Using character traits and the five senses for descriptive writing

character traits

If someone were to describe you using three words, what do you think they would say?

In a recent class at Leap into Literacy we explored how writers use character traits to bring their characters to life.

At the start of the class, we asked the students if they have ever been described in a way that they liked, or maybe disliked? We then discussed this as a class and gave some examples. It was explained to the students how one descriptive word, even though it’s simple and short, can affect how people are viewed.

It’s the same with characters in a story. If the author wants to describe a character as being lazy, he’s not going to use words like “determined” and “enthusiastic” in his description. It’s important for a writer to use appropriate character traits to help the character come to life for the reader.

For the younger classes, a worksheet on character traits was used as a guide to help them pick out some words which best described them and this was discussed as a class.  It was also explained that they would be using character traits to help them write a descriptive piece of writing at the end of the class.

The older students were also given a descriptive writing worksheet to help the students understand the importance of planning and thinking of ways to describe the character/s and setting to their audience.


creative writing for kidsThe Secret Garden and Character Traits

The book of the week was The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett written in 1911. The book tells the story of Mary, a little girl living in India until tragedy strikes her family with an outbreak of cholera. She is then sent to England to live with her uncle and hears of a secret garden and her adventure continues. Class discussions were had about when the book was written and how it may have been written in a different style. The time period and setting of the book was also discussed, noting how things would have been different then.

The students then listened to the first chapter and were asked to write the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, why) down in their notebooks and note down anytime they read/heard something significant. The topic of cholera was discussed with the older children but the younger classes skipped the section on what happened to Mary’s family.

During the story, the teacher frequently stopped and assisted the students and pointed out important descriptions of different senses and how Francis Hodgson Burnett described them.

The class then discussed the main character, Mary, and the particular character traits that could be used to describe her. The students watched a movie clip of the moments when Mary first enters her uncle’s Manor and discussed what the house looks like and the senses that could be used to describe it.


Painting a picture for the reader

Now the students set to work writing a diary/journal entry from Mary’s perspective to describe what her day was like when she arrived at the Manor. The students were guided in the particular genre of writing (first person, past tense, informal writing allowed) and reminded to use their notes to help them with their writing. Students were helped to plan their writing by making a list of the five senses and listing different descriptions that they would use in their diary entry.

We have included some of their wonderful diary entries for you to read!

Leap into Literacy provides small tutoring classes with a focus on reading comprehension and writing. Using techniques that allow students to become creative in the learning process, sessions are fun and achieve maximum results!

Classes are held at our centres in Drummoyne, Balmain, and North Willoughby, as well as other locations around Sydney, and are available for preschoolers and school age children in Years K-6. 

If you are interested in finding out more about how Leap into Literacy can help your child, SIGN UP NOW FOR YOUR FREE TRAIL CLASS AND ASSESSMENT!