Lesson
Duration:
Two 50-minute class periods

Authoring My Identity

This resource is designed for grades 8-10 and adaptable for grade 7.

Essential Questions

What makes me, me? What story do I want to tell about who I am and what matters to me?

Guiding Questions

  • Who am I? What are the many factors that make me, me? 
  • What stories about myself do I choose to share with others, and what do I keep private?

Overview

A key part of identity development throughout a person’s life is storytelling. The stories we tell ourselves about what we’ve seen, heard, and experienced help us to construct our own identities—our unique answer to the question, “Who am I?” They also allow us to communicate who we are to others. These stories form what psychologist Daniel McAdams calls “narrative identity,” an individual’s life story that blends memories from the past with the present and an imagined future.1 

In this lesson, students will start by creating personal identity charts and reflecting on the many factors that make them the unique individuals that they are. Then they will watch a powerful spoken-word performance that will help them reflect on how the stories we tell about ourselves can shape how we understand our own identities, as well as how others may perceive us. They will also consider the risks and rewards that come with sharing aspects of who we are with others, both in person and online. Finally, students will draw connections between the spoken-word poem and an informational text about narrative identity in order to explore how stories we tell ourselves can help us to construct our own sense of self.

Citations

Pacing

These activities are designed for two class periods. Introduce the concept of identity with identity charts and “My Honest Poem” on the first day and then read and discuss “Authoring Identity” in the next class period.

Materials and Text

Activities

  1. Reflect on Personal Identity

    Follow the first step of the Identity Charts teaching strategy by having students generate a list of the many factors that make up an individual’s identity. To model identity charts and to cultivate classroom community, create your own identity chart during a think aloud. Then have students make their own in their journals. Use the following journal prompt to help students reflect on the activity. Let them know that they will not be sharing their responses: Review your identity chart. What parts of your identity do you choose to share with others? Which parts of your identity do you keep private? How do you decide what to share and what to keep private? 

    Debrief the process of creating identity charts in small groups or as a class. Consider using the following questions: How did it feel to make an individual identity chart? In what ways do you think the chart does a good job of representing your identity? How do you think it falls short or fails to represent your identity? 

    Remote Learning Note: Use an online whiteboard to generate ideas for the factors that make up identity, and then have students create their identity charts on paper. Do not ask students to share their identity charts with their peers. The online environment can make this activity feel especially risky. 

  2. Consider the Visible and Hidden Aspects of Identity

    Show the video My Honest Poem (02:38). Then distribute the text version so students can read it to themselves. Invite them to make personal connections by choosing a favorite line for a journal reflection. The following prompt can help get them started:

     The line that stands out to me is _______________ because . . . 
    •  . . . of something about who I am. (What in particular?)
    • . . . it reflects human nature or how people are in the world. (What human characteristics or ways of being?)
    • . . . of how the poet, Rudy Francisco, expressed the idea. (What did he do that makes you feel this way?)2

    Divide the class into small groups to discuss the connection questions that follow the poem in the reading. To build in accountability, have groups assign the following roles: a facilitator to guide the discussion, ensure that everyone contributes, and keep time; a note-taker to record notes in their notebooks or in a Google Doc; and a summarizer to share key ideas during a class debrief that follows the small-group discussions.

    Poetry is a powerful way to explore identity, and many students will feel inspired by Francisco’s performance to create their own “honest poem.” This could be an activity they work on in class or at home. Teaching strategies like Rapid-Fire Writing help students generate ideas. For students who benefit from structure, the My Honest Poem Sentence Starters handout provides a template to help them organize their thoughts.

    Remote Learning Note: Ask students to watch and read the poem ahead of time and then discuss the connection questions during a synchronous session or in an online discussion forum. Have each group take notes on their handout or an online whiteboard that they share with you. Students can create their own poems outside of class and choose how to share them with you and, if you have established a brave and reflective classroom community, with their peers. Some options include an audio recording, video “slam” presentation, or in writing. 

  3. Learn about “Narrative Identity”

    Explain to students that in his spoken-word poem, Rudy Francisco tries to make sense of the public and private aspects of his identity. Next, they will read a text that will help them understand how their brains use storytelling to make sense of the world and the ways we all make choices about the stories we tell ourselves and others. Choose a Read Aloud strategy for the reading Authoring Identity or Authoring Identity (Adapted Version). After reading the text, give students time to reflect on their TQEs (thoughts, questions, epiphanies)3 before dividing them into small groups to discuss the connection questions. Since there are a number of questions, you might have all of the groups answer the first two together and then assign or let groups choose one or two other questions to discuss.

    Invite students to synthesize new ideas and make personal connections to the texts using the Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World handout. Collect the handouts if you want to check for understanding and look for any concepts you might need to reteach.

    Remote Learning Note: Ask students to read the text ahead of time and write their TQEs. Then use synchronous time to discuss the connection questions, both in groups and as a class. Have students complete the synthesis and personal connection activity on their own and submit their Text-to-Text, Text-to-Self, Text-to-World handout so you can check their understanding. 

 

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Citations

  • 2 : David N. Perkins, Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World (Jossey-Bass: San Francisco, 2014), 126.
  • 3 : Adapted from Jennifer Gonzalez, “Deeper Class Discussions with the TQE Method,” Cult of Pedagogy website, August 26, 2018.

This resource is part of our English Language Arts Coming of Age collection.

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