Lesson 2 of 23
Two 50-minute class periods

Exploring Where I'm From

From the Unit:

Essential Questions

What can J. B. Priestley’s An Inspector Calls teach us about the impact of our individual and collective decisions and actions on others?

Guiding Questions

  • What makes us who we are? 
  • Which parts of our identities do we choose for ourselves? Which parts of our identities are determined by other people or by society?
  • To what degree are we all a product of our environment?

Learning Objectives

  • Students will read and analyse a poem in order to identify social and cultural factors that help shape our identities.
  • Students will identify social and cultural factors that help shape their identities by creating their own personal identity charts and writing poems that reflect their identities.


In An Inspector Calls, playwright J. B. Priestley explores our interdependence and interconnectedness as human beings, highlighting how our behaviour can have consequences that reach far beyond our own lives. To prepare students to read the play, it, therefore, makes sense that they first reflect on the relationship between the individual and society, and how that relationship is both influenced by and influences our identity: Societal institutions, our experiences within them, and other people’s perceptions of who we are directly impact our identity, while at the same time our experiences and our identity directly impact our behaviour and how we relate to those in the world around us. Gaining an understanding of the complex relationship between the individual and society will help prepare students for in-depth analysis of the characters and setting of the play, and for thoughtful exploration of the play’s themes of social responsibility, inequality, growth, justice, and power. 

This lesson uses a poem to introduce the concept of identity. Students will read a poem by Melanie Poonai, winner of Foyle Young Poets of the Year 2007, entitled ‘Where I’m From’ and consider the many different factors that make up who she is, both those factors that are influenced by external forces and those that she chooses herself. Students will then have the opportunity to develop their own understanding of identity and its multifaceted nature further through the creation of personal identity charts and poems.

Alignment with the GCSE Specifications

  • Analysis (Lit-AO2)
  • Clear and Coherent Writing (Lang-AO5)
  • Creative Writing (Lang-AO5)
  • Knowledge of Subject Terminology (Lit-AO2, Lang-AO2)
  • Reading Comprehension (Lit-AO1)

Students develop their understanding of and ability to analyse literary devices by thinking about how and why they are used in Poonai’s poem, and through writing their own poems. The act of writing a poem strengthens students’ ability to analyse poetry: in becoming a poet and crafting language, they are better placed to understand another’s linguistic choices as they have had to consider their own. Giving students an opportunity to personally connect with the content also boosts engagement: students share information that only they know and thus become the experts. The use of discussion and writing throughout gives students the opportunity to verbalise their thoughts and practise turning them into coherent sentences, which will help them across their English GCSEs.

Learn more about this unit's Alignment with GCSE Specification.

Notes to Teacher

  1. Using Identity Charts as a Teaching Strategy

    Identity charts are a graphic tool that can help students consider the many factors that shape the identities of both individuals and communities. In this lesson, students will use identity charts to analyse the ways they define themselves and the labels that others use to describe them. Sharing their own identity charts with peers can help students build relationships and break down stereotypes. In this way, identity charts can be used as an effective classroom community-building tool. When using them as a teaching strategy, however, it is important to communicate to students that they do not need to show their charts to their peers. Rather, they can choose which factors of their identity they want to share and which they want to keep private. See this sample identity chart and consider making your own to model the activity for your students. 

  2. Sharing and Processing Ideas

    Giving students the opportunity to discuss and share their ideas is useful as it helps them view the text from a range of perspectives, generate ideas and clarify their thinking. This sharing can be done in various formats ranging from whole-class discussion to small-group discussion. The benefits of using smaller, paired conversation strategies, rather than whole-group discussions, is that they encourage students to engage directly with and learn from one another, and allow for each student to share and be heard. This more intimate setting means that students may feel more comfortable to take risks and share ideas that they may not be comfortable to share in a larger group. 

  3. Classroom-ready PowerPoint Slides

    Each lesson in this scheme of work includes a PowerPoint of student-facing slides. The PowerPoints are intended to be used alongside, and not instead of, the lesson plans because the latter include important rationales and context that teachers should familiarise themselves with before teaching each lesson. The PowerPoints include basic content and student-facing 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.

Exploring Where I'm From

Exploring Where I'm From

This PowerPoint for Lesson 2 of the Teaching Inspector Calls unit comes complete with student-facing slides and teaching notes, and is ready to use in the classroom.




Part I

  1. Reflect on Identity
    • Explain to students that they will be thinking about what factors make up their identities and reading a poem about identity.
    • Project the following questions and have students choose one or more to explore in a journal reflection:
      • How much of who you are is determined at your birth? 
      • How much of your identity do you decide? 
      • What aspects of your identity, if any, are determined by others?
    • Give students an opportunity to share any ideas that they feel comfortable sharing in small groups or using the Think, Pair, Share strategy.
    • Explain to students that a range of different factors influence our identities. Then as a class, brainstorm these various factors, writing the suggestions on the board. Ask students to record this list in their books to refer to when they are making their own identity charts. If necessary, choose from the following factors to generate ideas:
      • Religious/spiritual affiliation
      • Culture, race, or ethnicity
      • Appearance/style
      • Language or nationality
      • Hobbies/interests
      • Gender
      • Sexual orientation
      • Beliefs and values
      • Group/organisation/community membership
      • Personality traits
      • Place
      • Socio-economic class
      • Work
  2. Read 'Where I'm From'
    • Pass out and read aloud ‘Where I’m From’. Try reading it a few different ways. Perhaps you read it out loud the first time so that students get a sense of the rhythm of the poem. Then, using popcorn or wraparound, which are explained in the Read Aloud teaching strategy, have students read the poem out loud sentence by sentence and/or line by line.
    • After reading the poem, ask the students to choose 1–3 lines that resonate with them for one of the following reasons and to explore this in writing in their journals:
      • Because of something about who I am (What in particular?)
      • Because it reflects human nature or how people are in the world (What human characteristics or ways of being in the world?)
      • Because of how the poet expressed the idea (What did the poet do that stood out to you? How did it make you feel?)1
    • Give students an opportunity to share any ideas that they feel comfortable sharing in groups or using the Think, Pair, Share strategy.
    • Next, divide the students into small groups and project the following questions for them to discuss. If necessary, before the discussion refresh your students’ knowledge of literary devices by having them complete the Literary Devices Definition Match handout.
      • List five things that we learn about Melanie Poonai and her family in the poem. 
      • What do you think Poonai means when she uses the phrase ‘a life filled with colour’? What might this phrase suggest about who she is and her experiences?
      • Where in the poem does Poonai use anaphora? What is the effect of this repetition?  
      • What features of her identity has Poonai chosen for herself? Which ones have been determined by others or external factors?
      • Why do you think Poonai wrote the poem? What message does she want to send?
    • As a class, complete an identity chart for Melanie Poonai on the board using ideas from the poem. 
    • If time allows, ask students to select the line or device that they think is the most powerful in the poem (this could be the most emotionally powerful or the one that sends the clearest message). Give students the chance to share their lines in a wraparound.

Part II

  1. Think about Your Individual Identity
    • Explain to students that they will be continuing their reflection on identity and will have the opportunity to write their own poem in the same style as Melanie Poonai.
    • To help them to generate ideas for their poems, project the following 3-2-1 prompt for students to complete independently in their journals:
      • 3 adjectives to describe your family
      • 2 similes to describe your home and/or cultural heritage
      • 1 metaphor to describe how you do or don’t view yourself
    • Explain to students that they will now be completing their own identity charts in their books (or using the Starburst Identity Chart handout). Encourage them to think about both the way they view themselves (signalling this with arrows pointing away from their name) and how others might view them (signalling this with arrows pointing towards their name).
    • To help them complete their chart, they can use their previous journal entry, the identity factors they brainstormed on the board in Part I of the lesson, and the ideas from Melanie Poonai’s poem ‘Where I’m From’ . You can also project the sample identity chart or create your own on the board. Completing your own version is an effective way to model risk-taking and can help students feel more comfortable about sharing their identity charts with their classmates.  
    • After students have spent at least three minutes completing their identity charts, encourage them to share the elements of their identity charts that they feel comfortable sharing with a partner. They do not need to show their partners their charts; they can keep it hidden and talk about it. One student should share their chart for two minutes, whilst the other student actively listens, and then they should switch around.
  2. Write an Identity Poem
    • Tell students that for the next activity, they will be working individually to create their own identity poems in the ‘Where I’m From’ style. 
    • Pass out the handout Where I’m From Brainstorm, and ask students to complete it independently, giving them seven minutes to do so. Explain that the goal of this brainstorming exercise is to generate ideas for writing their poems.
    • Then have students share their brainstorms with another student. Encourage students to pose questions that will help their partners generate new ideas to add to their brainstorm handout.
    • Explain to students that they will now have time to begin drafting their identity poems using the same structure as Poonai (give them ten to fifteen minutes). Encourage them to use a range of literary devices, using both Poonai’s poem and the Literary Devices Definition Match handout to help them. Alternatively, you can give students a list of specific devices to use, writing them on the board as success criteria. 
    • If students do not have time to complete their poems in class, you may ask them to complete them at home.
  3. Reflect on Identity Poems
    • Next, give students the chance to Think, Pair, Share in response to the following questions before leading a short class discussion:
      • What has reading and writing poems taught you about your own identity?
      • Which parts of your identity do you choose for yourself?
      • Which parts are chosen by society? 
      • To what degree are we all a product of our environment?


  • 1 : David Perkins, Future Wise: Educating Our Children for a Changing World (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2014), 126.


  1. Consider Poetic Craft
    • Ask students to think about Poonai’s poetic craft by selecting three striking images from the poem and drawing them in their exercise books, writing the line below each image and mindmapping the meanings, connotations and messages. You may wish to model how to do this by starting your own mindmap on the board first and doing a ‘think aloud’ to explain the rationale behind your choices.
  2. Provide an Opportunity for Students to Share an Important Truth
    • Explain to students that you are interested in understanding more about their identities and how they have been misunderstood in the past, so you can help them reach their academic and personal goals for the class and in school. You can either project the sentences below on the board and have students journal their response or give students a piece of paper on which to write their response and then hand it in at the end of the exercise.
    • Before students complete the task, share your own response to the two sentence starters:
      • One misunderstanding people might have about me/my family is. . .
      • But in reality, the truth about me/us is. . .

Homework Suggestion

If students have not finished writing their poems, you may wish to ask them to finish it for homework.


Democracy & Civic Engagement

Get Prepared to Teach this Scheme of Work in Your Classroom

Prepare yourself to teach this unit by reading about our pedagogy, teaching strategies, and the unit's content.

Lesson 1 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Building a Classroom Community

Students work together to create a contract with the aim of developing a reflective classroom community, which is conducive to learning and sharing.

Lesson 2 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Where I'm From

Students prepare for reading the play by considering the relationship between the individual and society, and by reflecting on identity. After discussing a poem about identity, they write their own.

Lesson 3 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Exploring Social Inequality

Students explore social inequality in the UK, discussing how an individual’s background can impact their opportunities before examining graphs that display social inequality and employment trends.

Lesson 4 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Priestley's World and the World of the Play

Students learn about important events that occurred during Priestley’s lifetime, completing a human timeline to understand their chronology, and are introduced to the concepts of socialism and capitalism.

Lesson 5 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Treatment of Edwardian Women

Students examine various resources, including excerpts from Emmeline Pankhurt’s ‘Freedom or Death’ speech, to gain an understanding of how women were treated and expected to behave in Edwardian society.

Lesson 6 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Entering the World of the Play

Students begin reading the play, having applied what they have learnt about Priestley and the relevant sociohistorical context to make predictions about its content.

Lesson 7 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Class

Students explore class, status, etiquette and hierarchy to deepen their knowledge of the social expectations and values which guide the world in which the characters live.

Lesson 8 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Developing Character Inferences

Students are introduced to the concept of inferencing; they draw inferences from the opening scene of the play, and consider what messages Priestley sends through the language, character and setting.

Lesson 9 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mr Birling

Students study the character of Mr Birling, critically assessing Priestley’s presentation of him, before using the character to reflect on how identity can influence people's views and behaviour.

Lesson 10 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

The Cost of Labour

Students explore the moral codes of the world of the play, before being introduced to the concept of a universe of obligation and participating in a debate on workers’ rights.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to Parliament

Students write a persuasive letter to Parliament concerning the gig economy, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model letter.

Lesson 11 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Sheila

Students use the character of Sheila to further understand the interplay between identity and choices, before going on to analyse Priestley’s presentation of Sheila in Act One.

Lesson 12 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Act One Review

Students consider the lessons we can learn from Act One of the play, before adopting the perspectives of characters in both drama tasks and written tasks.

Lesson 13 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Differing Perspectives and Conflict

Students begin Act Two of the play, reflecting on the differences in perception emerging between the characters and considering how conflict can arise from such differences.

Lesson 14 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analysing Gerald’s Character

Students develop their understanding of the character Gerald, exploring the differences between his treatment of Eva/Daisy and Sheila, whilst reflecting on Edwardian gender expectations.

Lesson 15 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Understanding Mrs Birling

Students consider what factors impacted Mrs Birling’s treatment of Eva Smith, and create a universe of obligation graphic representation for her character.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: A Character Paragraph

Students write an analytical paragraph on character having generated claims, selected evidence and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 16 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Eric's Decisions and Consent

Students consider the role power plays in the interactions between characters, focusing on the relationship between Eric and Eva, before discussing consent.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Speech about Consent

Students write a persuasive speech for sixth-form students on the importance of consent, having reviewed persuasive devices, generated claims and content, and read a model paragraph.

Lesson 17 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Inspecting Inspector Goole

Students create an identity chart for Inspector Goole, analyse his parting words, and look for clues to uncover who or what Inspector Goole is.

Lesson 18 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Social Systems and Individual Agency

Students identify the parts, people, and interactions of various social systems, thinking about what bearing they have on character choices and behaviour, before considering responses to injustice.

Lesson 19 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Putting the Characters on Trial

Students finish reading the play and participate in a court trial to decide which character is the most responsible for the death of Eva Smith.

Lesson 20 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Bearing Witness to Eva Smith

Students reflect on Priestley’s portrayal of Eva Smith and consider the symbolism of having a character who only appears in the narrative second-hand.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Analytical Writing: The GCSE Character Essay

Students write an essay on character having generated claims, selected and annotated evidence, and read a model essay.

Lesson 21 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

What Lessons Can We Learn?

Students address the essential question of the unit in a people's assembly, reflecting on the lessons that we can learn from An Inspector Calls.

GCSE Supplement
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Persuasive Writing: A Letter to a Newspaper for a Caring Community

Students write a persuasive letter to a local newspaper, which outlines the importance of considering the needs of others and suggests ways to create a more caring community.

Lesson 22 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Recurring Themes in the Play

Students prepare to write an essay on theme by identifying and analysing the themes explored in the play.

Lesson 23 of 23
Democracy & Civic Engagement

Theatre as a Call to Action

Students consider theatre as a call to action, discussing its power and limitations to spark real social change, before plotting their own play inspired by An Inspector Calls.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with Ofsted Requirements

Read about how this unit assists teachers and schools in fulfilling a range of statutory and non-statutory requirements as outlined in the 2019 Ofsted inspection handbook.

Democracy & Civic Engagement

Alignment with the GCSE Specification

Read about how this unit is aligned with Ofqual’s subject aims and learning outcomes for both the English Literature and English Language GCSEs.

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