Character Traits are the heart of a story line, especially since a character’s behavior and intentions are the driving force behind almost all events. This unit helps students realize that the words we use to describe characters are called Character Traits and it will introduce them to some great Tier 2 words.
I like to spend a sufficient amount of time on each strategy to allow for an introduction, modeling, scaffolding, independent practice, assessment, and reflection. Therefore, I spend approximately 1 week on each strategy and follow a similar instructional routine. This is day 1 of Character Traits Week – Introducing the Strategy.
Connection: I always start by connecting today’s lesson to something kids have previously learned so that it triggers their schema and background knowledge. Since this is the first they are learning about Character Traits this year, I start by asking students what words they would use to describe themselves. I ask kids to (quietly) call out their describing words and write them in list form. hope to get answers like funny, smart, athletic, happy, wild, etc. Then I ask them to look at our list and see if they can name characters from popular books that could be described with the same words.
Teaching Point: This is when I tell kids explicitly what we will be working on. I say, “This week, we will be focusing on Character Traits, which are words that we use to describe characters. Show them the Character Traits anchor chart, which includes the definition and lots of different examples. Many of the character traits on the anchor chart are Tier 2 “fancy schmancy” words so I take a few moments to remind them that Tier 2 words replace boring Tier 1 words (i.e. intimidating replaces mean). I tell them that our minds should be identifying Character Traits while we are reading because it will help us understand the story better.
Active Engagement: This is where students get to try out the strategy that I just taught them. I give them a few minutes of thinking time to think about a character that they identify with most because they share similar Character Traits. Then I ask them to turn and talk to their partners to share.
Link to Ongoing Work: During this portion of the mini-lesson, I give the students a task that they will focus on during Independent Reading time. Now that I’ve introduced Character Traits, I tell them that when they are reading today, their job is just to notice Character Traits while reading one of the books in their browsing boxes. I explain that Character Traits are usually developed throughout a story but can change by the end, especially if the character learns a lesson or two. At the end of Reader’s Workshop, they will meet with their assigned reading partner to discuss what they noticed. I remind them that I will randomly choose a few students to share so that they make sure to complete their task.
Transition Time: Every day after the mini-lesson, students get five minutes of Prep Time to choose new books (if needed), find a comfy spot, use the bathroom, and anything else they might need to do to prepare for forty minutes of uninterrupted Independent Reading.
Guided Practice: Today, I would be conferencing with students right at their comfy spots and asking them to share examples of Character Traits from the book they are reading. This is also when I could pull students for assessments, one-on-one reading, strategy groups, or guided reading groups. Because this portion of Reader’s Workshop is meant to be flexible and student based, it is not beneficial to plan too far ahead of time. Instead, you should gauge which students may need extra support through the mini-lesson, prior assessments, reading levels, overall ability and need for scaffolding. For Character Trait support, I will read with specific students, either with their own books or a teacher selected book, and facilitate a discussion about the characters’ actions and what words we would use to describe them.
At the end of 40 minutes, I remind students that their job during reading time was to notice Character Traits in their books. I ask them to repeat the term, Character Traits. Then I tell them to meet with their reading partner to share examples. Did they identify Character Traits for several different characters? Did they use some of the Tier 2 words from the Character Traits anchor chart? After partners have had a chance to share with each other, I ask a few students to share with the class. I then tell the class that we will focus on Character Traits for the rest of the week. Reader’s Workshop has come to an end so students put their browsing boxes away and make sure the library is neat and organized.