A student writes on a piece of paper with a pencil while holding a handout in their other hand.

Dual Identities

Students examine the tensions that can arise when we must navigate multiple, and sometimes conflicting, identities.


At a Glance



English — US


  • Advisory
  • Civics & Citizenship
  • English & Language Arts
  • History
  • Social Studies


  • Culture & Identity
  • Equity & Inclusion


About This Activity

Students reflect on how well they think their names reflect who they are. Then they read and discuss a poem by a young person that explores the tensions that arise as he navigates multiple aspects of his identity, including his own name, in search of a sense of belonging in the world.

Preparing to Teach

A Note to Teachers

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

In this activity, students will read a poem written by a student who is reflecting on the relationship between his name and his dual identity. While the majority of the poem is in English, some phrases are written in Spanish. As outlined in the Strategies for Addressing Racist and Dehumanizing Language in Literature, you want to avoid singling out English Learners and multilingual students to read words or phrases that are in their home language. If you read these sections yourself, you may want to acknowledge that while you may not speak the language, you will be reading with the utmost care and respect. Offer an open invitation to anyone who wishes to help with pronunciation. You may find that your multilingual students jump at the opportunity to help when you empower them with the choice to decide for themselves.

Consider the following options as you decide how you would like your group to engage with the poem:

  • If you speak Spanish, you could read the poem out loud while your students follow along on their own copies. 
  • You could ask for a volunteer to read, as long as you don’t single out any students. 
  • You could ask if anyone wants to share the reading with you, where you read the English portions and they read the Spanish ones. This approach would amplify the tension the poet feels between his competing identities. 
  • Students could read the poem to themselves and make note of comprehension issues or clarifying questions. 

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Steps for Implementation

  • Begin by having students respond to a series of questions in their journals. Read the following questions one at a time so students have time to address each one: 
    • What is your preferred name? In other words, how do you like to introduce yourself?
    • What do members of your family call you? 
    • What do your friends call you? 
    • What mistakes or assumptions do people make about your name? 
    • What are your nicknames and how do you feel about them?
  • Break students into pairs or triads for two or three minutes to share one idea they explored in their journals. Let them know that they can choose what to share and what to keep private.
  • Distribute the reading Two Names, Two Worlds so students have their own copies. Then project the poem and read it with the class (see Notes to Teacher). Ask students to reread the text and underline a line that resonates with them. Ask volunteers to share the text they chose.
  • Distribute the handout Two Names, Two Worlds Graphic Organizer and read the instructions out loud. Break students into small groups to discuss the questions on the handout. Remind them to assign roles, and let them know that the summarizer will share a key idea from their discussion with the class. Groups can also submit their handouts at the end of the lesson. 
  • When the class has reconvened, have the summarizers share one key idea from their discussion. Encourage others to build on this idea in a class discussion.

Extension Activities

Students craft their own identity poems, using Jonathan Rodríguez’s “Two Names, Two Worlds” as a model. While you will need to create the parameters for this task to suit your context, consider having students reflect on the following questions in their journals: What are some of the worlds you move between? In what ways is it easy to move between them? In what ways is it challenging? What are some of the strategies you have developed to help you overcome these challenges? Students can use ideas from their reflection to help them get started drafting their poems. They can also use the handout My Identity Poem if they need additional structure. 

Provide students with choices for how they submit their poems: typed and printed out, Flipgrid video, handwritten and illustrated, audio recording, or video. Collect students’ poems so they can watch, listen, read, learn about, and celebrate each other’s work in a future class.

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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.

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