Moving people step off and on a moving subway train in London.
Lesson

Blending In and Standing Out

Students use an excerpt from Sarfraz Manzoor memoir to reflect on identity, belonging, and wanting to feel invisible.

Published:

This resource is intended for educators in the United Kingdom.

At a Glance

Lesson

Language

English — UK

Grade

6–12

Duration

One 50-min class period
  • Democracy & Civic Engagement

Overview

About This Lesson

In the previous lessons, students reflected on the benefits and costs of group membership and discussed what can happen when society privileges one or more aspects of our identities over others. They also examined how our beliefs about which differences matter can shape the ways we view ourselves and others, thus influencing how we choose to respond when we encounter difference. In this lesson, students will continue to explore the ways in which we respond to difference, firstly by reflecting on a time when they desired to be invisible and anonymous in order to hide differences that might distinguish them from others. Then students will read and discuss an excerpt from Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir, Greetings from Bury Park, in which he describes his struggles with identity and belonging in his Luton community.

Manzoor’s memoir offers multiple opportunities for students to revisit key ideas and guiding questions from this scheme of work: the power of teachers to create and perpetuate social hierarchies in their classrooms, the factors that contribute to our identity, the danger of “single stories,” and the ways in which children come to learn which differences matter and which ones do not. We encourage you to help your students make these connections by prompting them to cite examples from the various texts, their journals, and their handouts when engaging with this lesson’s content.

How do our beliefs about difference influence the ways in which we see and choose to interact with each other?

How is our identity and sense of belonging shaped by the people and circumstances we encounter in our lives?

Students will review the factors that make up our identities and then explore the ways in which individuals, groups, and society can shape our identities and sense of belonging.

This lesson is designed to fit into one 50-minute class period and includes:

  • 4 activities
  • 5 teaching strategies
  • 1 extension activity
  • 1 handouts
  • 1 reading
  • Classroom-ready PowerPoint

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before you teach this lesson, please review the following guidance to tailor this lesson to your students’ contexts and needs.

To discuss Manzoor’s essay (reading Identity and Belonging), students will work in groups to answer one connection question that you assign to them and then summarise their ideas for the class. For their presentation, you might ask each group to record key points from their discussion on flipchart paper that they can use as a visual aid.

Each lesson in this unit includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lessons plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching the lesson. The PowerPoints include basic media and prompts from the lesson plans but are minimally designed because we expect teachers to adapt them to fit the needs of their students and class.

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Lesson Plans

Activities

To prepare students to read an excerpt from Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir, ask them to respond to the following questions in a journal response:

Describe a time when you wanted to blend into the background. What happened to make you feel this way? How did this experience affect the way you felt about yourself and those individuals and groups around you?

Since many students may not feel comfortable sharing their personal stories, you might debrief the exercise anonymously. Pass out one index card to each student and instruct students that they should not put their names on the cards.

Then ask the students to write a phrase or sentence on one side of the index card in response to the following question: Why did you want to blend into the background rather than be seen and known? And then write a phrase or sentence on the other side of the index card in response to the question: How did this experience affect the way you felt about yourself and those individuals and groups around you?

Collect the index cards, shuffle, and redistribute them to the class. Do two wraparounds where students share the phrase or sentence on side one of the card in the first round and the information on side two in the second round. Lead a class discussion to explore any patterns that the students noticed in the two rounds of sharing.

Tell students that they will now read an excerpt from British journalist and filmmaker Sarfraz Manzoor’s memoir, Greetings from Bury Park. Before reading, ask students to create a blank identity chart for Manzoor in their journals and explain that, as they read, they will be adding information about how Manzoor describes himself, as well as the labels others use to describe him.

Choose a read aloud strategy and read Identity and Belonging. Pause after each paragraph or story (for example, the exchange with the teacher Manzoor believed to be racist) so students can add to their identity charts. You might ask them to share their ideas and discuss which factors shaped his identity as you read along, or you might save this step until after you have finished reading the text.

Discuss Manzoor’s identity chart. Ask students to make observations about the ways in which Manzoor describes himself and the way others label him. You might also prompt students to draw connections between Manzoor’s identity, Adichie’s The Danger of a Single Story, Berry’s What Do We Do with a Difference?, and the identity charts they created for themselves earlier in this scheme of work.

Divide the class into groups of 3–4 students and assign each group one of the connection questions (2–5) to discuss and then present to the class. Encourage students to use examples from the text to support their answers. You might also ask them to include one other text from this scheme of work in their discussion. Then ask each group to write a follow-up question that their discussion sparked.

Debrief by asking 1–2 members from each group to briefly summarise their ideas. Then a third student can pose the group’s follow-up question, which the class should try to answer using the text, other texts from this scheme of work, and their own experiences. Repeat this process until every group has presented.

Ask students to complete a Connect, Extend, Challenge Chart as a final reflection. They might work independently or with a partner to answer the following questions:

  • Connect: How do the ideas and information in this reading connect to what you already know about identity and belonging?
  • Extend: How does this reading extend or broaden your thinking about identity and belonging?
  • Challenge: Does this reading challenge or complicate your understanding of identity and belonging? What new questions does it raise for you?

Extensions

To further explore the relationship between identity, power, and voice, read Coming to America, Finding Your Voice with your class. You might ask students to underline places where Hinojosa and her mother experienced a lack of power and and then put an exclamation point by places where they felt empowered. Ask students to discuss the relationship between how we view ourselves, how others view us, power and voice. You might also ask students how this reading connects to, extends, or challenges Manzoor’s ideas about invisibility and voice. Finally, students might write their own “Coming to . . . ” stories in their journals about a time they came to a new place—maybe a new country, city or town, school, classroom, religious institution—where they felt voiceless or powerless. What made them feel this way? What did they do to try and find their voice?

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Materials and Downloads

Quick Downloads

The handouts below are used in this lesson.

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Facing History and Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.

Using the strategies from Facing History is almost like an awakening.
— Claudia Bautista, Santa Monica, Calif