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Lesson Plan

Action Is Character: Exploring Character Traits with Adjectives

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Action Is Character: Exploring Character Traits with Adjectives

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English


Student Objectives

Session One

Session Two

Session Three


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • review the characteristics of adjectives.

  • define the literary term "character trait" and explore how to provide details that support their inferences.

  • conduct research using Internet reference resources to find accurate and descriptive word choice.

  • explore perspective by writing descriptive word lists from the point of view of a character in a novel they've read recently.

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Session One

  1. Introduce F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation, "Action is character," taken from one of Fitzgerald's journals. Ask students to discuss what Fitzgerald means and how the underlying idea connects to literary characters in their recent reading.

  2. Use the Identifying Character Traits worksheet and instructions to explore the connections between a character and the actions that character takes (or doesn't).

  3. Review the adjective part of speech, using the Capital Community College "Guide to Grammar and Writing" Website or your grammar textbook as as reference.

  4. Share the list of character traits as a sample list of adjectives for students to refer to as they work.

  5. Demonstrate the Character Traits Chart, showing students how to add items to the chart as well as how to print and save their work:
    1. Type your name in the first slot in the interactive.
    2. For the title, choose the character name. Students may also indicate the book which includes the character.
    3. Click Next to move to the chart screen and enter your information.
    4. In the first column, write the character's actions from the book. You can include page numbers also. In the second column, write the character traits related to the action.
    5. Demonstrate that writing is not limited to the size of the box shown on screen. Answers will scroll.
    6. When you've finished writing your responses, click Finish at the top of the screen.
    7. In the next window, click Print. Your answers will be displayed in a Web browser window.
    8. To print answers, choose the Print command from the File menu. To save your answers, choose the Save As... command from the File menu. Students can open the file later in a Web editor or a word processor that imports HTML (such as Microsoft Word or AppleWorks).
    9. Show students that the instructions for using the tool are available by clicking Instructions at the top of the screen.
  6. Individually or in small groups, have students work through the character traits for one character from the reading, using the Character Traits Chart. Ideally, the character that they focus on will be the same character whose point of view they will adopt in Session Two. If computers are not available, students can use the Identifying Character Traits Worksheet.

  7. Circulate among students, providing feedback and help as necessary.

  8. Remind students to print and save their work.

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Session Two

  1. Expanding on the lists from Session One, demonstrate how to use online resources such as an Internet dictionary and thesaurus (or show students a how-to guide Using the Thesaurus for Microsoft Word) to arrive at additional descriptive adjectives for the characters.

  2. Once you're satisfied that students understand the basic concepts, divide the class into pairs, and give each pair a piece of butcher paper or newsprint and a wide marker.

  3. Use the Become a Character assignment as an overhead or handout to explain the activity to the class. Ideally, students should adopt the point of view of the character they analyzed in Session One.

  4. Give the students adequate work time (30-40 minutes) to compile their lists.

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Session Three

  1. Give students 10-15 minutes to finish their lists and their charts.

  2. As students finish, post their work on the wall or board until all the lists are up.

  3. Number the papers and assign each list a letter, so that everyone can refer to a particular list easily.

  4. Each student pair then examines the posted lists and, on a sheet of paper, attempts to identify who is being described.

  5. Depending upon the time available, look at each list or a selected number of lists, discussing identities.

  6. The authors of the lists under discussion finally give the "right answers." Again, depending upon time, the class can discuss the adjectives in each list and can cite specific events and details from the text which either support or call into question the accuracy of those adjectives.

  7. (Optional) Have students look for patterns such as the number of pairs who chose a particular character, or adjectives that were repeated by several groups, as well as adjectives that did the best job of description.

Alternative Focuses

Work Characters
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone Harry, Hermione, Hagrid, Dumbledore
The Hobbit Bilbo, Gandalf, Smaug, Thorin
To Kill a Mockingbird Jem, Scout, Atticus, Boo
Ender's Game Ender, Peter, Valentine, Bean
The House on Mango Street Esperanza, Mama, Papa, Alicia
Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants Bridget, Lena, Tibby, Carmen
Stotan Walker, Lionel, Nortie, Jeff
The Chocolate War Archie, Obie, Jerry, Emil, Leon

This lesson plan could also be used as a semester review. Each group could focus on characters from different readings. In addition to identifying the characters, students would identify the work that the characters are in.

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  • Expand on students' focus on a particular character from the novel by having them write a character diary entry from their adopted character's point of view. Use a diary prompt from Traci's Lists of Ten, or let students make up their own topics.

  • Have students use the Profile Publisher either as an aid in generating their list of adjectives before the Become a Character Assignment or as a synthesis of their learning at the completion of the lesson.

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Informal assessment works best for this activity. As students work on their list, circulate among pairs, observing students' use of reference books and their lists of adjectives. Provide support and feedback as you move from group to group.

The ultimate assessment for this activity will be students' reaction to the lists written by their peers and their ability to provide support for the traits on the list. As students go over the lists as a group, reinforce good choice of traits, noting both students' word choice and the connection between trait and character.

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