This lesson is part of the unit Identity & Community: An Introduction to 6th Grade Social Studies.
Typically, a study of world history focuses on the identities of groups—cultures, communities, and civilizations—more than on the identities of particular individuals. Yet the same factors that influence the identities of individuals influence the identities of groups. Communities are influenced by physical attributes such as geography just as they are influenced by experiences such as war, plentiful harvests, or natural disasters. Communities are also shaped by the way they are defined by other groups. Thus the focus on individual identity in the first half of this unit provides a solid foundation for students’ exploration of communities in the rest of the unit (as well as throughout a world history course).
In this lesson, students begin to explore the concept of community by describing their class as a collection of people with unique identities. The activities in the lesson help students see the common characteristics that make them a group as well as the distinct qualities they each bring to their classroom community. As students study cultures throughout world history, remind them that although the individuals in these societies share a common identity, they (i.e., all Greeks or all Chinese) were not the same—just as the members of their class maintain distinct characteristics while being part of a class and larger school community. Balancing the desire to organize people into categories with the recognition that we are all unique individuals is an important skill that keeps people from relying on stereotypes.
During this lesson, students will tour an “exhibit” about the people in their classroom, called “Who am I? Who are we?” Use the first few minutes of class to have students help mount this exhibit. Ask students to post their bio-poems next to their masks in designated areas around the room. You may also want to give students a piece of paper and tape so they can add titles to their portions of the exhibit.
Students tour the room in order to view all of the masks and read all of the poems. Facing History teachers often refer to this activity as a gallery walk. To guide students as they view their classmates’ work and to hold them accountable for using the gallery walk time productively, we suggest providing students with a note-taking template such as the “Who am I? Who are we?” handout.
Curriculum connection: Gallery walks can be an effective teaching strategy to use throughout your course to help students gather details from a variety of sources. You can create your own exhibit for students to tour in order to learn specific information. Or, as in this lesson, you can have students create pieces that become part of an exhibit about a particular culture or time period.
Now that students have learned about the identities of their classmates, ask them to consider the identity of their class as a group. Have students respond to the prompt, “What words and phrases describe your world history class?” Then, have groups of students work together to create an identity chart for their world history class. Remind students to consider the same factors they used to define their own identities (e.g., physical characteristics, experiences, and interests) when defining the identity of their class.
As the final activity of this lesson, ask students to respond to the following questions in their journals: Do you think this class is a group? Why or why not? Do you think this class is a community? Why or why not? What is the difference between a group and a community? Their answers to these questions will prepare them for Lesson 6.
Students can finish their journal entries for homework. As an extension of this lesson, you could ask students to begin to make an identity chart of their school. What do they know about it? What don’t they know? To learn more about their school, each student could interview someone for homework. Students could interview other students, teachers, the librarian, school secretaries, custodians, administrators, or other staff. Students might also learn about their school by looking at their school’s website. In the next lesson, students can share the results of their interviews and use all of the information they’ve gathered to create an identity chart for the school.