Jody and Responsibility in “The Gift”

Analyzing the Characters
Ongoing Activity
Grades 6–12
Language Arts, History, Performing Arts
Small Group, Entire Class, Writing


  • During the reading of “The Gift,” students will compile quoted passages that reflect Jody’s varying levels of responsibility during the first story. The first story is being featured here, as it sets the tone for the subsequent ones.
  • Students will discuss and defend their opinions about Jody’s level of responsibility.
  • Students will discuss their own level of responsibility.
  • Optionally, students may perform short skits demonstrating Jody’s responsibility or lack thereof.


Responsibility is an important theme in The Red Pony, especially in “The Gift.” Jody experiences a wide range of emotions during the course of this story, and he also is expected to be responsible along the way. During this activity, students will not only be discussing and writing about Jody’s responsibility but their own.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Copies of The Red Pony
  • Students’ notebooks
  • Copies of Jody and Responsibility Organizer (optional)
  • Copies of Partially Completed Jody and Responsibility Organizer (optional)

Estimated Time

  • 1 class period for a general discussion of responsibility
  • Ongoing during the course of reading “The Gift”


  • As a class, ask students to define “responsibility.” Responses will no doubt vary, and teachers, at this point, should let this be a free-form discussion with no particular guidance.
  • ~Consider using a pair-share strategy.
  • ~Have one student write the responses on the board and another transcribe them in a notebook (or even on an electronic device).
  • After the definitions of “responsibility” have been exhausted, divide students into small groups. In those groups, students will share examples of their own responsibilities and, for the brave, the outcomes, positive or negative.
  • ~After the groups are finished, teachers should elicit a class discussion and ask students from each group to provide specific examples about responsibility and the results. Teachers should encourage class-wide respectful comments, regardless of group. The entire focus is to foster a discussion about the concept of responsibility.
  • For homework, ask students (even those who previously shared), to write brief accounts about their own responsibilities and the outcomes.
  • Next, in their same groups during readings/discussions of “The Gift,” students should be compiling quoted passages in their notebooks that illustrate Jody’s level of responsibility. Possible quoted passages may include:
  • ~“He went slowly, then, toward the afternoon chores” (6).
  • ~“‘Jody, tonight see you fill the wood-box clear full. Last night you crossed the sticks and it wasn’t only about half full’” (6).
  • ~“Jody curried and brushed…until the pony’s coat had taken on a deep red shine” (12).
  • ~“‘Have you forgot the wood-box?’”
    “‘I forgot, ma’am’” (13).
  • ~“Jody never waited for the triangle to get him out of bed after the coming of the pony” (13).
  • ~“He considered holding up one finger for permission to go to the outhouse and, once outside, running home to put the pony in” (22).
  • ~“‘You said it wouldn’t rain,’ Jody accused him” (23).
  • ~“Doubletree Mutt looked into the barn…and Jody was so incensed at his health that he found a hard black clod on the floor and deliberately threw it” (30).
  • ~“Jody, remembering how he had thrown the clod, put his arm about the dog’s neck and kissed him on his wide black nose” (34).
  • ~“He struck again and again, until the buzzard lay dead…” (36-37).
  • ~“‘The buzzard didn’t kill the pony. Don’t you know that?’” (37).
  • ~“‘I know it,’ Jody said wearily” (37).
  • Have students complete the “Responsibility Organizer” (see sample) before writing about Jody’s sense of responsibility in relation to their own.
  • Students may refer to both the Jody and Responsibility Organizer and the book while writing an essay about responsibility. Doing a thorough job on the worksheet will help students write a much stronger essay. The first two lines of the Partially Completed Jody and Responsibility Organizer have been filled in for students as an example.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

Post Activity

  • Students can write their reactions (in notebooks) about how they felt about their responsibilities toward their family, school, and community.


  • Students should be able to identify and articulate the responsibilities of both Jody and themselves.


  • Teachers can have students write an evaluation of the project and what they have learned.


During the reading of “The Gift,” teachers can provide regular quizzes on responsibility as a theme.

California State Content Standards Met

  • Performing Arts: Theatre Content Standards 6-12
  • ~Artistic Perception: 1
  • ~Creative Expression: 2
  • ~Historical and Cultural Context: 3
  • ~Connections, Relationships, Applications: 5

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4, 5, 6
  • ~Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity: 10
  • Writing Standards 6-12
  • ~Text Types and Purposes: 1, 2, 3
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5
  • ~Research to Build and Present Knowledge: 9
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Conventions of Standard English: 1, 2
  • ~Knowledge of Language: 3
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 4, 5, 6
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • ~Craft and Structure: 4, 5, 6
  • Writing Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects 6-12
  • ~Production and Distribution of Writing: 4, 5

Related Lesson Plans for this Work