When teaching upper elementary students about character traits, we often focus on the reading aspect - how to identify character traits, how to find evidence from the text, filling out character trait graphic organizers, how to build character trait vocabulary, how characters are described within a text, etc. However, integrating writing into your lessons on character traits can be a valuable, LOW PREP tool that requires students to use higher level thinking skills.
Below, find 3 lesson ideas that have students incorporate character traits into their writing. All students will need is a pencil, paper, and a little imagination!
Rewrite a Story, Giving A Character a New Trait
Teachers often ask students to rewrite stories from a different point of view (find my favorite books and fairy tales written from a different point of view here) - why not have them rewrite a story, giving one of the characters a different character trait? It takes some higher level thinking for students to think about how a story would change if one character's main trait changed.
You could have your 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students do this activity with any narrative you have read in class where a character exhibits a strong trait. Or, you could have your students rewrite some common fairy tales.
Some possible stories for students to rewrite:
- Rewrite Cinderella, making the stepsisters compassionate
- Rewrite Cinderella, making Cinderella bossy
- Rewrite Goldilocks, making Goldilocks responsible
- Rewrite Jack and the Beanstalk, making the giant generous
- Rewrite Little Red Riding Hood, making the wolf honest
- Rewrite The Gingerbread Man, making the Gingerbread Man clumsy
You'll be surprised at how creative some of your students will be when given the chance!
Writing About What Characters Would Say or Do
Another fun lesson idea that integrates writing is to have upper elementary students write a short paragraph about a character with a specific character trait. Students should include plenty of details that make the character's trait very clear, but they should NOT include the actual character trait in their paragraph. A sample paragraph for the character trait "patient" is below.
Alexandra's teacher was passing out cupcakes, starting with the students in the front row. Alexandra was all the way at the back. A boy next to her was complaining about the wait, but Alexandra said, "We're not in hurry. We'll get a cupcake eventually."
After students finish writing, have them share their paragraphs with the class, allowing other students to guess what character trait was being written about.
This activity can be repeated over and over with different character traits. It can be used in a variety of ways - as a quick assessment, as a writing center, as a whole class activity, as an exit slip, etc.
If you are working on building students' character trait vocabulary, you could assign a specific character trait that you would like students to work on, have all students write a paragraph on the same trait, and then compare paragraphs to see who included the best details.
Writing About a Character Whose Traits Change Over Time
Many fiction stories contain plots with a character whose traits change over time. Have your students practice including this in their own writing by asking them to write about a character who started out acting one way, and then changed throughout the story.
Most stories with this plot will have a character start with a negative trait like selfishness, and end up with a more positive character trait like generosity. Encourage your students to do the same. You can assign them character traits to include in their story or let them choose their own.
You could use these free character trait lists to help choose traits for students to write about.