EL Support Lesson

Discovering Character Traits

This lesson will have your EL students exploring characters' dialogue and actions to determine their personality traits! Use it on its own or as a support lesson.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the It’s All in the Personality: Character Traits lesson plan.
Grade Subject View aligned standards
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the It’s All in the Personality: Character Traits lesson plan.

Students will be able to identify character traits using text evidence and write a small paragraph analysis about a character in a story.


Students will be able to identify character traits based on the character's dialogue or actions (verbs) using a graphic organizer.

(5 minutes)
  • Ask students to think of a person they care about (a family member or friend), and spend a minute reflecting on what they like about this person's personality, or how they are.
  • Model your thinking aloud. For example, "I'm thinking of my sister, Sabrina. I love her because she is caring and always willing to help me when I need to solve a problem. She is very curious and creative, too. When we were kids, we would spend the weekends making up science experiments at home."
  • Place students into partnerships with another learner who speaks the same language, if possible, or with a partner who has a similar proficiency level. Have them share their thoughts on the person they are thinking of and their character traits.
  • Tell students that a person's personality refers to the traits or characteristics that define them. Characters, or the people or animals in stories, also have character traits. Explain that character traits are usually considered good (kind, strong, creative, helpful, honest, responsible) or bad (greedy, mean, selfish, dishonest).
  • On a piece of chart paper, write the title "Personality or Character Traits" and list a few examples. Then, ask students to share some traits of the person they discussed with their partner.
(8 minutes)
  • Read aloud and define the vocabulary words as a whole group. Invite students to provide definitions in their home language. Show visuals from the vocabulary cards and discuss how the picture connects to the vocabulary word.
  • Display a copy of a blank Frayer Model worksheet and show students how to complete the graphic organizer with the term character trait.
  • Post Frayer Models around the room (one for each of the Tier 2 words), and lead students in a carousel activity by putting them into small groups and asking them to rotate from one Frayer Model to another.
  • Give each group a colored pen/pencil to add images, examples, non-examples, and sentence examples about the vocabulary words. Next, ask each group to go back to their desks with one of the completed Frayer Models.
  • Ask them to share out their interpretations of the Frayer Models on their chosen vocabulary word. Write the following sentence frames on the board to provide support as students orally share their ideas:
    • "The word ____ means ____."
    • "The picture of a ____ connects to the word ____ because ____."
(12 minutes)
  • Explain to students that they will practice identifying verbs in sentences.
  • Remind students that verbs are a part of speech that demonstrate action or what a character does in a story, such as "run," "jump," "throw," "help," "lift," "see," or "stop."
  • Explain that with some verbs, it is easier to see the action involved. For example, ask students to act out the verbs "jump," "throw," and "lift." Then, have them try to act out the verb "help" or "stop." Point out that help and stop can have different meanings in different contexts. Emphasize that it is important to be able to identify the variety of verbs that show characters' traits.
  • Create a word wall of verbs with the examples previously mentioned and have students turn to a partner to think of two more verbs. Invite learners to come up to the word wall and add verbs to it. Clarify the meaning of any unknown words, providing a definition and/or example in L1 or L2.
  • Hand out a copy of the Identifying Verbs worksheet and display a copy on the document camera.
  • Read the teaching box and identify the verbs in the first two sentences.
  • Instruct students to complete the rest of the sentences with a table partner.
  • For the second part of the worksheet, model how to place the correct verb from the verb bank into the first sentence and instruct students to independently complete the remaining sentences.
  • Circulate the room and offer help as needed. Review students' responses as a whole group.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that not only do a character's actions show us their traits, but their dialogues also help us understand their personality.
  • Explain that dialogue is when a character talks in a story; sometimes characters talk to themselves or to another character. A character's actions and conversations give the reader clues as to what defines the character and what their traits are.
  • Read aloud the story Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena, showing students the pictures, and pausing to highlight verbs and dialogue in the story. Focus on the character of Nana, the grandma.
  • Ask students to discuss the following questions in groups of 3–4:
    • What does Nana do when CJ doesn't feel like taking the bus?
    • How does Nana treat other people?
  • Record students' answers, and remind them to refer back to the text as evidence for their answers.
  • Model a character analysis think-aloud, such as, "I think that Nana is wise and cheerful because she says, 'Some people watch the world with their ears,' and because she finds beauty in dirty places."
  • Tell students that they are going to practice this skill. Distribute the Dialogue and Actions to Show Character Traits worksheet to each student and go over the teaching box and directions. Ask a student to repeat and rephrase the directions.
  • Explain that you could argue that Little Red Riding Hood's mother is a cautious or concerned character as evidenced by the words she says to Little Red RIding Hood. In the second example, make the claim that Maria is a compassionate or caring character as evidenced by the verbs and actions she does to help the man.
  • Review the meanings of the words in the character trait word bank, and encourage students to also refer to the Frayer Models to help them complete the graphic organizer.
  • Place students into partners, and instruct them to complete the exercise.


  • Repeat the directions for student work, and invite ELs to rephrase the directions in L1 or L2.
  • Provide the following sentence frames to help students discuss the comprehension questions:
    • "Nana ____ to make CJ feel better about taking the bus by ____."
    • "Nana treats other people with ____. For example, when she ____."
  • Allow beginning ELs to complete independent work with a partner or in a small teacher-led group.


  • Allow Advanced ELs to complete the discourse section independently.
  • Assign students the task of determining a character's traits in a well-known fairy tale using dialogue and action.
(3 minutes)
  • Distribute an index card to each student and have them write their name on it.
  • Read the story Last Stop On Market Street aloud again, and have students name one of CJ's character traits, using either dialogue or actions as text evidence.
  • Use the following sentence frame:
    • "I think that CJ is ____ (character trait) because he says ____ (dialogue) and/or does ____ (action)."
  • Allow students to complete the sentence frame independently, and invite a few non-volunteers to share their sentences with the class.
  • Use the index cards as an assessment to gauge students understanding of the concept.
(2 minutes)
  • Have students look at the Personality or Character Traits chart generated earlier in the lesson, and think of one trait they would use to describe themselves.
  • Whip around the room and have each student state their trait.

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