Describe a Character for First Grade

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Being able to easily describe a character is a foundational reading comprehension skill for first grade students.

It's an activity that can be done with every single read aloud.

It can (and should) be done whole group, in small group, with partners, in literacy stations and during independent reading. It's also a great skill for parents to work on at home. 

To describe a character, we typically think of just describing what a character looks like or does. But, it's a lot more than that. 

Students must be able to identify internal characteristics or traits (feelings, motivations, thoughts, dialogues and actions) and also their external traits or characteristics (what they look like). 

This sounds like an easy skill, but students can often struggle with identifying motivations for why a character says or does something. 

How to Introduce Describe a Character for First Grade

If you teach lower elementary, then you know that there is SO much that goes into the comprehension of a book.

First grade students are learning so much at this age and even listening comprehension requires their little brains to work so hard.

Why do I bring this up?

Because I want you to think about how hard they are ALREADY working when they are listening to a read aloud and when you use a mentor text to introduce a NEW SKILL, most students’ brains go into overload!

So what should we do instead?

Start with a non-text activity. Let me introduce you to a new kind of “slideshow”. 

I like to use interactive slideshows/powerpoints. My slideshows always follow this order: 

  • Teaching Slides: Introduces students to WHAT the skill is
  • Guided Practice: Introduces students to HOW to apply the skill
  • Interactive Practice: Gives students an example and allows them to PRACTICE the skill in an easy and concise way

Describe a Character Activities for First Grade

After we practice the slideshow, then we practice building our describing a character muscles with some guided and independent practice. 

I've found the best and easiest way to do this is with images of characters with common jobs. This gives students a starting point because they typically know at least one or two things about each of the jobs shown by the characters. 

My students do this Describe a Character activity (seen on the right). We do one together as a class for guided practice. 

For this activity, students must can either choose one whole matching character, or they can mix and match three different pictures to form one new and unique character. 

Students then have to use the external characteristics of the character to describe them. 

Then, with guidance, we talk about internal motivations for the character. For example, a firefighter has to be brave, and a detective has to be inquisitive. 

After we practice this activity together, it goes into their stations for Guided Reading. 

The best part about this activity is that you can leave it out for several weeks because each time students can choose a new set of pictures! 

Digital Describe a Character Activities for First Grade

Whether you are teaching virtually (thanks alot COVID) or in the classroom, our students are primed now more than ever to complete activities digitally. 

The Describe a Character station activity I just showed you is available digitally also!

You can read more about how to integrate Digital Comprehension Tools here. 

Describe a Character Activities for First Grade

All of the activities that you found in this post, both printable and digital, can be found in my Describe a Character Bundle here.

You can save up to 20% by purchasing the items together, but you can also purchase individual items to better fit your needs!

Best Books for Describe a Character

**You can use the recording sheet from the Describe a Character station with all of these read alouds!

More First Grade Favorites

Describe a Character Blog Post
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Kristen Sullins

Kristen Sullins

I am a current Elementary Librarian and
Enrichment Teacher, mother of two, follower of Christ and Texas native. In my own classroom, I love to save time by finding unique ways to integrate writing, social studies and science into all parts of my day. I also love all things organization!