Teacher reading with character emotions title image

Teachers commonly use emotions charts for social-emotional learning with their students, but did you know you can also use them to teach reading? Reading instruction can be more engaging when incorporating emotions activities into your lessons. Find out some simple activities you can use for teaching reading with character emotions!

Using Emotions to Teach Reading

Building Vocabulary

Emotions are a perfect way to increase students’ vocabulary. Students can look for words in the stories they read. Character emotions charts with synonyms are a simple way to increase students’ vocabulary. Another option is for students to find synonyms for common emotion words during independent reading. These synonyms can be recorded in their reading notebooks to refer to during writing workshop. Find out additional ideas for building students’ emotional vocabulary.

Character Analysis

Students can identify how a character changes throughout a story by paying attention to their emotions. Students can orally retell or write down character emotions from the beginning, middle, and end of the story.

Digital reading response to track how a character changes throughout the story.


Authors include details that allow us to infer character emotions. We can look for these details about characters’ words, thoughts, and actions which can reveal how a character is feeling. For example, an author might state that a character crossed his arms and stomped his feet. From those details, we can infer the character is angry or upset. By making these inferences about characters, we learn more about them and deepen our understanding of the story.

Authors Purpose

Students can analyze why the author included certain details about the character. Similar to making inferences about characters’ emotions, students can determine why the author used certain details to describe a character’s words, thoughts, and actions. Why is it important for us to know how that character is feeling? How do their feelings impact the story?


Character emotions are a fun and engaging way to improve students’ reading fluency! After identifying how a character is feeling, students can practice reading a quote from the character to reflect the character’s emotions. It is a fun way to practice expressive reading.

Emotions task cards to practice fluent reading based on how the character is feeling.
Readers' Theater script with sticky notes to indicate how a character is feeling based on text evidence.

Two ways to accomplish this with students are with task cards or readers theater. The character emotions task cards I use provide students with a brief scenario about the character followed by a quote. Students must use the clues to infer how the character feels and then read the quote in a tone that reflects the characters’ emotions.

When reading through a readers theater script with students, we identify clues from the author that tell us how the character is feeling. We use the characters’ actions and events in the story to infer how they feel. Once we have that knowledge, we can make notes to remind ourselves how that character is feeling. So as students perform the readers theater script, they can practice fluently reading with expression to match how the character is feeling. Find out other ideas for readers theater activities beyond just reading fluency practice.

Other Ways to Use Character Emotions

Emotions can also be beneficial during writing workshop to improve students’ writing. How else have you used character emotions with your students? What other skills do you think would be beneficial to teach with emotions? Share in the comments!

You can easily implement these engaging activities to analyze character emotions. This Character Emotions bundle includes all of the activities shown (and more!) that you can use throughout the entire year!

Emotions charts are commonly used for social-emotional learning, but you can also use them to teach reading through character emotions.

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Emotions charts are commonly used for social-emotional learning, but you can also use them to teach reading through character emotions.

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