Students write at their desks.
Lesson

Authoring My Identity

Students explore the costs and benefits of sharing aspects of their identities, discuss an informational text about “narrative identity,” and apply these concepts to their own lives in an original poem.

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At a Glance

Lesson

Language

English — US

Subject

  • English & Language Arts

Grade

8–10

Duration

Two 50-min class periods
  • Culture & Identity

Overview

About This Lesson

In this lesson, students explore how the stories we tell about ourselves can shape how we understand our own identities, as well as how others may perceive us. Students also consider the risks and rewards that come with sharing aspects of who we are with others, both in person and online. 

These activities prepare students to read and analyze an informational text about “narrative identity” and apply the concept to their own lives as they reflect on how the stories we tell ourselves can help us to construct our own sense of self.

  • What makes me, me?
  • What story do I want to tell about who I am and what matters to me?
     
  • 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?
  • Examine how their identity is a combination of who they say they are, who others say they are, and who they hope to be in the future.
  • Analyze the internal and external conflicts that characters face and the impact these conflicts can have on an individual’s choices and actions, both in the text and in the real world. 
  • Demonstrate an increased sense of confidence in their ability to communicate their ideas orally and in writing.

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

  • 1 spoken word poem, available in English and Spanish
  • 1 informational text, available in English (including a version adapted for English learners) and Spanish
  • 2 handouts, available in English and Spanish
  • 1 video

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

Before teaching this lesson, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.

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.

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Lesson Plans

Activities

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?

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 . . . 

  1.  . . . of something about who I am. (What in particular?)
  2. . . . it reflects human nature or how people are in the world. (What human characteristics or ways of being?)
  3. . . . of how the poet, Rudy Francisco, expressed the idea. (What did he do that makes you feel this way?)

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.

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) 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.

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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.

Most teachers are willing to tackle the difficult topics, but we need the tools.
— Gabriela Calderon-Espinal, Bay Shore, NY