How to Teach Character Traits in 4th Grade


Character traits are one of my favorite skills to teach in reading. It must be the reader in me who loves to learn all about characters – their thoughts, actions, and words. Teaching character traits in 4th grade is the best! 4th-grade students can really begin to think deeply about characters and also themselves – so the connections they make are authentic and helpful.

Teaching character traits in 4th grade builds on what students have learned in 3rd grade – which is more focused on how the actions, words, and thoughts affect the story plot.

In 4th grade, it’s more about analyzing the character in detail. Going a little deeper into what they are thinking, what they are doing and why, and what they say.

How to teach character traits in 4th grade

When introducing a new standard, I use the I DO, WE DO, YOU DO sequence of instruction – and I always begin with an anchor chart.

Character Traits Anchor Chart

In the case of this skill – there are two that I use:

How to Interpret Details About a Character
  1. The first time I teach the standard, the construction of these two anchor charts is the lesson.
  2. We construct the anchor charts together. I use a picture book (A Bad Case of Stripes is a great one!) to model how to make a statement about a character – referring back to the anchor charts as needed. (I DO)
  3. The next day – I invite them to participate in the process with me.
  4. Using a picture book or one chapter of a longer text, I invite them to jot down the character’s thoughts, actions, and words as I read. (WE DO)
  5. We create an anchor chart for that specific character and students use post-its to add their notes to the chart. Together we discuss the traits and write a statement about the character together using the steps from How to Interpret Details From the Text Anchor Chart.

Student practice with Character Traits

When students are ready, I want them to read a text closely, take notes about the character, and create their own anchor chart. Giving them guiding questions (like these below) really helps with this! (YOU DO)

After they have read the text one time, I also want them to map out the story plot. This helps them analyze the character even more deeply.

Responding to text dependent questions about character traits

Before students respond to text-dependent questions, I want them to reread the text a 2nd time. Their comprehension of the text will deepen on the 2nd reading. Their ability to respond to the questions will also increase.

At this time, they can add details to their anchor charts and story plot map.

Making a Statement about the Character

Finally, I want students to use the information they have collected to make a statement about the character within the story plot.

Using this sentence frame to summarize the text is very helpful especially at the beginning of their practice.

What Makes this Lesson So Effective?

I think giving students support as they learn new skills is essential to mastery of standards.

In this lesson, I provide a character traits anchor chart, steps for interpreting details about characters, guiding questions, really good text-dependent questions, and a sentence frame for summarizing a statement about the character.

What Happens Now?

After you teach this lesson, you will be so proud of how much they have learned about analyzing character traits as a 4th grader!

Grab this Character Traits Close Reading Packet for 4th Grade! It includes all of the resources shown in this post and includes a printable and digital version so you have options for your classroom!

Having this resource will SAVE you hours of lesson planning!

Teaching character traits in 3rd Grade? How Character Actions Contribute to the Sequence of Events Activities has some great tips to help with that!

If you are a new teacher OR just want some fresh ideas for close reading – check out these posts!

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