Hameray Classroom Literacy Blog

Activities to Build Character Connections with K–1 Readers

By Laura Scott

When young readers are fascinated by characters in a story, they can’t wait to read more about them! Studying characters encourages students to make personal and meaningful connections with stories. This blog will outline fun and easy ways to discuss character traits and ways to find evidence of characters demonstrating those traits within the text. Click here for the free downloadable K–1 character trait packet discussed below

Learning about how authors create characters helps students better understand them.  For renowned children’s author Joy Cowley, people and life experiences shaped many of the recurring characters she writes about. Watch the short video below, where Joy delightfully discusses the origin of Mrs. Wishy-Washy, the Hungry Giant, and the Meanies.

When discussing character traits with young readers, it is helpful to begin by discussing character traits of people in their lives.


Start by brainstorming a list of character traits. To encourage students to think of traits, try using the sentence frame

  • My (person or pet) is (character trait).
  • For example: My cousin is loud. My dog is friendly.

Write the character traits on chart paper as a reference for students. This will help students become familiar with adjectives used to describe people.

Dig Deeper with Evidence

Discuss people's actions that demonstrate their character traits. Add “when” to the sentence frame:

  • My (person or pet) is (character trait) when …
  • For example: My cousin is loud when we play tag. My dog is friendly when people come over to my house.  

Character Traits with a Story 

Apply this concept to characters in a story. After reading the story, make a list of the main characters. Write one or two character traits next to each character’s name. Reread the story, ask students to listen and look for the characters' actions that demonstrate those traits.

    Character Traits Blog, Free Downloadable Activity, K–1, Joy Cowley, Hameray Publishing

    In whole-group, small-group, or partner discussions, encourage students to use the sentence frame to describe a character in the story, a trait they have, and when they show it.

    • (Character name)  is  (trait)  when  (action).
    • Example: Mrs. Wishy-Washy is kind when she pulls the animals out of the mud.

    Write About Character Traits

    Ask students to write about their favorite character from a story. Use the free, downloadable character trait packet with a graphic organizer to brainstorm and a writing page.

    Character Traits Blog, Free Downloadable Activity, K–1, Joy Cowley, Hameray Publishing

    Ask students to draw or write their character’s name in the middle circle of the graphic organizer. Choose 4 character traits (or less) to write in the surrounding circles.

      Pick your favorite trait from the graphic organizer to write about. Remember to use evidence from the story to show how the character’s actions demonstrate the character trait.

      Use the sentence frame as a scaffold:

      • (Character name)  is  (trait)  when  (action).
      • Example: The Hungry Giant is grumpy when he can’t find his red shoe.

      Illustrate the character acting out this trait.

      Character Traits Blog, Free Downloadable Activity, K–1, Joy Cowley, Hameray Publishing

      For an extra challenge, ask students to write one page about each of the 4 traits they wrote on their graphic organizer. Put the pages together to make a small book about their favorite character.

      From social-emotional mini-lessons about what character traits make a good friend to writing activities where students practice using descriptive words and evidence from the text, studying character traits creates opportunities for many activities and discussions.  


      Celebrate unique and lovable characters in books by renowned children's author Joy Cowley. Joy has created characters that have entertained generations of young readers, such as Mrs. Wishy-Washy, the Hungry Giant, the Meanies, Dan the Flying Man, Greedy Cat, and more!  With 156 original stories and 43 big books, Joy Cowley books will fill any K–2 classroom with laughter. Reading levels B–K. Select titles available in Spanish

      Character Traits Blog, Free Downloadable Activity, K–1, Joy Cowley, Hameray Publishing, Joy Cowley Books


      Laura Scott taught English Language Learners of all ages for twelve years and spent three years as a bilingual coordinator and co-teacher in dual language K-1 classrooms. She is a part of the Hameray team. Laura values giving a voice to all students by supporting teachers as they bravely try new approaches to learning in their classrooms.