At a Glance
LanguageEnglish — US
- English & Language Arts
- Culture & Identity
About This Text Set
In addition to “Who am I?,” the question “Who do I want to be?” is a near-constant preoccupation in adolescents, particularly in the middle school years. It’s during this “in-between” time that adolescents begin to define themselves and to notice how they are defined by others. Around sixth grade, tweens begin to understand that the way they see themselves and the way they are seen by others can impact who they are and their sense of belonging in their families, peer groups, school communities, and the world.
As students engage with the resources and activities in this text set, they will examine their developing and changing identities, beliefs, and values. Intentionally engaging with identity development is valuable for a student’s own social, moral, and intellectual growth. The resources and activities in this collection will give students the opportunity to examine who they are, how they define themselves and are defined by others, and where they belong. Through this process, students will deepen their thinking about what makes each of us who we are and the ways that we are often defined by others and the larger society in which we live.
“How do we become who we want to be in the world?”
This text set supports a 2-week exploration of identity and belonging. It includes:
- 1 Becoming & Belonging Text Set overview
- 5 lessons
- 3 poems, available in English and Spanish
- 1 article excerpt, available in English and Spanish
- 8 handouts, available in English and Spanish
- 1 summative assessment
Preparing to Teach
A Note to Teachers
Before teaching this text set, please review the following information to help guide your preparation process.
Use this text set to introduce or supplement a coming-of-age literature or book club unit, or as a standalone mini-unit. The lessons are intended to be taught in the order they are presented over the course of one to two weeks, depending on the length of your class periods and whether or not students complete some of the reading for homework. Each lesson is aligned to guiding questions and Facing History learning outcomes, with activities to help students engage with the texts critically, emotionally, and ethically. While the activities are deliberately sequenced to bring students into and out of conversations about power, agency, and voice with care, you may need to adapt them, as well as the summative assessment, for your unique classroom context.
The three Facing History learning objectives at the heart of any ELA unit address students’ cognitive, emotional, and moral growth. Aligned to each learning objective are specific learning outcomes, which describe the observable and measurable knowledge, skills, attitudes, and dispositions students develop over the course of the unit.
- Learning Objective 1: Explore the Complexity of Identity
- Value the complexity of identity in themselves and others.
- 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.
- Engage with real and imagined stories that help them understand their own coming-of-age experiences and how others experience the world.
- Learning Objective 2: Process Texts through a Critical and Ethical Lens
- Practice perspective-taking in order to develop empathy and recognize the limits of any one person’s point of view.
- 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.
- Learning Objective 3: Develop a Sense of Civic Agency
- Recognize that their decisions matter, impact others, and shape their communities and the world.
- Develop the tools, efficacy, and voice to envision and enact positive changes in their personal lives, communities, and world.
At Facing History, we understand that before students can engage with challenging topics, they need to feel confident that they are part of a brave and reflective community where they are known, valued, and supported by their teachers and peers. This ongoing process starts with self-reflection on the part of the teacher and invites students to help establish and uphold norms for how everyone will treat one another. The following resources and activities can support you and your students in cultivating a brave and reflective community.
- Build the Foundation: Learn about the importance of engaging in your own personal reflection before teaching this text set by exploring the resources and teacher-facing activities in Section 1: Start with Yourself of Facing History’s Coming-of-Age Unit Planning Toolkit and corresponding Educator Workbook. You can also read “How to Help Students Believe in Themselves” from Greater Good magazine to learn about new research that identifies specific steps adults can take to foster student agency and self-efficacy.
- Create a Classroom Contract: Prepare students to engage, take risks, and support one another by creating a classroom contract with agreed-upon norms and behaviors that allow every student to feel seen, heard, and valued. If you have already created a contract, set aside time to revisit it at the outset of this unit to recommit to your group’s agreed-upon norms and behaviors.
- Incorporate Daily Journaling: In addition to creating and upholding the classroom contract, journaling is an instrumental tool for helping students develop their ability to process what they are learning, practice perspective-taking, and make informed judgments about what they see and hear. Providing students with time and space to reflect on complex issues and questions allows them to formulate their ideas before sharing them with their peers.
- Write Alongside Your Students: When teachers write with their students and share their writing, no matter how messy or scattered, it sends a powerful message that writing matters, writing is hard, and even teachers don’t get it right the first time. You will create a stronger community of thinkers and writers if you participate in the learning process. If you don’t do so already, consider starting your own journal and joining your students in the reflective writing process.
Differentiation is an approach to teaching and learning that involves purposeful planning and instruction that is responsive to students’ identities and needs as individual learners and members of a larger classroom community. It starts with creating a welcoming environment and includes a high-quality curriculum that everyone can access in order to engage with the targeted concepts and skills. Here are just a few differentiation strategies you might use to help make the content and concepts of this text set accessible to all of your students:
- Reading Protocols: Use teaching strategies like Think Aloud, Say Something, and Read Aloud to make visible the often invisible moves you make when engaging with different genres of texts. Then have students practice these moves in pairs before asking them to work alone.
- Modeling: Provide students with models to help them understand your expectations for annotating texts, responding to discussion questions, and completing assessments. Ensuring that all students know what quality work looks like increases student agency.
- Vocabulary Development: Create a Word Wall to help students keep track of key terms. Encourage students to sketch the terms, using a strategy like Sketch to Stretch, and to incorporate them into their conversations and writing.
- Group Work: Create purposeful groupings of students when asking them to work together. For example, you might pair English Learners with students who share their home language to work through new material before creating heterogeneous language groups for discussions. For activities where there are different options for what students read, consider the text complexity, length, and relevance of each reading when creating groups. Some students may have the schema to tackle a more challenging written text if it connects to an interest or aspect of their identity.
Inside This Text Set
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Facing History & 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.
Exploring ELA Text Selection with Julia Torres
Working for Justice, Equity and Civic Agency in Our Schools: A Conversation with Clint Smith
Centering Student Voices to Build Community and Agency