EL Support Lesson

Internal & External Character Traits

In this support lesson, your students will compare and contrast character traits using a graphic organizer. It can be a stand-alone lesson or used as support for the lesson Comparing Two Characters.
This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Comparing Two Characters lesson plan.
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This lesson can be used as a pre-lesson for the Comparing Two Characters lesson plan.

Students will be able to identify internal character traits and find supporting evidence for conclusions about character traits.


Students will be able to compare and contrast character traits with transition words using a graphic organizer and sentence frames.

(2 minutes)
  • Ask students to describe what you look like. Allow them to talk with a partner for a moment, then call on volunteers to shout out words that describe your physical appearance (e.g., tall, brown hair). Prompt students with guiding questions if needed (e.g., "What color is my hair?"). Explain that the words they shared describe the way you look on the outside.
  • Then ask students to describe your personality. Allow them to talk to a partner for another moment, then call on volunteers to shout out words that describe your character (e.g., nice, strict, smart). Again, prompt students if needed (e.g., "How do I act when I teach math?"). Tell students that the words they shared this time describe the way you are on the inside.
  • Explain that people who don't know you will only see the outside (how you look), but people who know you or interact with you will recognize the parts that are inside (how you act, think, or speak).
  • Tell students that today they will be learning some words and phrases that describe people's traits, the things that make them who they are. Explain that they will use the descriptive words they learn to compare and contrast people and characters.
(10 minutes)
  • Display the vocabulary cards with the terms external traits and internal traits. Review the definitions of each term. Then, draw a T-chart on the board and tape each card as a heading for one of the columns.
  • Using a pocket chart, display eight vocabulary cards with trait names (confident, talented, shy, helpful, short, young, old, brunette).
  • Tell students that, as you discuss each word, you will be working together to categorize them as "external traits" or "internal traits." Model the sorting activity by placing two of the trait words on the T-chart while thinking aloud.
  • Continue sorting. Read each term and definition aloud, then give students a moment of thinking time before calling on a volunteer to suggest a category (internal or external trait). Correct misconceptions as needed.
  • When all the trait words are sorted, hand out a sheet of blank white paper to each student. Instruct them to choose one external trait and one internal trait from the T-chart to illustrate. Invite several students to share their illustrations with the class.
  • Hand out the worksheet Comparing My Character Traits and instruct students to complete the top portion only by choosing three external and three internal traits to describe themselves. (Note: students will complete the rest of the worksheet later in the lesson.)
  • Have students share their personal traits with a small group. Circulate and listen in to student conversations.
(10 minutes)
  • Tell students that they will be comparing and contrasting two different people based on their traits. Explain that they will need to know some words and phrases that are used to compare and contrast.
  • Display and review the word bank from the worksheet Transition Words for Comparing & Contrasting. (Note: you will not need the exercise portion of this worksheet.)
  • Use the terms from the word bank, and write sentence frames on the board:
    • "____ is similar to ____ because (we/they) both ____."
    • "____ is different than ____. While ____ is ____, ____ is ____."
  • Model how to use the sentence frames by comparing yourself to another teacher (e.g., "Mr. James is similar to me because we both have curly hair."). Demonstrate how to use trait words from the T-chart and word bank to complete the sentence frames.
  • Direct students attention to the bottom portion of the Comparing My Character Traits worksheet and have students work with a partner to complete the first comparison. Then, invite several students to read their completed sentence frames aloud.
  • Instruct students to complete the second comparison independently. Then, have students share their completed sentence frames with their partner before calling on volunteers to share with the class.
(10 minutes)
  • Hand out the worksheet Read & Compare Character Traits. Read the two short texts aloud as students follow along.
  • Tell students to reread the texts with a partner, highlighting trait words as they read.
  • Display a copy of the double bubble graphic organizer. Provide a model to students by filling in one similarity and one difference as an example.
  • Instruct students to work with a partner to fill in the rest of the double bubble organizer.
  • Call on students to share the traits that were similar and different between the two characters. Correct misconceptions as needed.


  • Pre-teach additional vocabulary terms that students will see within texts during the lesson, like "confident," "unique," and "scold."
  • Allow beginning ELs to use bilingual resources to define new words throughout the lesson.
  • Strategically pair beginning ELs with more advanced ELs or students who speak the same home language.


  • Allow advanced ELs to utilize a glossary, thesaurus, and dictionary for help with unfamiliar words.
  • Choose advanced ELs to share their ideas first in group and class discussions. Ask advanced ELs to add on, rephrase, or clarify what their peers say in class discussion.
  • Have advanced ELs repeat instructions and key vocabulary while summarizing important information for the class.
(5 minutes)
  • Hand out a half sheet of lined paper to each student.
  • Direct students' attention to the sentence frames they used during the sentence level focus:
    • "____ is similar to ____ because they both ____."
    • "____ is different than ____. While ____ is ____, ____ is ____."
  • Instruct students to use the sentence frames to compare and contrast Sasha and Anil, the two characters they read about on the Read & Compare Character Traits worksheet. (Note: allow students to use their double bubble organizers during this task.)
  • Invite several students to read their sentences aloud. Then collect student work to check for understanding.
(3 minutes)
  • Tell students that understanding character traits, and being able to compare characters, will help them grow as readers.
  • Explain that, generally, authors explicitly describe a character's external traits. However, readers often have to infer, or figure out, a character's internal traits based on the way they think, feel, act, or speak.
  • Challenge your students to look for character traits in their own reading.

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