Mentor Texts for Teaching Character Traits

Teaching character traits is one of my favorite things! There are so many different ways to approach it, and it’s fun to get creative.

You won’t be surprised to hear that one of my favorite ways to teach this is by using mentor texts (if you’ve looked around this blog at all, you know I love a good mentor text!).

Here are some of my favorite mentor texts to use when teaching Character Traits.

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1. The Can Man

In this story, a boy named Tim, who wants a skateboard more than anything else for his birthday. He knows his family can’t afford one, and he is inspired by a homeless man in the neighborhood who collects cans to make money. Tim has several encounters with the Can Man that change his outlook. This story will get your students thinking about small acts of kindness and what a big impact they can have.

2. Amazing Grace

Grace is a kiddo who loves stories! When the teacher announces the class is putting on a play of Peter Pan, she is eager to audition for the lead role. Other kids are quick to point out that she’s not a girl, and she’s black, so she can’t! Grace’s Nana reminds Grace that she can do anything she puts her mind to! Grace decides to go for it, and puts her all into the audition.

3. The Recess Queen

This story focuses on Mean Jean, who rules the playground, and a new girl named Katie Sue. Katie Sue isn’t afraid of Mean Jean and plays what she wants to play at recess. She even asks Mean Jean to play with her, which all the other kids have always been too scared to do. Everyone is amazed at her transformation! This story is a good reminder that sometimes standing up to bullies is the best way to beat them, AND that sometimes what a “bully” really needs is someone to give them a chance.

4. Enemy Pie

This story deals with some of the most common issues that real-life kids face- bullying, kindness, and friendship. When a new kid moves to town and is not very kind, the narrator decides he is his number one enemy! Then boy’s dad helps him make an “enemy pie” for the boy. Through this experience, the narrator ends up learning that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make them your friend!

5. Not Norman

Curtis is dying for a pet, a soft furry pet to sleep in bed with him, or an energetic pet that would run around and catch. Imagine his disappointment when he gets Norman, a goldfish, instead! When he gets the chance, will Curtis trade Norman in for a “good pet,” or will he start to recognize all of Norman’s good qualities?

6. Knots on a Counting Rope

This touching story is about a young Native American boy who is blind. One night, he asks his grandfather to once again share the story of the boy’s life, which is represented by knots on a rope. Through Grandfather’s story, we learn that the boy was born blind and all the obstacles that he has overcome in his life so far. Each time they talk about this story, another knot is added to the rope, symbolizing the passage of time and the boy’s growing confidence.

7. The Night I Followed the Dog

Like most of us, the boy in this book believes his dog is pretty ordinary. But one day, when he looks outside a little earlier than usual, he sees his pup hopping out of a limo. He decides to follow his dog and find out what is going on. Turns out, there is a whole world of dogs that we humans know nothing about! The boy’s dog leads him on a great adventure, to find out what dogs do to relax while their owners are sleeping.

8. The Invisible Boy

Brian, who thinks of himself as the invisible boy, never gets much attention from the other kids at school. When a new student, Justin, arrives Max makes him feel welcome and included.  When the two team up to work on a project together for school, Max finally gets the attention he’s been hoping for. This is a great book to highlight the importance of including everyone, especially the quieter students whose needs tend to get overlooked.

9. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge

This charming book is about a little boy, Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge, who lives next door to an “old people’s home.” One day he learns that his friend, Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper has lost her memory. Wilfrid makes it his mission to see if he can find it for her. Of course, before he can do that, he has to find out what exactly a memory is in the first place.


10. My Rotten Redhead Older Brother

This story is based on the author, Patricia Polacco’s life! In a classic case of sibling rivalry, Patricia’s brother, Richard can do everything better than she can! One night Patricia sees a shooting star and wishes for there to be something that she can do better than Richard. Will she get her wish? Any student with a younger or older sibling will identify with this story.



Are you working on Character Traits with your class? Need some more ideas? I’ve got you covered!

Character Trait Task Cards


If you are looking for a Character Trait activity to use for centers, independent work, or whole-class games, take a peek at this one:

Character Traits Reading Center for 4th and 5th Grades


Have you been looking high and low for more ideas about teaching Character Traits? Check out these blogs!


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