player dribbling the ball. What do you think she will say? What might she be thinking? How might the people on the sidelines react? To find the answer to these characterization questions, students will need to do some close reading to look for clues. One good way to help students do this is to provide some type of characterization chart for students to fill in with details directly from the text. You might use a ready-made worksheet, or you could have students create a simple graphic organizer for their notebook. In the organizer, students should have spaces to list things that the character says, things he does, things he thinks, and ways that other characters react to him. I like to add space for a picture in the center. To sum it up, students can list, or choose from a list, character traits that best fit the character. After searching out the character clues, students should be able to do a good job of deciding on traits that really describe the character’s personality. Here is one example of a characterization chart.
If you are interested in some characterization practice with short passages, here is a link to one of my Teachers Pay Teachers resources, Characterization Kids Task Cards.
And here’s a freebie! Students can use this foldable bookmark to keep track of story elements as they read.