In the next several lessons, students will focus on the concept of identity. Write the word identity on the board and ask for volunteers to share their thoughts on what it means. Or
you can share this definition with students: Identity is the answer to the question, “Who am I?” The fact students wrote on their index cards in the warm-up activity represents one part of students’ answer to this question.
Next, read “My Name,” a chapter from Sandra Cisneros’s book The House on Mango Street. In this excerpt a young girl, Esperanza, reflects on her name. In the process she reveals information about her identity—how she perceives herself, what she values, where her family is from, and so on. Ask student volunteers to read a paragraph of this excerpt to the class. As the text is read aloud, students can underline any words or phrases that give them information about how Esperanza would answer the question, “Who am I?”
In small groups, have students create an identity chart for Esperanza. The diagram on the next page is an example of an identity chart. Students can begin with the words orphrases they underlined in the passage that represent how Esperanza defines her identity.
You can also provide groups with some questions to guide them:
- Who is in Esperanza’s family?
- Where is her family from?
- What languages does she speak?
- What does she hope for her future?
- What does she think about her name? What does this reveal about her personality?
Alternatively, you can create Esperanza’s identity chart as a whole class activity.
Curriculum connection: Students can create identity charts for historical figures as well as for civilizations and nation-states. For example, have students create identity charts for Athens and Sparta or for Montezuma or Siddhartha.
The purpose of reading “My Name” is to help students think about the various factors that shape our identities. However, the text also introduces other interesting themes such as the concepts of stereotypes and prejudice. Later in this unit, students will have the opportunity to address questions such as, “How do we perceive and judge others?” and “How does it feel to be labeled?” For now, you can frame questions about the way Esperanza describes Mexicans, Chinese, and women in terms of what this says about her own beliefs and experiences.