Identity Charts

Rationale

Identity charts are a graphic tool that can help students consider the many factors that shape who we are as individuals and as communities. Use identity charts to deepen students’ understanding of themselves, groups, nations, and historical and literary figures. Sharing their own identity charts with peers can help students build relationships and break down stereotypes. In this way, identity charts can be used as an effective classroom community-building tool.

Procedure

  1. Brainstorm or Create Personal Identity Charts

    Before creating identity charts, you might have the class brainstorm categories we each consider when thinking about the question, “Who am I?”—categories such as our role in a family (e.g., daughter, sister, mother), our hobbies and interests (e.g., guitar player, football fan), our background (e.g., religion, race, nationality, hometown, place of birth), and our physical characteristics. It is often helpful to show students a completed identity chart before they create one of their own (see example section below).

    Alternatively, you could begin this activity by having students create identity charts for themselves. After they share their charts, students can create a list of the categories they have used to describe themselves and then apply this same list of categories as a guide when creating identity charts for other people or groups.

  2. Create Identity Charts for an Individual, Group, or Nation
    First, ask students to write the name of the character, figure, group, or nation in the center of a piece of paper. Then students can look through text(s) for evidence that helps them answer the question, “Who is this person/group?” Encourage students to include quotations from the text(s) on their identity charts, as well as their own interpretations of the character or figure based on their reading. Students can complete identity charts individually or in small groups. Alternatively, students could contribute ideas to a class version of an identity chart that you keep on the classroom wall.
  3. Use Identity Charts to Track New Learning
    Reviewing and revising identity charts throughout a unit is one way to help students keep track of their learning.

Variations

  • Concept Charts: You can also use identity charts to help students explore the meaning of concepts such as justice, responsibility, or “universe of responsibility.”
  • Prioritizing Factors on Identity Charts: After students create an identity chart, you can ask them to select the five items they think are most significant in shaping this person or group’s identity. As students compare their lists, this often deepens their understanding of the person being studied.
  • Identity and Context: Individual and group identities are comprised of multiple factors, some having more significance in particular contexts. To help students appreciate this concept, you might ask them to think about the five factors that are most significant to shaping their identity in one context, such as school, and then in another context, such as home or with friends.
  • Hand Identity Charts: This variation of an identity chart helps to illustrate the similarities and differences between the way we define ourselves and the way that others define us. First, have students draw the outline of their hand (or simply a box) on a large piece of paper. Inside the hand, have students write labels and descriptions they use to describe themselves. Outside of their outline, have students write labels and descriptions that reflect how they think others view them. In some cases, how the outside world sees us is the same as how we see ourselves, and in some cases, it is not. Therefore, words inside the outline and outside the outline may or may not overlap. You can also use hand identity charts to represent historical or literary characters. Students can write a journal entry reflecting on the ideas represented on their hand identity charts. Prompts you might use to structure students’ writing include:
    • Notice the words inside and outside of your hand outline. Which ones are the same? Which ones are different?
    • Explain why some words might be the same, while others might be different.

Example

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