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.
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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.”
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?
⭐️ 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
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.
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.
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.
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!
Word Wall Classroom
4) Spark Conversations Themed Around the Focus Word
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.
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!
Classroom Management Pro Tip
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:
Related Articles Themed Around Character Trait Vocabulary:
- Teach Students How to Identify Character Traits by Lit In Focus
- Recommended Mentor Texts for Teaching Character Traits by The Teacher Next Door
- Teaching Character Development and Conflict with Character Traits by Amy Lemons