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. If it doesn't come up in discussion as you generate your group list of categories, prompt students with questions that help them think about the following ideas:

    • Some aspects of our identities are consistent over our lives; others change as we gain skills and have different roles in life.
    • Some aspects of our identities feel very central to who we are no matter where we are; others might feel more like background or depend on the situation.
    • Some identities are labels that others put on us, While others see us as having that identity, we don't.

    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. If you plan to have them share their identity charts with a partner or in groups, it is important that they know in advance. Any students who don't feel comfortable sharing their identity charts can elaborate on one or two facets of their identity but keep their charts private. After discussing 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

  • 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.

Example

An identity chart is a diagram that individuals fill in with words and phrases they use to describe themselves as well as the labels that society gives them.

Related Content

Lesson
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Who Am I?

By asking the question "Who am I?" students explore the role that identity plays in forming their values, ideas, and actions.

Lesson
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Identity

Students consider the question "Who am I?" and identify social and cultural factors that shape identity by reading a short story and creating personal identity charts.

Lesson
Holocaust

Exploring Identity

Students identify the social and cultural factors that help shape our identities by analyzing firsthand reflections and creating personal identity charts.

Lesson
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Transcending Single Stories

Students reflect on how stereotypes and "single stories" influence our identities, how we view others, and the choices we make.

Search Our Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.