Identity Charts

Analyzing the Characters
Ongoing Activity
Grades 6–12
Language Arts, History
Large Group, Small Group, Individual


  • Students will gain a deeper understanding of the characters in the novel.
  • Students will create a stronger personal connection to characters in the novel.


An identity chart is a graphic tool. It is meant to help students to understand the motivations of characters—the factors that have shaped characters. Identity charts can also be done autobiographically; that is, a student can chart him/herself.

This activity is meant to be done on an ongoing basis throughout the reading of the novel.

Materials Needed/Preparation

  • Large pieces of butcher paper to post the work where students can see and interact with it
  • Brief introduction to the Identity Chart process
  • Copies of sample Identity Chart and blank chart (optional)
  • The Red Pony notebooks

Estimated Time

  • 15-45 minutes to introduce and begin the process for the first time
  • 3-5 minutes per class period


  • Open with a discussion about what makes someone who they are. Another way to phrase this is to ask students, “How do you define who you are?”
  • ~Answers may include:
  • ~~Place in family, classroom, or community, e.g., a daughter, a son, a student, an altar boy, etc.
  • ~~Things about a student’s background, e.g., Buddhist, Muslim, female, place of birth, ethnicity, nationality, etc.
  • ~~Physical characteristics
  • ~Explain how an Identity Chart works (see example below).
Sample Identity Chart with John Steinbeck's name in a center oval and short phrases of characteristics branching off.
  • Assign or take volunteers for each of the characters who have appeared in the novel. (This will vary depending on how far into the novel this activity is first begun.)
  • ~This can be done as a large group or in small groups.
  • ~Have student(s) complete the chart as thoroughly as they can.
  • Allow time during the period to discuss how the characteristics and facts listed on the chart may be important.
  • ~How have some of the characteristics shaped a character’s actions, relationships, fears, etc.?
  • Allow students to add to the chart on a daily basis.

Post Activity/Takeaways/Follow-up

Post Activity

  • Have students complete an identity chart on themselves.
  • Have students complete an identity chart on someone in the family.
  • Have students make predictions about what characters will do based on what they have listed thus far in the Identity Chart.


  • Students should begin to see what shapes the actions, emotions, beliefs, and so on, of characters in the novel.
  • Students should be more familiar with the characters in the novel.


  • Use the chart as a discussion starter, or have students add things to a character’s chart after other activities, discussions, etc.


  • Quiz on the characters (based on the student findings in the Identity Charts).
  • ~The quiz could be to create an identity chart for a character or characters.
  • ~The quiz could be strictly factual (e.g., “Who is Billy Buck?” and so on.)
  • When a new character appears in the novel, have students individually create an Identity Chart for that character.
  • ~Assess how well individual students are understanding the process and the novel.

Common Core State Standards Met

  • Reading Standards for Literature 6-12
  • ~Key Ideas and Details: 1
  • ~Craft and Structure: 6
  • Speaking and Listening Standards 6-12
  • ~Comprehension and Collaboration: 1
  • ~Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas: 4
  • Language Standards 6-12
  • ~Vocabulary Acquisition and Use: 5
  • Reading Standards for Literacy in History/Social Studies 6-12
  • ~Craft and Structure: 6
  • ~Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: 8

Related Lesson Plans for this Work