What is a Character Trait? - Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 What Are Character Traits?
  • 0:46 Types of Character Traits
  • 1:33 Applying Character…
  • 2:16 Identifying Character…
  • 3:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Andrew Sedillo

Andrew Sedillo has taught Language Arts, Social Studies, and Technology at a middle school level. He currently holds a Bachelor's of Arts in Education, Master's of Arts Educational Learning Technology, and a Graduate certificate in Online Teaching and Learning.

Expert Contributor
Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

This lesson will assist you in identifying, developing and understanding character traits through analysis. It will allow you to explore how character traits can be found and applied to different forms of literature and real-life scenarios.

What Are Character Traits?

Before we begin, I want you to take time to think about your friends, family members, coworkers, or just anyone who you may interact with on a regular basis. Without thinking about their physical appearance, how would you describe them to someone else? Are these people funny? Sincere? Sneaky? Stubborn?

These are just a few descriptive adjectives used to describe someone's personality, and that is exactly what character traits are. They are words used to describe how characters act during certain situations or what kind of people they are. Character traits are sometimes described as good or bad, and everyone has them. You can even identify character traits in characters you see in movies, TV shows, and books!

Types of Character Traits

As previously mentioned, character traits can be described as good or bad. We have all heard the idiom, 'He showed his true colors.' This is a great example in depicting the idea that a character trait can be seen as either good or bad depending on the situation. Character traits can easily be observed through actions or responses to a situation or even how a person acts around you or others. Depending on the range of your vocabulary, there are a variety of words you can use to describe someone's character traits. Some positive character traits might include:

  • Honest
  • Kind
  • Happy
  • Sincere
  • Patient

Some negative character traits might include:

  • Rude
  • Angry
  • Mean
  • Mad
  • Untrusting
  • Greedy

Applying Character Traits to Literature

Have you ever had a teacher ask you to describe the character traits of a particular character? You would describe a book character's traits the same way you would describe the traits of a real person. The whole point of a book or story is to paint a picture with words. If the author is effective, the reader will be able to easily visualize the setting and the characters. Not only will the reader get a visual, but they will also begin to develop an emotional connection to the characters they are reading about because of their character traits. It is the character traits that allow the reader to get an idea of what type of person the character is based on their actions, how they interact with others, and how they are described by others.

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Additional Activities

Creative Activities for Character Trait

Creative Projects

Project 1
As you learned in this lesson, authors often reveal character traits through dialogue and action rather than telling us what they are. Think of a simple story you know well like a fairy tale or familiar children's story. List some character traits of the main character, then create a comic strip or storyboard of three or four pictures that shows one of these character traits through action and dialogue.
Project 2
Play this game with a friend or classmate. Each of you choose a character from a story you both know well. Use index cards to make clue cards, each card showing one character trait. See how long it takes for each of you to guess the other's chosen character. You can expand this activity for a group by first setting a general category of characters and then each player choosing a character. Some possible workable categories are superheroes, Disney princesses, and fairy tale villains.
Project 3
Write a journal or diary entry for a type of character, either a fictional character or a real person. Make sure you somehow reveal character traits in your entry without directly naming them.
Project 4
Write a brief essay explaining how a specific character trait might be positive or negative depending on the situation or circumstances. For example, being obsessively organized might be a positive when writing a research paper but a negative in enjoying a day at the beach with family or friends. In your essay provide detailed examples to illustrate your point.

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