Characters, Characters, and more Characters: How To Teach Character Traits & Character Conflict

We have gone a little character crazy in my room.  We went over Character Traits which I talked a little bit about HERE, but we have been going strong learning about characters even more. Here's how I teach character traits and character conflict.

Upper elementary ideas to teach character traits and character conflict using anchor charts, interactive notebook templates, and task cards.

How To Teach Character Traits

Then, we related it to our current novel, which is Rules by Cynthia Lord (the kids love the novel every year, and so do I!).  Each student had to make a tree map with character traits for one of the characters in the novel.  As they read, they took notes on sticky notes showing evidence of certain character traits, and then transferred them to their “interactive” tree map.

how to use a tree map to teach character traits

Later, we did a fun activity combining context clues, inference, and character traits.  First, I gave the kids a list of character traits and had them sort them into two categories.  I didn't care what the two categories were, and the kids came up with some great ones!  Listening to them discuss which character trait went into which category was fantastic.  There was some really rich discussion happening!

use a sort to teach character traits

Then, I gave each student a card that had a paragraph about a character and one or two blanks in which they needed to fill in an appropriate character trait.  I was a little nervous about whether or not they could do it, but they totally rocked it!  I was so impressed with them.  For kids who needed more help with this, I let them use the list of character traits from earlier.  Each student read theirs to a side partner, they discussed whether or not the character trait they had chosen fit in the blank, and then they passed their cards two people to the right and the cycle continued.  It was great practice, and it was great fluency practice, too, since they were reading their cards out loud.  The kids begged to do this activity again! You can download these using context clues to infer character traits task cards here, but you can do the sort with any list of character traits!

At this point, the kids were getting to be pretty solid with character traits, but I wanted one more way to review it.  I created some character trait picture task cards, which I actually wish I would have started at the very beginning!  We did the first four together, discussing the traits and feelings we could infer from the pictures and the interactions in the pictures.  Then, I had them work together in partners discussing and making a t-chart of traits and feelings of the people in the pictures.

How To Teach Character Conflict

Then, we moved on to teaching character conflict.  I had some help from one of my new favorite teacher-authors, Erin over at Lovin' Lit.  I just love her interactive notebooks and other resources.  Fabulous for the upper grades.  We began talking about conflict by making one of her foldables for internal and external conflict. Then, we did another foldable for the specific types of character conflict, but I forgot to take a picture! You can read more about how i teach character conflict in this post.

how to use an interactive notebook to teach character conflict

Here is the anchor chart that I created along with them. This is one of those anchor charts that has already been referenced over and over and over again!

teaching character conflict anchor chart

The kids really understood the difference between internal and external conflicts, but they were still a little bit stuck on identifying the specific type of conflict.  So, I set to work creating a set of character conflict task cards.  These were a doozy to write, more so than most of the other sets I have made.  But,  when I put them up on the document camera and saw my kids going to work on them, I was thrilled!  First, I had the kids decide if the scenarios were internal or external conflict, and then they narrowed it down to one of the four major conflicts.  We did these together, as a whole class, too, but they could also be used in centers or small groups.  I just loved the discussions we all had together, especially since some of the kids had strong arguments for one type of conflict.

We are finishing up this week by talking about character change, and I feel like my students have a great understanding of characters at this point. I'm always looking for more ideas to teach character traits and conflict though, as we review throughout the year!

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