Character traits questions are infamously answered with “happy” and “sad.” But we need to move students beyond that. Just teach them and practice. It’s easy.
One of the most common questions during a comprehension conversation is “How does the character feel when…?” AND…one of the most common student responses is “happy.” Nothing can make a teacher feel any less “happy” than a student giving a quick “happy” as an answer.
Character traits: Teach Emotions
Teaching character traits are important.
We have used the anchor chart on the right to show what traits are seen on the outside and what is on the inside, as well.
BUT we can’t stop there.
Using this as a springboard, taking time to teach how the “inside” of the words (what he says, thinks, does, and feels) and what information we can gain from those “inside” emotions.
We want to get frustrated with the students, but this is a great time to be reflective about our lessons.
I suspect we teach the difference between the outside and inside and collecting character traits, but we don’t go any farther. It’s one of those lessons we MUST explicitly teach.
Using the words from the story, discuss the feelings from the character and what these feelings reflect in the “character” of the character in the story. Practicing this skill makes the comprehension conversation easy.
Character traits: Bear’s Birthday
One of the books I use with our intervention groups is “Bear’s Birthday,” a book in the LLI kit.
This is an easy book to make sure we are explicitly teaching about how a character feels.
We also take the time to “describe the character.”
My students were quick to describe Bear as big, furry, and tall.
My head screamed, “NOOOOO, that’s not what I need.
That’s not what I mean. Breathe. Think. Reset.
Next day, start over.”
So you know: Bear is excited about his birthday and decides to throw himself a party.
He is very forgetful and needs to borrow several things from his friends (eggs for a cake, paper for hats, and balloons).
When the party is ready, none of his friends come to his house.
He is sad and goes to find his friends.
They are also sad because he never invited them to his party…because he is forgetful.
Using this book to “describe” bear definitely provided an explicit lesson.
The next day I printed a bear and drew a line down the middle…we discussed what the character looked like on the outside (all those easy to describe facts) and what he looks like on the inside (how is he feeling, thinking, and reacting).
Character traits: Stellaluna
We also used Stellaluna to connect with character.
Who doesn’t love Stellaluna? It’s such a great story of family, friendship, discovery, being lost AND being found.
This is also a great story for character. Stellaluna goes through a range of emotion during the story.
Students can understand her emotions of being happy and flying with her mother, being afraid of the potential attack and falling to the ground, the relief of landing in the nest, and it goes on and on. What a great story for this. I have a small set of this character activity in my TPT store, so make sure you “swoop” over and get it (hehe). Just click the picture for the Stellaluna Character Analysis.
If we talk about emotions on the test and only on the test, we setting our students up for failure.
(And we’ll feel like a failure, as well.)
Using an emotions chart can help students distinguish between happy and excited or sad and mad, we need to practice talking about and identifying emotions.
Every skill we assess should include an I do, we do, you do phase…so we have to do this with emotions, as well.
If you would like the Emotions Chart, please click the words or the pictures for the link.
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