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January 16, 2021
Teaching characterization to middle & high school students.
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26 Character-Building Activities for Middle School
June 23, 2022 // by Jill Webb
Alongside literacy, mathematics, and civics, learning how to be a good person is one of the most foundational things we can be teaching our middle school students. Character education is more than just encouraging someone to return a lost wallet; it encompasses all aspects of learning to live as a community.
These 26 activities will give parents and teachers a variety of resources for building character education in daily life.
1. Gratitude Journal
Students can show gratitude with these creative writing prompts. The site contains a colorful bundle for grades in middle school that focuses on show gratitude - gratitude for nature...for others..and much more!
Learn More: Very Special Tales
2. Word Ring
This adorable word ring focuses on vocabulary character traits. Add different words each week that reflect positive values - like grit, flexibility, and responsibility - and have students find quotes to write on the back that reflect the trait. If you teach ELA, you can also use these words when doing character analysis activities!
Learn More: Meaningful Mama
3. Oak vs. Palm
This activity compares two different trees to teach a lesson. The oak is large and sturdy, but falls hard, while the palm tree bends with the wind. It teaches a lesson on flexible thinking and that being flexible is good quality!
Learn More: Get Self Help
4. Types of Respect
Use this puzzle to have students match action scenarios with respectful actions. It will help students to determine what is respectful vs. disrespectful behavior.
Learn More: The Responsive Counselor
5. Growth Mindset
Teach the concept of perseverance and growth mindset with a video and fun activity! Watch the video, then play a game using mini marshmallows and cups. A series of questions follow for class discussions.
Learn More: Counselor Keri
6. The Forgiveness Project
Why do people forgive? Students will look at real people and their situations to see why people forgive. The lesson includes a reading, video, and student booklet with a graphic organizer.
Learn More: The Forgiveness Project
7. Guided Meditation
Teach self-control to your middle schoolers with guided mediation. Each video has a different mediation with varying lengths of time and walks students through the process.
Learn More: Pullman Schools
This blog post gives an activity idea where students read "New Shoes" by Susan Lynn Meyer and learn about the concept of fairness. It then has an activity about "being in someone else's shoes" and reflects on unfair situations that we will all encounter.
Learn More: Sunny Day Family
9. Drawing and Patience
Drawing can be a difficult skill for many students. Challenge students with these "how to draw..." videos. They are a great circle time or morning meeting activity as they need only a pencil and paper and they don't take up a great deal of time.
Learn More: Art for Kids Hub
10. Finding Joy
Using tokens with numbers, students will pick a token and whichever correlates to the mat, they will answer a question. All of the questions are meant to spark joy - like talking about your best memories and favorites.
Learn More: Joy In 6th
In Middle School, students do a lot of friendship building, so it is important they understand what real friendship looks like and how to be a good friend. This activity will help with building healthy relationships .
Learn More: Pinterest
12. Teaching Cooperation
The squiggly line drawing is an excellent resource to teach cooperation. Students will need to learn to work respectfully with their peers and this super easy activity will challenge them to do so.
Learn More: Teacher Vision
13. Honesty Game
Honesty is an important character trait for students to learn. This game uses dice and a playing board to have students share their experiences with honesty.
Learn More: Counselor Chelsey
14. Social Language
Strengthen emotional intelligence and interpersonal relationships by teaching your class about social language. It looks at body language, communication, and more...as it teaches students how to be more socially aware.
15. Role Play
These discussion cards get students talking through role play! It teaches about a variety of character traits and is low prep! Just have students pick a card, act it out, and let the discussion begin!
16. Acts of Kindness
A fun activity to do at recess or PE is making chalk messages of kindness. Teach students that a simple message can often brighten someone else's day! You can also push students to do this outside of your class like leaving messages for others on post-its or in their community.
Learn More: Coffee Cups And Crayons
17. Online Character Development
These real-world scenarios look at difficult concepts like intervening in situations and what role effective communication plays in relationships. The lessons are fun and grade-level appropriate.
Learn More: Everfi
18. Personal Development Day
Have a development day, whether in the school or your classroom in stations! The site provides a list of workshops that build character such as yoga, kindness rocks, helping hands, and more! Have students rotate or pick the area that they need to work on!
Learn More: BHBL
TED Talks are great for middle school ! This video with Angela Duckworth is short enough to keep students' attention and is engaging as it focuses on grit and determination. An inspirational video!
Learn More: TED
20. Integrity vs. Reputation
This activity teaches about the meaning of integrity through quotes. It has students review different quotes and then analyze them through writing.
Learn More: Tarheel State Teacher
21. Circle of Control
Self-control is great for all students; especially middle school-age students who often lack it! In this simple activity, they are cards with different scenarios on them. Students identify if they are in their control or out of their control.
22. Character Building Journal
Use these journal prompts as a weekly activity. It includes a variety of topics for middle school students, including the concept of citizenship, respect, fairness, and more!
Learn More: Journal Buddies
23. Growth Mindset with Khan
Khan Academy has a section dedicated to Growth Mindset. The students go through the online tool which has a reading, videos, and tips for them to be successful!
Learn More: Khan Academy
24. Teach Digital Citizenship
Digital citizenship is an aspect of character building, which is super relevant now with social media posts, podcasts, videos, etc that students post. It teaches students perspective and how to be an upstander or an ally.
Learn More: Common Sense Education
25. Change Your Words
Another growth mindset activity that can be used in any classroom is "Change Your Words...Change Your Mindset". It has several negative sayings and students must rephrase them into positive ones using sticky notes.
Learn More: Making Learning Super
26. PE Character Education
A character-building game that focuses on sportsmanship, respect, and teamwork, Character Cool is great for middle school PE. Students will have to work together to do different activities and learn character building as they do!
Learn More: School Specialty
Action Is Character: Exploring Character Traits with Adjectives
- Resources & Preparation
- Instructional Plan
- Related Resources
By "becoming" a character in a novel they have read and making lists from that character's perspective, students analyze the character while also enriching their vocabulary. Students gain a deeper understanding of a character by creating charts linking the character's actions with the character's traits. They explore adjectives through a variety of resources. They then use their analysis of the character and their knowledge of adjectives to create descriptive lists of their own three other characters from the novel. The worksheet instructions in the lesson use Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone as an example, but this activity is effective with any work of literature in which characterization is important.
Identifying Character Traits : Use this student reproducible as an overview of character traits and an introduction to charting the relationship between characters' actions and their traits.
Become a Character Assignment : This student reproducible gives complete instructions for an activity in which students describe a character they have chosen to "become," as well as three other characters.
From Theory to Practice
Character analysis represents one of the most common assignments given in literature classes. A successful character analysis demands that students infer abstract traits and values from literal details contained in a text. This lesson plan not only asks students to infer those traits but also to show that knowledge by applying the traits as they create their own list from the character's perspective. By adopting the traits of a main character, students must "show" their understanding of that character's main characteristics, rather than simply "telling" with a list of traits.
Additionally, the lesson plan provides an opportunity for students to explore the supporting reasons for the traits they have chosen, especially in the context of commonalities among the lists compiled by the class. Even when students can confidently formulate appropriate traits, they often find it hard to connect specific details to their inferences. This process of creating lists and then discussing them as a class gives students practice in connecting detail to inference.
Common Core Standards
This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.
This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.
NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts
- 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
- 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
- 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
- 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
Materials and Technology
- Chart paper and markers
- Internet access
- Copies of the novel being discussed
- Print copies of dictionaries and thesauruses to supplement online reference tools
- Identifying Character Traits instructions
- Identifying Character Traits Worksheet
- Become a Character (copies or an overhead)
- Sample Character Traits (optional)
- Students have read a substantial portion of the novel and have discussed the relative strengths, weaknesses, and attributes of various characters.
- Make copies of the assignment , character traits , and adjective handouts, if desired. Alternately, find similar information in your class grammar and literature books.
- Test the Character Traits Chart student interactive on your computers to familiarize yourself with the tool and ensure that you have the Flash plug-in installed. You can download the plug-in from the technical support page .
- review the characteristics of adjectives.
- define the literary term "character trait" and explore how to provide details that support their inferences.
- conduct research using Internet reference resources to find accurate and descriptive word choice.
- explore perspective by writing descriptive word lists from the point of view of a character in a novel they've read recently.
- Introduce F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation, "Action is character," taken from one of Fitzgerald's journals. Ask students to discuss what Fitzgerald means and how the underlying idea connects to literary characters in their recent reading.
- Use the Identifying Character Traits worksheet and instructions to explore the connections between a character and the actions that character takes (or doesn't).
- Review the adjective part of speech, using the Capital Community College "Guide to Grammar and Writing" Website or your grammar textbook as as reference.
- Share the list of character traits as a sample list of adjectives for students to refer to as they work.
- Type your name in the first slot in the interactive.
- For the title, choose the character name. Students may also indicate the book which includes the character.
- Click Next to move to the chart screen and enter your information.
- In the first column, write the character's actions from the book. You can include page numbers also. In the second column, write the character traits related to the action.
- Demonstrate that writing is not limited to the size of the box shown on screen. Answers will scroll.
- When you've finished writing your responses, click Finish at the top of the screen.
- In the next window, click Print . Your answers will be displayed in a Web browser window.
- To print answers, choose the Print command from the File menu. To save your answers, choose the Save As... command from the File menu. Students can open the file later in a Web editor or a word processor that imports HTML (such as Microsoft Word or AppleWorks).
- Show students that the instructions for using the tool are available by clicking Instructions at the top of the screen.
- Individually or in small groups, have students work through the character traits for one character from the reading, using the Character Traits Chart . Ideally, the character that they focus on will be the same character whose point of view they will adopt in Session Two. If computers are not available, students can use the Identifying Character Traits Worksheet.
- Circulate among students, providing feedback and help as necessary.
- Remind students to print and save their work.
- Expanding on the lists from Session One, demonstrate how to use online resources such as an Internet dictionary and thesaurus (or show students a how-to guide Using the Thesaurus for Microsoft Office) to arrive at additional descriptive adjectives for the characters.
- Once you're satisfied that students understand the basic concepts, divide the class into pairs, and give each pair a piece of butcher paper or newsprint and a wide marker.
- Use the Become a Character assignment as an overhead or handout to explain the activity to the class. Ideally, students should adopt the point of view of the character they analyzed in Session One.
- Give the students adequate work time (30-40 minutes) to compile their lists.
- Give students 10-15 minutes to finish their lists and their charts.
- As students finish, post their work on the wall or board until all the lists are up.
- Number the papers and assign each list a letter, so that everyone can refer to a particular list easily.
- Each student pair then examines the posted lists and, on a sheet of paper, attempts to identify who is being described.
- Depending upon the time available, look at each list or a selected number of lists, discussing identities.
- The authors of the lists under discussion finally give the "right answers." Again, depending upon time, the class can discuss the adjectives in each list and can cite specific events and details from the text which either support or call into question the accuracy of those adjectives.
- (Optional) Have students look for patterns such as the number of pairs who chose a particular character, or adjectives that were repeated by several groups, as well as adjectives that did the best job of description.
Work Characters Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Harry, Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore The Hobbit Bilbo, Gandalf, Smaug, Thorin To Kill a Mockingbird Jem, Scout, Atticus, Boo Ender's Game Ender, Peter, Valentine, Bean The House on Mango Street Esperanza, Mama, Papa, Alicia Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Bridget, Lena, Tibby, Carmen Stotan Walker, Lionel, Nortie, Jeff The Chocolate War Archie, Obie, Jerry, Emil, Leon
This lesson plan could also be used as a semester review. Each group could focus on characters from different readings. In addition to identifying the characters, students would identify the work that the characters are in.
- Expand on students' focus on a particular character from the novel by having them write a character diary entry from their adopted character's point of view. Use a diary prompt from Traci's Lists of Ten, or let students make up their own topics.
- Have students use the Profile Publisher either as an aid in generating their list of adjectives before the Become a Character Assignment or as a synthesis of their learning at the completion of the lesson.
Student Assessment / Reflections
Informal assessment works best for this activity. As students work on their list, circulate among pairs, observing students' use of reference books and their lists of adjectives. Provide support and feedback as you move from group to group. The ultimate assessment for this activity will be students' reaction to the lists written by their peers and their ability to provide support for the traits on the list. As students go over the lists as a group, reinforce good choice of traits, noting both students' word choice and the connection between trait and character.
Students brainstorm reasons why certain books might have been banned and discuss common reasons why books are challenged.
Children show support for their favorite Children's Choice Book award finalist by designing a promotional book cover.
- Print this resource
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- Characterization Worksheets
Well-developed characters are like people: they have traits, opinions, and motivations. Characterizations are the methods by which story tellers reveal the traits of characters. There are two types of characterizations: direct and indirect. Direct characterization is when a narrator or character describes another character directly. Indirect characterization is when character traits are revealed through a character's behavior.
Most of my characterization worksheets deal with indirect or implicit characterizations. Recognizing these characterizations is a higher order thinking skill, whereby the student must make an inference based on textual details. These free characterization worksheets will help students better understand characterizations and ultimately become better readers.
Characterization Common Core State Standards
The work sheets are really helpful! Thank you.
Grateful English teacher from Germany
Thank you so much for sharing your material! It helps me a lot with my English students. It’s greatly appreciated!
On behalf of the countless teachers I know use these resources as staple pieces in their lessons each year, thank you for your generosity, support and time. We appreciate that these are not only skill-focused, engaging and editable but that they are rigorous among today’s state standards as well. Thank you.
Thanks so much for doing all of these. I love that they are rigorous. I use your stuff all the time. I really love the ppts too. Thanks again for providing resources. Our school doesn’t want us using the reading curriculum, so this has helped a lot!
I love the online option as we get ready to go virtual. However, I am unable to figure out where to see their completed work. Could you please assist me?
Thanks so much!
At the end of each quiz, students have the option to “Print, Save, or Email” their results. They could even post their scores to Facebook. I don’t think many people do that though.
What I would do, if I were you, is require each student to SAVE A COPY OF THEIR RESPONSES AND SCORES to their machine or file system. Then, I would have them email the results to your email address.
The reason why I would require them to save their scores is that sometimes there are delivery issues. Students enter the wrong address, firewalls stop the emails, etc. This is a tough situation for both teacher and student. The answer is to require students to maintain records of their work. Then, if there is a delivery issue, they just need to send the results again.
I hope that helps.
It is great.You are a real teacher for teachers world wide.Thank you very much.
Peter the Great.
Thank you very much for your time and effort in doing these works. They are great to make students produce the language. Sometimes I have run out of ideas on how to persuade my students but with this exercises I can push them again. God bless you.
I’m so happy to hear it. Thank you for taking the time to comment!
This is a fabulous and very useful resource! Thank you!
A wonderful resource – perfect for honing English skills.
Many thanks !
What a wonderful site with numerous resources!
Thank you. The short vignettes are just what I needed for character studies.
I love your work! Thank you for sharing. I have a question on characterization. Other sites I look at describe how indirect characterization can come from what effect the character has on others, what the character thinks, what the character says, and what the character looks like. Why do you only concentrate on how the character acts?
I think that my students need more help with this skill, which requires one to make inferences.
I love this website. Thanks for all the great material; this stuff is perfect for all the extra practice parents ask for before a test.
Is there anywhere I can donate?
No donations necessary. The advertisements pay for the content. Best wishes!
Hi Mr Morton, I’ld like to thank you for sharing your wonderful resources.
Your Resources are invaluable and incomparable to what is available at retail stores, everything has been planned for explicit teaching of the much needed skills and strategies for reading effectively.
Please send details on where to make donations.
Thank you once again,
That’s really nice of you to say. The site is supported by advertising. The company, Ereading Worksheets Inc., is a for profit entity. Any donations are not tax refundable, but if you really want to buy me a cup of coffee or something (beer), you can PayPal me at [email protected]
Best wishes, and thanks again for using the site.
I was so lucky to come across this. You saved me the time energy of coming up with something myself, and it wouldn’t have been as good. THANKS!
Your worksheets are really great help for moms.
Thank you very much for sharing and your effort, Mr. Morton. 🙂
You are most welcome. Thank you for visiting.
A big thank you for all your reading worksheets. They are a great resource!
Love this. Thanks
helped with a lot of work thanks
This will help me a lot
Thank you! I have found some very helpful activities and worksheets to teach a variety of topics when it comes to reading. I really appreciate you sharing these documents!
You are most welcome.
Thank you SO much for these. I have been using them in my beginning 7/8 grade Theatre class. Trying to develop deep thoughts and ideas about characterization has not only helped them in their acting and understanding of what it takes to become a ‘role,’ but these worksheets have also helped them in their other classes with writing, creativity, and imagination. Thanks again!
You are so welcome. Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment.
These pages are fantastic; they are well written, modern, and the questions are thorough. I also appreciate the different grade levels you cover. Thank you so much!
You are most welcome. Thank you for taking the time to comment.
can I became the answers?
Hmm… I’m not sure if that’s possible.
Really i appreciate your effort.There are so many brilliant exercises that help me as a teacher and very effective with the students.Thanks a million
Thank you for this wonderful website. It is very helpful. My 6th grade ESL students from Puerto Rico like to do the worksheets.
I’m so happy to hear it.
This is just an excellent resource!!! I am a private tutor and this is very helpful! Thank you.
this was very helpful in my class as we were going over elements of a story
Greetings from Singapore! This series of worksheets is so helpful! Thank you!
Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!! What a great support for CC characterization!! You ROCK, Mr. Morton!
This is the best resource out there for language arts teachers! I love love LOVE that you give us multiple level worksheets to help differentiate. Additionally, love that there are keys so we don’t have to ‘do’ every worksheet ourselves to make a key. You have given me back tons of time in my life and for that, I am eternally grateful!
These worksheets are beyond awesome! Even my students like doing them. I have shared them with other English teachers at our school and they love them as well. I keep coming back to them to help my students understand concepts we are covering in class. I even find them helpful to review things I haven’t taught in a while. And to top it off, they are free! Thank you for your hard work!!!
Thank you for the kind words. I am dedicated to improving this website.
This is EXACTLY what I’ve been looking for! it’s amazing! thanks:)
I have been looking for a website like this for our son for a very long time.Thank you,your excellent
This site is phenomenal. I teach 6th grade and it gives a variety of activities, worksheets, powerpoints, pre and post assessments for differentiation in my room. I love it!!
Thank you so much for saying so.
A great site that I use for my middle school LAL students.
Very helpful. Thanks!
WOW! I can’t thank you enough!! These are GREAT!
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Characterization Lessons for Middle School Students
Students learn characterization by writing about a special person in their life..
By Alicia Johnson
My students seem to be most excited when they are able to share with the class something funny or exciting that a friend or family member did. I like to bring this excitement into my introductory lesson on direct and indirect characterization. About two weeks before winter break begins, I begin a lesson on characterization. I begin close to the holidays because the final assignment makes a wonderful gift for the students to give a family member or friend.
Before discussing fictional characters, I have students choose a friend or a family member to write about. I ask them to write down one character trait that describes that person. Then I have them break into pairs to for a discussion with a partner. I ask them to share at least three reasons that they chose that trait. We do this two more times until they have filled a graphic organizer with three character traits and three examples for each.
It could take several class periods to get some traits and examples down on paper. The students now have an outline for their final paper. Throughout the lesson we practice using correct sentence structure, descriptive language, characterization, and editing techniques. We end the lesson in the computer lab when I bring in decorative and colored paper for them to print their final versions. I keep a copy to grade, and give them one to keep or give as a gift. I find that students love to write about people they know and this really lights the way to a better understanding of how authors use characterization to help us get to know their characters. It also produces a wonderful gift for a family member or friend!
Here are three fun lessons that will help introduce your students to characterization.
Characterization Lesson Plans:
Understanding Character: In this lesson students will learn various literary terms as well as how to give a thorough analysis of a character within a piece of literature. This lesson is wonderfully “hands-on” as the students create a character t-shirt.
Adding Details: Characterization by Show, Don’t Tell! This fun lesson incorporates partner time and active engagement with the class. Students are encouraged to “show” an emotion instead of “telling” to help them better understand indirect characterization.
May the Force Be With (in) You: In this New York Times lesson, students explore the characterization of heroes and their representation of the values and beliefs of the society in which they are created. Students first examine the creation of the "Star Wars" heroes and plots, and then develop their own 'heroes for the 21st century, writing stories about their hero’s adventures.
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10 of the Best Literary Analysis Activities to Elevate Thinking
Inside this Post: Ready to elevate your literary analysis lessons? This post is full of engaging and effective activities to help students master literary analysis topics.
Literary analysis has become the beating heart of English classes around the world. When students read a text, we want them to peel back the layers one by one, appreciating the deeper meaning that lies within each sentence. As English teachers, many of us connect with texts easily and persevere through complex literature naturally. For our students, this process is not always as enjoyable.
In this post, you’ll find suggestions for elevating thinking with middle and high school students. These ideas can be used with paired or individual texts and can be differentiated to reach a variety of learners.
Engaging and Effective Literary Analysis Activities
Literary analysis elements are best when they are engaging and elevate thinking without frustrating students. I’ve played around with different approaches, and these are the key elements that resonate most with students.
1. Thinking Aloud
One of the best feelings as a teacher is knowing you have an entire class full of teenagers engaged. It’s amazing how every single student in a classroom is in tune with think alouds. Something about making thinking transparent challenges students of all readiness levels. With literary analysis lessons, I love providing think alouds with the whole class. Whether we do this via face to face instruction or by creating a short video for virtual classrooms, we have to model our thinking.
Here’s an example with “All the world’s a stage” from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It …
This speech, at first, seems complicated. But, Shakespeare is talking about the world being a stage, and I think there is something deeper to what he is saying. Let’s go back again and look for clues. The men and women are players on the stage. He writes that they have their exits and entrances. I’m trying to visualize that in my head now. The world is a stage, the people are actors, and when they walk on and off the stage, that is their theatrical entrance and exit. Now that I understand he is using this speech as an extended metaphor, I wonder why would Shakespeare is choosing to compare these two things?
When modeling literary analysis, we can break down our thought process. If we write a written response, we can scaffold by color coding our thoughts in order to highlight the necessary critical thinking steps.
- First, acknowledge what is confusing or uncertain about the text. What might we be missing as readers?
- Second, make observations.
- Third, apply reading strategies (in this case, I used visualizing).
- Last, teach students to ask questions that probe at the deeper meaning and reason for the writing.
2. Graphic Organizers
Graphic organizers are one of my go-to strategies for elevating thinking . We can use them to differentiate and to guide students as we work in small groups. I like to keep a variety of literary analysis graphic organizers for any text on hand so that I can be responsive. If students show a need to work on analyzing a specific literary element – characterization, plot, theme, conflict, etcetera – I use a graphic organizer as we read a text or excerpt together, modeling my thinking. Then, students can practice using the same organizer in small groups, partners, or independently.
Literary analysis consists of asking a bunch of questions to lead students to deeper thinking, and graphic organizers are a bridge that walks students down that path of purposeful questioning.
Grab this print and digital literary analysis graphic organizer for analyzing song lyrics – one of secondary students’ favorite texts to pick apart!
Nothing grabs a student’s attention like an image! Visuals are amazing tools for introducing literary analysis skills. I always begin my literary analysis unit with pictures. Using an image, we can quickly show students how to differentiate between summarizing and analyzing . Then, we can walk them through the steps of acknowledging what we might be missing, making observations, applying reading strategies, and questioning for deeper meaning.
Consider using images from a variety of sources. We can try historical images, political cartoons, famous paintings, graphic novels, wordless picture books, advertisements, or even just regular photographs.
I even work this type of analytical thinking into my vocabulary activities ! Students get used to interpreting photos and using textual evidence to support their thinking.
4. One Pagers
One pagers are one of my favorite literary analysis activities. In order to make them meaningful, I incorporate scaffolding . So, students have access to standards-aligned goals and questions that prompt their responses to the text. Choice helps as well. We can allow students to choose digital or traditional , response angles, and even texts.
In terms of literary analysis benefits, we can really focus on asking students to cite textual evidence to track a universal theme. While doing so, students can draw conclusions about how literary elements work together or how they provide tension to impact a reader’s overall takeaway.
5. Colorful Charts
Mood and tone can be tricky for students to analyze. So that they can understand the difference between them but also so that they see how mood and tone work in tandem, I began using an equalizer metaphor . Students can use color and amplification to analyze how mood and tone change throughout a literary work. By creating a visual representation, there’s a direct connection between the mood and the storyline.
How does setting impact mood , and how does mood impact the conflict in the story?
For instance, the quiet beauty of the Capulet garden sets the stage for a romantic balcony scene, but the noisy bustle of the lewd fighting in the Verona streets helps to define the conflict and tension between the two feuding families.
With tone , how does the author’s word choice and sentence structure in each section convey his or her attitude in the work?
As we study the amplification of tone in the play Romeo and Juliet , we see a consistent change from light-hearted comedy to an intensely poetic and tragic seriousness. Over the course of the play, one might say that Shakespeare’s juxtaposition creates an overall sympathetic tone toward the star-crossed lovers.
6. Get Moving
One of the issues when it comes to citing evidence in a literary analysis essay is finding relevant support. Sometimes, it seems like the lines students select from literature are completely disconnected from what they are writing. That may be because they don’t truly understand how their thesis connects to their main points or how their main points connect to the evidence. For some students, there are too many degrees of separation!
A kinesthetic option to address this issue involves Post-Its (or colored text boxes if you are doing this digitally) and a t-chart. At the top of the paper (use big paper or a white board if you can do this together in the classroom!), write the analytical point. What conclusion can students draw about characters, setting, or another literary element that would support their thesis statement?
Under that, label the T-Chart as “Relevant” and “Off Topic.” Then, you have some options.
BASIC: You identify support for students in advance and have them sort the support based on its relevance. Could they use it to analyze the text, or is it off topic?
ADVANCE: Ask students to find examples of relevant and off-topic lines from the text.
A MIXTURE: Provide students with a handful of lines they can sort into relevant and off-topic categories, and then ask them to find a couple more examples on their own.
To increase the engagement factor, use some washi tape on the floor in the shape of whatever makes the most sense – a character outline for analyzing character, a house for analyzing setting, a circle for analyzing a universal theme. Then, have students stick their Post-It notes inside or outside of the shape. Inside indicates that the evidence is relevant, and outside means it’s off-topic.
7. Children’s Books
We don’t always think to use picture books with older students , but they are one of my absolute favorite ways to scaffold literary analysis! Because picture books are short, we can cover an entire (and often complex) story in a short period of time. And, we can continually refer back to that text throughout the school year. Because picture books are accessible for all students, they will remember sharing the story together, and you can really make significant strides with whole-class discussions and small group lessons.
Try using picture books to teach Notice and Note signposts, language, aesthetics, and theme . One of my favorite ways to use picture books is teaching students to analyze how dialogue impacts decisions, propels action, and develops characters. For example, in the book Elbow Grease , the protagonist is motivated to participate in a race for which he is the underdog simply because some crass comments from his friends make him angry. This really is the turning point in the story, which makes it convenient to analyze how dialogue can lead to decisions and actions that change the course of a storyline.
8. Short Films
For a thousand and one reasons, I adore short films. They’re short (obvious, I know), which makes them ideal for modeling and mini lessons. Plus, they are visually captivating and apply to a wide age range. And, generally, they hold quite a bit of depth and leave room for a variety of interpretations.
During first quarter with ninth graders, I built in a yearly routine of watching short films during our literary analysis unit and having students complete their first full analytical essay. It’s fun. I can model using a short film I enjoy. Then, I get to read a wide range of responses from students who choose different texts. To scaffold for struggling writers, I suggest a few short films I am very familiar with; this way, I can guide them if they get stuck or confused.
You can also build in short films by using them with poetry for paired text analysis .
9. Reading Strategies
One of the building blocks of literary analysis is having a good foundation in apply reading strategies. It’s fun to model what readers do. We can show students how analyzing texts and re-reading for deeper meaning helps us with writing and then ask students to practice those skills.
For instance, when students begin to understand that authors have a purposeful craft that impacts their reading experience, it empowers them to pick that craft apart, studying the nuances of what makes it work. And, it gives them an advantage as authors themselves. They may think, I remember how the author’s purposeful use of short, staccato sentences and onomatopoeias increased the suspense during that scene. Maybe I should use those techniques in this part of my story to add an emotional element for my readers.
These are some of the graphic organizers I’ve used to scaffold reading strategy work with the whole class, and then students can transfer those skills to small group or independent practice, using the same organizer if necessary.
10. Social Media Activities
Social media is everywhere. We might as well use it as a relevant option for analyzing literature! One of my favorites is booksnaps , and I tie in Snapchat by having them take a photo of part of the text they want to analyze. Then, they add interpretations, images, and text as well as a caption with a more detailed analysis. I call these Snap-a-Books. I also created a Spot-a-Book analysis option, reminiscent of Spotify playlists. Students can create playlists relevant to character analysis, setting analysis, conflict analysis, and more!
And, that’s ten! I hope you’ve found some meaningful literary analysis activities to spark creative, critical thinking in your classroom.
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An avid reader and writer, I've had the privilege of teaching English for over a decade and am now an instructional coach. I have degrees in English, Curriculum & Instruction, and Reading as well as a reading specialist certification. In my free time, I enjoy loving on my kids, deconstructing sentences, analyzing literature, making learning fun, working out, and drinking a good cup of coffee.
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12 Helpful Character Traits Anchor Charts for Elementary and Middle School ELA Classes
Dig deep and really get to know the characters.
Learning to identify and understand character traits, inside and out, can help readers improve their overall comprehension. When kids are young, character traits are often spelled out clearly in the text. As they progress to more advanced reading though, they’ll need to learn to make inferences from dialogue and actions. Post these character traits anchor charts to help your students know what to look for as they read.
1. Inside and Outside
This inside/outside poster is one of the most popular character traits anchor charts out there. If you’re not up for the artwork, grab a free printable here instead .
Source: Heidi Roberts/Pinterest
2. Actions and Dialogue
Remind students that they’ll have to look deep into the text to learn about the characters, including analyzing what they say and do.
Learn more: Actions and Dialogue/ELA Anchor Charts
3. Emotions vs. Traits
It’s important for kids to be able to separate emotions, which are temporary , from traits, which are ongoing . This chart provides two great questions students can ask themselves as they read.
Learn more: Teacher Trap
4. Says, Does, Thinks, Feels
If students keep in mind four things while they read—what characters think, do, say, and feel—they’ll find it easier to tease out the traits of each one. This is a nice anchor chart for elementary students.
Learn more: Teaching With Simplicity
5. Feelings, Dialogue, Actions, Thoughts
Middle and high school students can benefit from character traits anchor charts too. We like the clean look and detailed examples on this one.
Learn more: Upper Elementary Snapshots
The FAST acronym is one more way to remember how to analyze a character’s traits. Help your students make their own character traits anchor charts using this format for a book you’re currently reading as a class.
Learn more: Smiles and Sunshine
7. Character Traits and Antonyms
If kids are having trouble finding the words they want for identifying more subtle traits, try this antonym chart. It’s a good way to note that most characters are a mix of positive and negative traits too.
Learn more: Crafting Connections
8. Characters Can Change
As if character traits aren’t complicated enough, many characters change and grow over time. Encourage students to be on the lookout for these developments as they read.
Learn more: Characters Can Change/ELA Anchor Charts
9. Characters Have Feelings Too
Although feelings and emotions are different than traits themselves, they can help us learn more about character details. For instance, if a character often feels happy when they share with others, one of their traits might be “generous.”
Learn more: Miss DeCarbo
10. I Know This Because …
It’s vital that kids be able to give examples that demonstrate the traits they’ve identified. If they say a character is a strong leader, they should be able to point to places in the text where the character’s actions back that up. This chart requires kids to give both traits and examples by filling in the blank, “I know that because …”
Learn more: Around the Kampfire
11. Grow Ideas About a Character
For kids having trouble digging deeper into more complicated texts to identify traits, try this chart. It provides useful questions and prompts to help students think their way through the reading.
Learn more: Crafting Connections/Pinterest
12. Readers Workshop
We love the idea of having kids create their own character traits anchor charts during a readers workshop. Learn how one teacher does it at the link.
Learn more: Mrs. Patton’s Class
Looking for more ideas? Check out 40 Must-Have Anchor Charts for Teaching Writing .
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How to Write a Character Analysis for Middle School
Soheila battaglia, 26 sep 2017.
To analyze means to think critically, to ask questions and to draw conclusions. A character analysis should not be a retelling of a story but rather a thoughtful evaluation of a character's personality, conflicts, relationships and development. A middle school character analysis should reflect and provide examples from the story, in the form of quotations, to support the analysis.
Explore this article
- Personality and Type
- Relationships and Conflicts
1 Personality and Type
The first aspect you can analyze when writing a middle school character analysis is the character's type. For examples, explain whether the character is a hero, a sidekick or a villain. Another factor you should evaluate is the character's personality. Write about the character's strengths, weaknesses, likes and dislikes. Ask yourself what adjectives you would use to describe her actions and words: brave, violent, hard working, dishonest? Examples of words that describe character traits include gentle, adventurous, meek, jealous and wise.
2 Relationships and Conflicts
Human relationships reveal a lot about a person. Examine the character's relationships with herself and with others. Is she a leader, faithful, jealous or generous with others? You can also write about conflicts and struggles that the character faces, both internally and externally. For example, does she never speak her mind and get bullied? Or does she struggle to keep a secret? Often internal struggles are centered on the character's thoughts and morals when faced with a problem.
Often a character, especially a protagonist, changes throughout the story. Write about the character's growth or decline over time by discussing what he was like in the beginning, middle and end of the story. When writing about character development, make certain to address what external circumstances led the character to change. For example, in Gary Paulsen's novel "Hatchet" the protagonist Brian Robeson grows more mature, independent and brave after the plane crash that forces him to survive alone.
An important part of a character analysis is the evidence you give to support your analysis. The specific examples you incorporate are direct quotations taken from the story. Remember to write the quotations down exactly as they are written in the book and to properly use quotation marks. Be sure to explain every quotation that you include. Tell the reader the context and setting of the quotation and how it is an example of the point you are making.
- 1 Bright Hub Education: Steps for Creating a Character Study Essay
- 2 "Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen
- 3 Hatchet; Gary Paulsen
About the Author
Soheila Battaglia is a published and award-winning author and filmmaker. She holds an MA in literary cultures from New York University and a BA in ethnic studies from UC Berkeley. She is a college professor of literature and composition.
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5 Ways to Teach Characterization and Character Analysis
- What's your character's name? How old are they? Where were they born? Where do they live?
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- What is their occupation? Are they married? Do they have children?
- What is their favorite food? Hobby? Sports? Skills?
- What is their greatest fear? Their greatest love? Biggest regret? Future dreams?
- What would they change about their life if they could?
- Introvert or extrovert? Pessimist or optimist?
- Best quality? Worst quality? Pet peeves?
- Who do they love? What is important to them?
- What do other people think of them? How do they relate to others?
- What are five words others would use to describe them?
- Create a character t-shirt - what color would it be? what would it look like? why?
- Create a character playlist - what five songs represent this character? explain why?
- What would the character's Instagram / TikTok / Snapchat account look like?
- Become the character and be interviewed by a classmate
- Write a bio-poem in character
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Characterization and Character Analysis | Middle School Creative Writing
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Middle school writing has never been so much fun! A full week's (plus, actually) of engaging teaching materials! This middle school language arts resource is also included in a popular bundle - check it out!
Student ♥ Engagement Bundle of Language Arts Lessons for Middle and High School
Character analysis essay with rubric included. High interest characterization activities which include scoring guides for monologue, sketch, and character analysis plus a character questionnaire to help create details about character. Lots of arts infusion. Additions to the packet include visual characterization, elements of performance, actor's notes, motivation and action, favorite character, and hamartia handouts.
This set of lessons has been a favorite way to learn the process of characterization for my sixth-, eighth-, and ninth-graders (tweaked to meet the needs of different levels). It's one of those lessons that's amazingly well received - more so than I expected. Not only did they absolutely love it - but so many of them took it to the next level and found real self-expression throughout the assignment.
Give as a homework assignment and/or provide time in class. You can do as much or as little of this as it fits your needs. This project will take up to a week, if you do all aspects in class - but that's totally up to you. Either way, you'll find it a great creative outlet for your Language Arts students. Rubrics included.
Common Core RL3
You'll receive the original PDF as well as an editable, printer-friendly PPTX copy of the assignments and scoring guides. Your students will love these lessons!
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How to teach character traits so all students can master it
Being able to think deeply about character traits for the characters in a short story or novel is an important part of understanding the author's deeper message. Lower-level texts often spell these out directly, describing a character as friendly or sly, to help the reader.
However, as students begin reading more challenging texts, they'll need to think more deeply about the characters and their character traits. Being able to accurately describe characters is a prerequisite skill that students must master before they'll be able to analyze how characters are influenced by the plot and their relationships with others.
Establishing a strong understanding of character traits is essential for success with later skills like analyzing character change .
Today I wanted to share some of my favorite resources and strategies for teaching students how to use text clues to identify character traits. I'll also share some great printables you can use to facilitate these lessons in your classroom.
What you'll find on this page:
Why teach character analysis?
Character analysis, or identifying character traits, is an approachable way to get students used to the rigorous expectations for deep thinking about literature. Students must use text clues to make inferences, and they must also be able to support their answers with details from the plot.
Character discussions can be great for building vocabulary and helping students build a bank of interesting adjectives they can use as they begin writing their own stories.
You'll find you can spiral character analysis skill practice throughout the year and can progressively raise your expectations as students become more proficient.
Getting started teaching character traits
Identifying character traits is an important foundational skill. Whether this is your first year teaching reading or you're looking for some new ideas to incorporate into your classroom, my hope is you'll find some ideas and ready-to-use resources you can add to your lesson plans for this skill.
Before we dive into the lesson plan, here's some background information on how this skill fits into the larger picture of teaching reading.
What standards address character traits?
This skill is introduced in very different grade levels depending on what standards you use. This is a second-grade standard in Texas, and students are expected to apply this skill to analyze character relationships by third grade. The Common Core standards introduce character analysis in third grade and expand upon it through the remaining elementary years.
Here are the Texas standards (TEKS) and Common Core State Standards (CCSS to aid with lesson plan documentation:
- TEKS 2.8B Describe the main character's internal & external traits
- CCSS RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.
- CCSS RL.4.3 Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text.
What reading comprehension skills do my students need to have before I dive into teaching character traits?
Unlike many higher-level reading comprehension skills, Identifying character traits doesn't require a ton of prerequisite lessons. Once students can recall the main elements of fiction and tell about the main character, they're ready to begin identifying character traits. In other words, the foundations of comprehension must be solid.
If you're worried about students' reading levels or you have a very diverse group of learners, the lesson below outlines a great way to begin teaching this skill because it doesn't even require students to use text for the initial lessons.
What books are good for introducing & modeling how to identify character traits?
There are so many great books to use with lessons on character analysis. While we tend to look at picture books as mentor texts, biographies are a great option for this skill. The story just needs a strong main character and/or supporting characters that your students can make inferences about.
Here are my 10 favorite books for teaching students to identify character traits:
- Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty
- The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
- The Recess Queen by Alexis O'Neill
- Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
- The Very Impatient Caterpillar by Ross Burach
- A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon
- The Good Egg by Jory John
- Sheila Rae the Brave by Kevin Henkes
- Boundless Grace by Mary Hoffman
Before Reading: Introducing Character Traits
Character traits can be hard for younger learners to grasp. While many things are spelled out for them in early readers, character analysis requires students to make inferences based on clues in the text.
When introducing character traits, it is important to begin by helping students define the term. Examples and non-examples can be a powerful strategy for building understanding.
Students must be able to differentiate between what a character looks like – their appearance – and their internal character. You'll also need to differentiate between emotions and character traits.
One great way to do this is by modeling these differences using yourself or a student in your class. Have students take turns giving examples of physical attributes first. Then transition to discussing the traits of that person. When you finish, compare the two lists to help students internalize the differences between the two.
Here's a great example of an anchor chart for your class as you begin this foundational work.
See more great examples of anchor charts to teach character traits.
Once you've done this as a group, you can even have students break off into groups. They can complete an example using themselves or another classmate.
The great thing about doing this first is that it doesn't require text. Your struggling readers get the chance to understand the skill without using all their mental energy on decoding.
You may also consider creating a list of character traits as a class. Alternatively, you may share and discuss the free character traits list I've created as a group. This can help students build vocabulary.
If you feel your students might need additional practice before they identify these traits in text, you can work backward by assigning each student a trait and having them write about how someone with that trait might think, act, or speak to others. This can help students tune into what clues the text might provide.
Transitioning to Text – Guided Practice
Once your students have a solid grasp on what character traits are, you're likely ready to transition them toward identifying the traits of characters in a short text.
At this point, I like to pick a picture book to use as a mentor text. My favorite for upper elementary is A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon. A great alternative for younger students or those with shorter attention spans is No, David! from the same author.
As you read, have students pay attention to the main character's thoughts, words, actions, and feelings. Stop to discuss character traits they can infer along the way.
After reading, use the free flipbooks to help your students document the traits they observed. Under each flap, they should provide evidence from the text supporting their identified trait.
Depending on the text you select, this can also be a great spot to begin the discussion of positive vs. negative character traits. You can even use the cut & paste character traits included to help your students sort traits into three categories – positive, negative, and neutral.
Grab the free resources here.
Independent Practice Options
Once students seem to have a solid grasp on this skill, there are many different ways you can incorporate this into independent practice.
One great option is encouraging students to discuss character traits during their literature circles or guided reading. I've included a free graphic organizer that students can use to organize their thoughts and record text evidence for their book.
Here are a few ways you can offer some fun additional practice:
- Use free online games to practice the skill & keep students engaged
- Use task cards to have students practice identifying traits
- Have students create a Wordle for a character in a book they've read
Grab the free resources for teaching character traits
Now that you've read about how you can get students to think deeply about characters and their traits, I'm sure you're ready to tackle this in your classroom.
That's why I created a set of free resources for teaching this skill. In this free pack, you'll find:
- Character traits list for reading journals
- Graphic organizers – internal vs. external, text evidence, comparing characters
- Comparing characters graphic organizer
- Character trait writing task – differentiated options available
- Trait sort – positive, negative, and neutral traits