Character Traits Take on Behavior Management

Character traits are a great way to combine both literature skills and real life social skills into one fun real world lesson.  Using fictional events, you can have students being more mindful of the choices they are making in every day life too.

As I was teaching a lesson, Kevin jumped up and blurted out the answer before anyone else had a chance to think about it.

At first, I was irritated.  Kevin always knew the answer and he made sure everyone around him also knew it shortly afterwards.  But no matter how many times I said, “Kevin, please let everyone around you think about the answer first,” it didn’t phase him in the least.

Many of the students didn’t seem to mind.  They didn’t have to come up with any sort of reasoning for the answer once they had already had it handed to them.

For the last desperate plea from me, I genuinely privately asked Kevin if he realized he was being obtrusive.  I received a blank stare.  For once, Kevin had no idea what to say.

It was only then I realized I hadn’t explained this character trait to Kevin or anyone else in the class.

I assumed they knew.

But here’s the thing:  They didn’t know what they didn’t know.

After having a class discussion about what the word meant, role-playing some examples, and then students pointing out characters in their independent reading books who aso had that character trait, we were able to lock down what the behavior looked like in someone with that character trait – and more importantly, how we could change that trait (if we felt it was a negative trait) if we were imagining we were the fictional character.

It added a whole new dimension to our weekly class meeting.

It was then I realized I hadn't explained this character trait to anyone. I assumed they knew. Here's the thing: They didn't know what they didn't know.

Classroom Characters

The first step in teaching students about character traits is really to define them for the students as this may be the first time someone has actually used a word to describe a specific behavior.

Some examples of vocabulary words students would need to know:

  • generosity
  • kindness
  • sincerity
  • adventurous
  • tolerance
  • optimism
  • impatience
  • greed
  • quarrelsome
  • selfishness
  • unforgiving
  • resourcefulness
  • charisma
  • boldness
  • proactive
  • zany
  • talkative
  • rough
  • shy
  • stubborn
  • brave
  • cunning
  • witty

I also love this free printable list resource I found while browsing the internet.

Having a worksheet such as that is great for students to print and place in a writing folder to be used all year long when describing characters and/or themselves.

Having a great definition or an anchor chart for each word is wonderful, but having a fun tech generator can be a novel way for students to interact with the words too.

It was then I realized I hadn't explained this character trait to anyone. I assumed they knew. Here's the thing: They didn't know what they didn't know.

Using this website, you could do a daily morning quick write where students used the description to write about a made up character and something he or she does to show those particular character traits.  It would be a great jumping off point for a discussion of real world examples displaying those same traits.

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Teaching Character Development

Kids base many decisions on what they know or even personal goals they have set for themselves.

Use these 13 real-life examples of situations when thinking about what the fictional character would do.  And then what the students would do.  Students can discuss as a whole class (or in small groups).

Make an anchor chart for the discussions which can be referred back to throughout the school year.

Scenario #1:  Adrianne loved to go out shopping with her grandmother.  Grandma almost aways bought her something from the store.  Until one day when grandma decided that the cute zipper wallet Adrianne wanted wouldn’t be purchased.

If Adrianne had the character trait ___________, what would she most likely do next?  {sneaky, hot-tempered, understanding}

If you were Adrianne, what would you do?

Scenario #2:  Jack didn’t know how to tie his shoes.  He had tried before, but nothing seemed to help him as he could never seem to get them to work for him.  His mom was almost always yelling at him each time they were about to leave the house.

If Jack had the character trait ___________, what would he most likely do next?  {determined, obnoxious, angry}

If you were Jack, what would you do?

Scenario #3:  Mandy and Teamalone were best friends.  Until one day when Teamalone just stopped speaking to Mandy for no apparent reason.

If Mandy had the character trait ___________, what would she most likely do next?  {unforgiving, shy, proactive}

If you were Mandy, what would you do?

Scenario #4:  Jamir was picked on a lot in school.  He had a stutter and the boys on the bus would tease him constantly.

If Jamir had the character trait ___________, what would he most likely do next?  {brave, optimism, mischievous}

If you were Jamir, what would you do?

Scenario #5:  Jeanette and Jamie were identical twins.  Most people couldn’t tell them apart most days.

If Jeanette and Jamie had the character trait ___________, what would they most likely do next?  {kindhearted, zany, greedy}

If you were Jeanette or Jamie, what would you do?

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Scenario #6:  Benny was super excited about his birthday today.  But when he got out of bed, he noticed no one at home even mentioned it.  Then, his teacher and bus driver forgot.  Even his friends!

If Benny had the character trait ___________, what would he most likely do next?  {outspoken, sad, vengeful}

If you were Benny, what would you do?

Scenario #7:  Kris was walking home from school one day when she saw a smaller kid from her neighborhood being picked on by some older kids.

If Kris had the character trait ___________, what would she most likely do next?  {fairness, cruelty, bossy}

If you were Kris, what would you do?

Scenario #8:  Miguel accidentally tripped over his own feet during PE and fell flat on his face in front of his entire class.

If Miguel had the character trait ___________, what would he most likely do next?  {fearless, humorous, silliness}

If you were Miguel, what would you do?

Scenario #9:  Tommy was on a school field trip to the zoo.  He had never told anyone, but he was pretty scare of monkeys.  They freaked him out when they were nearby.  He was pretty nervous abut going into the monkey building with everyone else.

If Tommy had the character trait ___________, what would he most likely do next?  {fidgety, calm, obedient}

If you were Tommy, what would you do?

Scenario #10:  Charlotte and Alex were best friends.  Band class was going to be offered for the first time and Alex couldn’t wait to play trumpet.  Charlotte sort of wanted to try drums but Alex was begging her to play the trumpet so they could learn together. 

If Charlotte had the character trait ___________, what would she most likely do next?  {easygoing, mysterious, uncooperative}

If you were Charlotte, what would you do?

Scenario #11:  Jowan was playing video games after school when he noticed his older sister come through the door with a bag of groceries that slipped out of her hand and all over the floor of their apartment.

If Jowan had the character trait ___________, what would he most likely do next?  {helpful, mean, sarcastic}

If you were Jowan, what would you do?

Scenario #12:  Natalie’s neighbor asked her to take her dog out every day after school because she would be working late every night this week.  Natalie forgot that she had dance class on Wednesday and wouldn’t be able to take her neighbor’s dog for a walk, but she didn’t remember until she was already at school on Wednesday.

If Natalie had the character trait ___________, what would she most likely do next?  {honesty, trustworthy, undependable}

If you were Natalie, what would you do?

Scenario #13:  Jennifer wasn’t the only Jennifer in her class.  And sometimes if both forgot to put their last names on their papers, the teacher would get their work confused.  The test scores were handed back and Jennifer noticed she received a perfect score!  Except, the paper wasn’t hers – it belonged to the other Jennifer.  But the other Jennifer didn’t say anything about the wrong paper to the teacher.

If Jennifer had the character trait ___________, what would she most likely do next?  {virtuous, unfair, graceful}

If you were Jennifer, what would you do?

There are so many ways to combine real life examples with daily learning objectives.  Sometimes the teachable moments are the ones that resonate the best with students.  What are some other ways you use teachable moments in your classroom?  Feel free to share them in the comments below!

~Charity

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