Inferring Character Traits Through Dialogue (Plus a Free Graphic Organizer)

Have you ever come across a mentor text that literally covers five standards and you squeal with delight? Or am I the only crazy person that gets excited about these types of things?!

Inferring Character Traits Through Dialogue (Plus a Free Graphic Organizer) - Young Teacher Love by Kristine Nannini

After reading Verdi by Janell Cannon with my students, I just couldn’t contain myself!

I have so much to share with you about how we used this book to cover so many standards, that I plan to break it down into two separate blog posts.

Click HERE to check out part two: Comparing and Contrasting Two or more Characters in a Text.

Each year, studying characters is one of my favorite units to teach, and this year is no different. You can see my two other big character blog posts I wrote last year HERE and HERE

The reason I love teaching characters so much is because of all of the wonderful characters out there that my students can connect with. Whether it’s Katniss Everdeen, Percy Jackson, or the unique August Pullman from R.J. Palacio’s Wonder, the characters, in my opinion, keep my students coming back for more!

When studying characters, it’s important that students understand that we’re talking about what character is, not who some characters are. If I ask my students who the characters are in the books they are reading, most of them can probably name them. For instance, they know that August Pullman is  the main character in Wonder. 

But, character development is more than that. 

The English Language Arts standard requires students to compare and contrast two or more characters, settings, or events in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g. how they interact).
Before you jump right into this, it’s important that students understand the different ways to determine a character’s interactions. To understand their interactions, we need to look at each characters’ actions, their dialogue, their thoughts, and their emotions. By looking at these details, they give us insight into how these characters view and/or react to each other, giving us information about their interactions.
To teach this concept, I read Verdi to my students. During this first reading, I allowed my students to sit and listen. But, while listening, they were to pay attention to each characters’ personality and physical traits that the author came out and explicitly stated in the book. For the purpose of this lesson, we compared Verdi with the group of snakes called the greens. The greens’ names are Umbles, Aggie, Dozer, and Ribbon. Once we finished this first reading, I gave students about two minutes to whisper the explicit traits of the greens and Verdi that they recalled from the text.
Next, we discussed the fact that authors don’t always come out and give every detail about a character. Sometimes, the reader has to infer based on the dialogue in the story.
Now that we had read the story once, each student received their own Inferring Character Traits Graphic Organizer to fill out during our re-read and mini-lesson.

I went back and re-read some important pages from Verdi and picked out pages where the author used dialogue to show the characters’ personality traits.

As I was reading the pages, students gave me a thumbs up when they heard the author use dialogue to show the characters’ personality traits. Then, focusing on just one character (or group of characters e.g., the greens), we worked together to pick out some of the best quotes from the text that we could use to infer personality traits based on the characters’ dialogue.

Students worked with me to fill out their own graphic organizers for the dialogue portion, but it was up to them to do the inferring.

I gave students about four minutes to write down their own inferences, and I walked the room to glance over their shoulders and help students that needed some re-teaching.

After about four minutes, we shared what we could infer about the greens based on their dialogue in the text.

This graphic organizer is a free sample from my Analyzing Characters Pack {Common Core Aligned} found HERE!

Analyzing Characters by Kristine Nannini

Click HERE to grab the free Inferring Character Traits Graphic Organizer!

Grab a copy of Verdi to use in your own classroom!

Do you need more passages to help you teach character analysis? Check out my Characters: Differentiated Reading Passages and Questions resource. I provide teachers with 10 differentiated character reading passages. Each passage has five short answer questions for students to analyze characters. Click HERE or the button below to check them out. If you download the preview, you can see the entire resource.

This resource is now bundled.

The first bundle includes 10 Fiction Differentiated Passages and Questions. Click HERE or the button below.

This bundle includes 20 total resources – 10 Informational Text and 10 Fiction Differentiated Passages and Questions. Click HERE or the button below.

Click HERE to check out part two of this series: Comparing and Contrasting Two or More Characters in a Text. Make sure you grab all of the freebies in the post!

Thanks for reading!


  1. Umm, this was an AWESOME post!!! I LOVED it!!! What a great lesson & modeling close reading for the students by going back in the text to deeper understand. Then pulling out the evidence with your students so they could infer.
    I think this really caught my eye b/c I’m currently reading Falling in Love with Close Reading & I’ve been working a lot in the 2-5 standards the past few days.
    Anyhow, great job! Kuddos!
    Love, Dianna
    Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching:)

  2. @Dianna- Thank you!!! I have been wanting to read that book for some time now! We did some close reading with this mentor text when we compared and contrasted the characters. I hope to blog about that next! Thanks so much for your comments! I appreciate them very much!

  3. Nice job Kristine! I loved the post too! I haven’t read that book and I don’t have it! I guess I will be shopping AMAZON to get it now! I love teaching Character Traits too, and this book does seem to do a good job! Thanks so much for sharing!


  4. @Tammy- Thank you! It is such a phenomenal book! Well, anything that Janell Cannon writes is phenomenal! I can’t wait to share the other lessons we did! Thanks so much for your comments!

  5. Thanks for such a through post looking into how you teach character traits in your classroom! I’ve never heard of this book, but it sounds like it should be added to my shopping cart. I love reading all of your posts that you share!
    Short and Sassy Teacher

  6. One of my favorite books and a GREAT lesson! Can’t wait for the next installment!

  7. Hello,
    Thank you for sharing this great lesson! I was just wondering, what software do you use to create your worksheets?

  8. Do you have a thought progression chart? Like what theory/idea/thought would be a level 1, level 2, level 3, level 4?

    1. Kristine Nannini says:

      Hi Shelly- I don’t. Sorry!

  9. shelley weddel says:

    I enjoyed your lesson. It was thorough. Thank you.?.

    1. Kristine Nannini says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Shelley!

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