Describing Characters Using Direct Methods Of Characterization

The successful conclusion to our Bitmoji Characterization Activity was a great start of our descriptive writing unit. My students were ready to explore their peers’ various character traits after they had completed Direct Characterization Activity

So, here is one of my favourite characterization lessons that enables my students to write interesting character descriptions as they explore various characters’ pictures.

Title: Describing Characters Using Direct Methods Of Characterization


SWBAT describe characters using character traits and direct method of characterization.

Big Idea:

We can describe a character based on their looks, likes, dislikes, occupation, motivation, passions and outside pursuits. 


I begin my lesson by asking students what they think characterization is. We always link the word characterization to ‘characters’. This is a very quick and easy process. Students get a chance to explain and share examples of how their favourite author has described their favourite character in a story. What is special about the way the author has described it and so on. Another favourite starter activity is that I display a picture of a favourite character from a Disney movie or a cartoon and then I ask, ‘Who is this character?”, “What does he/she look like?”, “How would you describe this character’s personality to someone who hasn’t watched the movie?”. Another idea for a  good characterization starter activity is to make pairs in the class and have each partner describe their partner using character traits that make them unique such as helpful, kind, funny, blonde, Asian, tall etc. I encourage them to think of all the descriptive words (adjectives) that can show any side of the person they are describing.

Then as the discussion continues, we clarify the concept of characterization as ‘the process by which the writer reveals the personality of characters’. This helps everyone in the class to be on the same page.

Main Activity:

As part of the main activity I ask my students to observe my personality, looks and all that they know about me and think of some character traits that describe my personality well (Two of them can be likeable character traits, but one must be a less-known or less likeable character trait). To scaffold this step, I ask them to refer to this character traits list (LINK TO download-file-01.pdf) to describe my personality traits.

When they are ready,  I ask them to post their sticky notes on the board. After that, I read aloud the character traits, and after reading some of them I post questions about my personality, such as, you said, Ms. Abeerah is wise, energetic and ambitious. Did you describe my personality or looks? Do you think you described my personality or physical traits in a straight-forward manner? 

Then we discuss that they just used a direct way of revealing a character’s traits, which is called the direct method of characterization. 

Next, students watch the following video and we discuss how authors use direct characterization in their stories and how we, as writers, can describe characters using this descriptive writing technique.

Then we read these sample character descriptions (LINK TO download-file-02.pdf). I ask students to underline the examples of direct characterization in the sample character descriptions. This leads to a discussion on the author’s use of direct characterization i.e. directly telling the readers about the characters through their actions, looks, thoughts, pursuits, likes, dislikes and feelings and indirect characterization. We focus our discussion on the use of vivid verbs, amazing adjectives, and the use of show, not tell technique.

Shared Learning:

Next, I ask my students to write a paragraph about one of their classmates or the student sitting next to them and describe them using the direct characterization method. I urge them to focus on salient features of their looks and personality. I encourage them to use thesauruses and use adjectives keeping in mind the OPSHCOM rule for ordering adjectives.

For shared writing, I compose a model character description on the whiteboard. For this purpose, I start with a gap-fill sentence and elicit responses from my students to help me fill in the blank spaces. See the picture below for the character description prompt and modeled sentence. You can easily adapt this one to suit your students’ needs. This process helps them notice and observe the authors’ writing techniques as they get to see their teacher go through the process of writing. This descriptive writing in action process gets them thinking, and they feel confident and get ready to write their peers’ character descriptions using the direct characterization method.

Once I am done filling in the blank spaces with my students, we read the modeled sentences together and identify the use of amazing adjectives, replace the boring adjectives with better ones, and discuss the purpose our modeled description serves.  I ask my students to think from the writer’s perspective and see how they can use the modeled writing style in their own writing. 

Usually I ask them to copy the modeled sentence (Mentor text) with blank spaces in their notebooks and fill it out keeping in mind the person they are describing.

Then the students  write a paragraph about me or any other teacher using direct characterization. For that I also model different moods when in the class so that they can focus on more than one side of the character and bring depth to their writing. 

Then I ask them to fill out this characterization practice worksheet identifying descriptions that use a direct method of characterization only. (LINK TO download-file-03.pdf)

Once students fill out their worksheets, we either do a peer check or whole-class plenary discussing the choices of answer and the reasons behind them.

For an overview of the lesson, you may also watch this video.

The next lesson is based on external character descriptions while focusing on the characters’ looks and attire. I will share my next lesson on using indirect methods of characterization in my next post. 

Until then do comment below about your favorite characterization activities. If you do try this activity in your class, I would love to hear from you.

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Share via:
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments