Working on Character Traits in Speech


Are you looking for more ways to help benefit your speech students and help boost their skills so you see some carry-over in their academic classrooms?

Today I want to talk to you about character traits. When we’re working with our older speech students we want to find a way to align our speech goals with what they’re working on in the classrooms. In the classroom, they are expected to have an arsenal of adjectives to characterize the different characters they’re reading about. We’re so used to using adjectives when it comes to describing common objects but that’s doesn’t help our students when it comes to reading a novel or book.  They may be reading a book in the classroom when the teacher says to describe the character and they say that the character has brown hair…..that’s not what the teacher is looking for, right? So we need to teach our students how to infer or critically think about that character. The basic information is stated in the text such as Cinderella was frustrated she couldn’t go to the ball. But what’s some more complicated text that’s not directly stated? Our students are expected to be able to retrieve those vocabulary words, so how do we do it? Teachers are already teaching these things to our students and it's not sticking so we can’t just teach our students it again the same way and expect them to get it. We need to teach it in a different way!

What I like to do is instead of saying describe the character or here's a list of vocabulary to pick from, or here’s some multiple-choice, is to teach our students how to categorize these words. So what I like to do is use a boom deck that helps categorize. Maybe some words are good and some words are bad (example: messy, rude, trustworthy) and see if they can separate them without even any characters involved. Can they use their background knowledge and sort out the vocabulary words? Maybe have them think about the words to say about a princess versus a villain. Where do those people fall based on these different words? I saw someone doing xyz… was it something good or something bad and how would you describe them? When they can categorize these words into good or bad it's less overwhelming when they have to retrieve a word. Students can say okay I’m going to pull from the good file or I’m going to pull from the bad file and that’s how they can retrieve some of those challenging words. Once they’ve sorted those words, they’ve understood the categories of those descriptions: good words vs bad words.

You can also give your students a visual aide and have it already sorted out good vs bad when you’re working on comprehension texts. Then what I like to do is to take some common characters (teacher, police officer, criminal, magician) and see if they can decide what would be the best description based on their knowledge of some of these words. Are they good words vs bad words? Who would be a good person and who would be a bad person based on what they know about these words and characters? This is a way to pull in that background knowledge without it being based on a story they’ve read.


Then you can take it a step further by reading a fictional story, something you can find on, and tell them okay here are our good words and here are our bad words. What word would you pull from and why? And then keep going. Can you find the text evidence to describe why that character is dishonest, why that character is impatient? It's all about teaching them first the vocabulary and then teaching them how to categorize it, good vs bad, and teaching them to pull in their background knowledge about those words and common characters such as community helpers, Anna and Elsa, Harry Potter, and Voldemort, and the list goes on and on. Make it fun and see what category they would pull from. Get them used to using this terminology. This really pulls in that inferential thinking and that’s why I like working on it with my students because it requires vocabulary, that higher-level thinking, and their background knowledge all combined!

This is not something that happens in one session but maybe multiple sessions with lots of repetition. But I want you to see how you can easily pull in their speech and language goals, vocabulary, inferencing, context clues, text evidence, categorization, descriptions, and more by working on character traits in your speech room. And this is something that can benefit them in the classroom because it's something they are expected to be able to do. Teachers are always looking for more enriching vocabulary and we can help our students be successful, build their confidence, and they’ll say yeah I discussed that with my speech teacher.

Hope you found this helpful and you can use some of these ideas with your speech students soon!


To learn more check out the resource I mentioned and the video below!