Teaching Character Traits with Picture Books - Jen Kimbrell

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I love using picture books to teach students the art of writing! Examining the author's craft is a beautiful way to explore the world of words and make books come alive. Today, I'd like to share with you how I use the author's craft when teaching character traits with picture books and how I add a little technology to the mix.

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Teaching character traits using picture books anchor chart Chrysanthemum

Teaching Character Traits

Step One: Choose the right book to teach character traits

When teaching character traits, just about any book works as long as there is a strong character to explore. When choosing the right book, look for stories where the author describes the traits of the character. In this example, I used my favorite, Chrysanthemum.

Step Two: Read-Aloud

Choose a time during the day to read the story for enjoyment. All mentor texts should be read for the pure joy of it rather than as a teaching tool. I prefer NOT to read during writer's workshop. I also like to choose mentor texts that I can teach a variety of skills and strategies.

Step Three: Mini-lesson

There is a reciprocal nature to reading and writing. The more exposure to books students have, the better writer they become. Teach the craft explicitly, so students understand the way the author uses words to bring the story to life.

The success of the mini-lesson is grounded in the teacher's knowledge of the writing process. It is essential to know students' prior knowledge to move them to the next level.

The goal of the mini-lesson is to show students how to accomplish particular tasks and to make a note of those who may require extra scaffolding. 

The mini-lesson allows students to gain independence in their writing through clear and explicit instruction. There are two parts to a mini-lesson. First, to model for students a specific skill or strategy. The second part is to provide guided practice for students to try the craft for themselves.

Topics for mini-lessons include:

Take it to the reading

For this particular mini-lesson, we start by examining the skill through reading first. The focus is on Author's Craft and how the author uses words to help the reader understand the character better. Have students help you create an anchor chart of the character traits of Chrysanthemum. Encourage them to find both inside and outside traits of the character.

Create the anchor chart then model for students how to take one of the traits and write it on your graphic organizer. Show them how to find evidence from the text (it could be words and pictures).

Take it to the writing

Once students have enough exposure to reading about character traits, help students take what they know, and add character traits to their own stories. Model for students how to do this by taking a piece of writing and answering the following:

Step Four: Guided Practice

Take it to the reading

During guided practice, have students help you take another trait from the anchor chart and do the same activity of finding a character trait and providing evidence from the text.

Take it to the writing

Have students choose a piece of writing to add more detail about their character in pictures and words. You may want to start by allowing students to work in groups or pairs before they work independently.

Teach character traits using pictures books in Get Epic and Flipgrid

Step Five: Independent Practice & Share Time

Take it to the reading

Allow students to add the last character trait independently and find evidence from the text. Then I like to use this same activity with other books that are good to teach character traits. I create QR codes to picture books online on sites such as GetEpic (you can assign the book on GetEpic, too).

Using Flipgrid to teach character traits.

Take it to the writing

Students spend time writing independently. The hope is students transfer their knowledge of the skill to their writing. This transfer may take time. Constant scaffolding and reminders need to take place during mini-lessons, conferencing, and during share-time.

I love to stop during the middle of the writer's workshop to brag on someone who is applying the strategy to their writing. Sharing aids as a reminder to others they could do the same in their writing.

If you'd like to try this activity in your classroom, click on the picture below to sign-up for my free download. You receive a copy of my Google INB with the activity. Have you ever used Google INB's? Learn more here.

Want more tips and tricks for using picture books during your reader's and writer's workshop? Check out all of the Reading Crew posts and be sure to share with your friends.

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