5 Powerful Ways to Use a Worksheet on Character Traits

Blog cover photo showing 5 classroom worksheet examples that help students practice character trait vocabulary.

A worksheet on character traits is used often in your classroom if you teach elementary school ELA. Worksheets are a tried and true way to keep new learning and thoughts organized. However, it’s time to take worksheets to the next level and use them as an avenue for digging deeper into word meaning, NOT as the one and only resource you use to teach students new vocabulary words. It’s time to think outside the box and help students make connections, use new words in conversation and offer opportunities for creative writing.

💌 Before we dive head first into making sure you know all the ways to bring your character trait worksheets to the next level, I want to invite you to join our Word Lovers Community! Whether you are brand new to teaching vocabulary, or a veteran looking to spice up your word learning activities, all are welcome. By signing up, you get vocabulary teaching tips and activity ideas sent directly to your inbox once a month.

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Why Character Trait Vocabulary?

I’ve recently been helping a friend job search. I’ve noticed that in nearly every job posting there are character traits included in the “What Will You Do?” and “What Do You Need?” sections. For example, “be proactive and accountable for meeting goals”, “be self-motivated to become a product expert” or “have empathy, curiosity, and exceptional listening skills”. 

This got me thinking. When we’re introducing new character trait vocabulary words to students, we want to make sure to be providing concrete examples of what these traits look like in real life. In other words, we want to support them to make real world connections and associate these new vocabulary words to words they already know and to people (or characters) in their life. We want them thinking about how their neighbor old Miss Connie is congenial, but can sometimes be surly because she’s elderly and you don’t really know what version of her you’re going to get.

Get Kids Reading!

Good character isn’t formed in a week or a month. It is created little by little, day by day. The same goes for teaching students new words. Building small habits, introducing new mini routines, or implementing little tweaks to your instruction can make all the difference.

The easiest way to do this?

Get kids READING (just right books!), and start reading TO them as much as humanly possible. According to my favorite vocabulary guru Janet Allen, “Word-learning opportunities begin with significant amounts of reading; from this reading, extensive knowledge of words and opportunities for mediated and explicit instruction emerge.”

Students reading to promote significant amounts of reading in order to increase vocabulary acquisition.
If you’re asking “Why should I encourage students to read more often?”, here is your answer.

Using Character Education to Teach Life Skills

By teaching character trait vocabulary you aren’t just teaching students new words, you’re also teaching character education. These are life skills that students for college, careers and beyond! Through the characters in our books, we can learn how to act and how NOT to act in certain situations. We can learn what happens when you’re nice to people, and what happens when you’re not.

Everyone wants to hire a persistent and empathetic person to join their company, not a menacing and inconsiderate employee, right? Why not start them young and show them how important it is to be a good person?

Everything you need to get started with Character Trait Vocabulary TODAY! No prep required.

⭐️ This perfectly curated Character Trait Vocabulary Unit is available in my Teachers Pay Teachers Shop!

It includes word cards, practice worksheets such as graphic organizers and short stories, writing prompts and pre and post assessments!

Character Traits Mentor Texts

2 picture book suggestions on how to teach the difference between character feelings and traits: The Way I Feel and The Way I Act.
Use these character trait mentor texts to teach the difference between feelings and traits.

Before diving into a unit on character trait vocabulary, here’s a tip:

Teach students that character traits can be inferred by analyzing a character’s feelings, dialogue, actions and thoughts. This way they’re ready to analyze each new classmate (or character) when you kick off a new read aloud.

Make sure to explain the difference between a character’s feelings and a personality trait. These can be easily confused, but are very different. 

The Way I Feel and The Way I Act are great picture books to help students understand the difference between a trait and a feeling.

Once you’ve used the character traits mentor text to introduce a new vocabulary word, use a worksheet to have students collect notes and dig deeper with this word. Students should be interacting with each worksheet on character traits multiple times. We want to prompt students to refer back to their notes and use them to spark conversations. Then, write long and strong with the new vocabulary they’ve learned.

Implementing a word wall, providing real world examples and encouraging collaboration are just a few ways we can make these worksheets come alive in our classrooms.

5 Powerful Ways to Use a Worksheet on Character Traits

1) Teach Each New Word with Intention

There are over 80,000 words in the English language. It’s impossible to teach them all. So, whatever words you do teach, teach well and stick to a plan. Whether it’s a new word every week, or a handful of words for the month. Any new words are better than no new words! 

My go-to character trait word list is research based and comes from Professor Patrick Manyak at the University of Wisconsin. Many years ago, he was featured in The Reading Teacher magazine for his “low-investment, high-return” approach to teaching character trait vocabulary. This approach was to teach character trait vocabulary school-wide over the course of the entire school year.

Less is more here. Guide students to develop a deep understanding of a handful of words, rather than speed through a word list that they’ll never see again. 

The picture book read aloud suggestion of Maddi's Fridge paired with the vocabulary word congenial and a worksheet to practice.
Use character traits mentor texts paired with a worksheet to help students make connections!

Vocabulary Word Maps

⭐️ Direct instruction on every new word is essential. Don’t rush this! Before beginning the read aloud, we complete a vocabulary Word Web or Word Map all together as a class.

We discuss the meaning of the focus word, come up with some examples and non-examples, and I help guide them to finding 2 synonyms and 2 antonyms. I try to use words that students most likely already know for these synonyms and antonyms. This instantly helps them make connections. They can map this new word in their brain to words that are already part of their vocabulary.

Incorporating active note taking into your interactive read aloud helps to teach this new word with intention. Plus, it sets the focus of your lesson as you begin the story together.

📝 Learn more about Vocabulary Word Maps and Word Webs in my blog post: What is a Word Web? and Why it’s a Brilliant Way to Teach Vocabulary


2) Make Connections to Their World

Research shows that when students are able to make connections to their world and build upon prior knowledge, they are better able to understand the text they’re reading. Plus, they can lock new vocabulary words into their memory bank. Similar to the idea of a Word Web if that web was inside their brain instead of on paper.

Using the characters in our books to represent character traits positive and negative is a great first step. This helps students make connections to what this trait may look like in real life. Another way is by providing them with various scenarios. Then, they can decide whether or not this scenario relates to the focus word.

Lastly, use words they already know to show how the focus word is related or similar. Offer opportunities for comparing and contrasting common words to new more challenging words they’re learning.

Character Traits Positive and Negative

⭐️ Character Scenario and Compare & Contrast activities for 5 positive character traits words and 5 negative are available in my Character Trait Unit Bundle.

Two worksheet examples of how using scenarios and compare and contrast activities can help students make connections when learning new vocabulary words.
These character scenario and compare & contrast activities are included in the Character Trait Vocabulary Unit!

3) Dedicate Space for a Word Wall

For upper elementary classrooms who no longer need a Sight Word Wall, consider using some wall space for a Character Trait Word Wall! This is an easy way to keep track of the words you’ve learned as a class this year. It also ensures that words are accessible to students beyond the week you taught them!

Encourage students to interact with the word wall. Provide the definition, synonyms and antonyms on the back of each word card. This way, when they forget what the word means, they can go grab the card off the word wall!

Furthermore, refer back to previous words you’ve taught throughout the entire school year. This helps keep the words alive and fresh in students minds!

A photo of a word wall promoting that hanging words up in your classroom and referring back to them often helps the words to stick in students' minds.
Make your classroom word wall interactive to help students remember the words you’ve taught!

Word Wall Classroom

This starter pack includes 30 character trait vocabulary words with word wall and anchor chart cards. Including graphics for each!

⭐️ Grab this Character Trait Word Wall Starter Pack from my Teachers Pay Teachers Shop. It includes 1 vocabulary word for each letter of the alphabet, plus 6 bonus! Letters for each column header included.

📝 Learn more about word walls in my blog post: Intermediate Word Walls


4) Spark Conversations Themed Around the Focus Word

The Think Pair Share conversation protocol highlighted for how to get students talking about new vocabulary words.
Get students talking about new words by using the Think-Pair-Share Learning Strategy!

Instead of only using a worksheet as a note taking sheet, consider using it to organize classroom conversations too!

The Think Pair Share teaching strategy is a way for students to collaborate with a partner or small group on a single topic or in this case a focus vocabulary word.

Students work together to come to a shared understanding of the focus word. Before turning to talk or pair with their partner, students are asked to spend a moment thinking about the topic/focus word independently in preparation to share their thoughts. In the end, partners work together to share their understanding of the topic with a small group or the class.

Think Pair Share

To keep kids on track and accountable during each step of this collaborative learning strategy, I created a printable 8.5×11” chart. This graphic organizer includes the three steps (Think, Pair and Share) and helps students stay focused.

⭐️ This Think Pair Share activity is a great way to increase the number of times students are exposed to a new word. Plus, it helps gain buzz around your classroom about all of the new words you’ve taught!

📝 Learn more about the Think Pair Share protocol in my blog post: What is Think Pair Share? and Why It Helps Build Students’ Vocabulary.


5) Provide Multiple Opportunities for Writing

Using a new vocabulary word expressively (whether speaking or writing) shows that students have acquired a deeper knowledge of the word. Once you’ve introduced a new vocabulary word, hosted conversations themed around this word and provided practice opportunities, it’s important to show students how to incorporate these words into their writing.

The act of using knowledge learned to “create” or “produce” something is the highest level of Bloom’s Taxonomy. Writing helps students to actively process new words. It shows that they understand both the meaning of new words, and how and where to use them appropriately.

All of this to say, writing can be challenging for many students. It is rigorous and cognitively demanding. Make sure to provide supports and scaffolds to help students organize their thoughts and encourage creativity.

3 ideas for how to get students incorporating new vocabulary words into their writing: Interactive Vocabulary Notebooks, Pre-set writing prompts and encouraging open ended journaling.
Add to your lesson plan for character traits by encouraging students to use new words in their writing.

Lesson Plan for Character Traits

⭐️ Interactive Vocabulary Notebooks are an easy way to incorporate a weekly writing prompt into your classroom routine. These can be used with any vocabulary word, not just character trait vocabulary.

⭐️ This No-Prep Character Trait Vocabulary Unit focuses on 10 character trait words. It includes open ended journaling pages, writing prompts and so much more!

Time Management Pro Tip

Build a vocabulary routine in your classroom by using the same 3-5 activities each week and just changing the focus word it’s themed around.

This saves you time because you can bulk print/prep activities for the month. Plus, it frees up instructional time! You can solely focus on teaching the new focus word in detail, not on having to explain directions to a new activity every day.

If students know what to expect each week, they become more independent. This makes it easy to fit in a vocabulary activity each day in just 10 minutes or less!

A time management tip for teachers saying they should stick to the same 3-5 activities for each new focus word taught in order to build a classroom routine.
Use the same activities in your each lesson plan for character traits to help build a routine.

Classroom Management Pro Tip

Two students talking showing that providing students with supports when they're asked to talk and write about words is very helpful. An example of a support would be a graphic organizer or a conversation protocol.
Add graphic organizers and discussion protocols to your lesson plan for character traits.

Using new vocabulary words in conversations and in writing is challenging!

Easy ways to relieve anxiety about these challenging tasks is to provide vocabulary themed graphic organizers for note taking and discussion protocols to use during collaboration time. This ensures that students are supported through these rigorous tasks.

Providing students with the scaffolds and supports they need helps to keep them on task and organized!

Remember, less is more. Implementing all 5 of these ways to spice up your worksheets on character traits can seem overwhelming. Start with a short list of a few words you know you want to teach. Work through them one at a time. Incorporate an interactive read aloud whenever possible. Then, get kids talking and writing about words! You’ve got this!

Save time and use this worksheet on character traits unit to support character education in your classroom!


🎥 Learn more about my Character Traits Unit resource bundle in this quick preview video:

The perfect no prep resource to get you started teaching character trait vocabulary TODAY!


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