Five Novels for Teaching Character Traits

Five Novels to Teach Character Traits for Upper Elementary
Make sure you read to the end for something you can use today!

Start with Character Traits as Vocabulary

Inferring character traits is one of the skills I love to start the year with. Fourth graders usually have some prior experience, which is helpful. The bonus is that it’s a great opportunity to strengthen vocabulary by going beyond “nice” or “mean.” 

 To help build vocabulary, I love using these bookmarks. They’re a tool we pull out throughout the year.

Novels are a fabulous way to examine characters closely and see how they develop over time. Obviously, every novel has characters to analyze, but I have a few top picks that are tried and true.

Five Favorite Novels for Character Traits

  1. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (or any Roald Dahl!): The colorful characters Dahl describes are a great chance to try out some of the negative traits. Students can make connections between the traits and how this leads to their exit from the factory.
  2. Frindle: In the beginning of this short novel, both Nick Allen and Mrs. Granger seem to be easy characters to analyze. Towards the end, however, a few surprises help students to see them in different ways. This is one of those books where I have students give their initial impressions and character traits about them. Then, we reexamine both characters at the end to look at the whole picture.
  3. The Wild Robot: I’m mildly obsessed with Peter Brown’s book. Each animal introduced can be analyzed for traits, but Roz, the main character robot, is perfect for tracking her growth and seeing how Roz becomes like an animal or even a human.
  4. The World According to Humphrey: This has been a great book for lower level readers. Students make an easy connection to Mrs. Brisbane’s class in the book. They’re able to relate to the characters’ struggles, which helps them to choose appropriate character traits.
  5. Holes: This book has a variety of characters, particularly with the two different stories taking place (the present about Stanley Yelnats and the past about Kate Barlow). Louis Sachar does a great job describing the campers. It’s a perfect opportunity to put students in groups and have them compare internal and external traits. Tracking the changes for external and internal traits for Stanley is a great before and after character analysis also. 

Bonus Picture Book Suggestion: Ada Twist, Scientist and A Case of Bad Stripes are my go-to picture books for modeling and practicing character traits. 

Find these books in one collection here. (Amazon affiliate link)

Resources for these novels:

Looking for a creative way to practice character traits?

 With many of my novel study lapbooks, I include character trait cards. On one side, students either color or draw the character. On the flipped side, students choose one trait for the character and support it with text evidence. I love seeing students’ creativity and their excitement in creating these cards. 

Lapbooks are just one of the ways I assess students during novel studies. Check out this blog post for a total of SEVEN ways to assess comprehension during a novel study.

Click below to get these free character traits cards!

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