Social Identity - Finding Connections

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SWBAT expand their knowledge of the concept of Identity and thus be better prepared to access the arguments in the texts we are reading in this unit by reflecting on personal experiences and how these may have shaped their own identity.

Big Idea

Finding common ground highlights the significance of concepts like Identity.

Lesson Overview

In the previous lesson, students created an identity chart for themselves where they identified labels and categories they assign themselves as well as labels and categories society assigns them. Certain aspects of their chart revealed that they still wonder how exactly aspects of our identity affect our lives. Because of this struggle, students resorted to descriptions of their personality. Many also ended up with lengthy lists, suggesting they were not able to zero in on those categories that are the most meaningful in their lives and that play a role in their lives.   

In this lesson, students will have an opportunity to reflect on aspects of identity that affect our lives in meaningful ways. 

Introduce Lesson

8 minutes

In preparation for this lesson, I have written the following categories with accompanying examples on half sheets of letter-sized paper and taped them on the wall forming a large circle.

  • Theoretical/Political Affiliation: Democrat, Republican, Marxist, Environmentalist, Feminist
  • Personality Trait: shy, loud, funny
  • Gender: male, female
  • Religion: Christian, Catholic, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic
  • Class: upper class, middle class, working class
  • Race: Latino, African American, Asian, White
  • Age: teenager, adult, elderly
  • Relationships: mother, daughter/son, sister/brother, friend, boyfriend/girlfriend
  • Talent or Activity You Devote Time to: skater, musician, writer, gamer

I direct students' attention to this wall and explain that these are some of the common categories people use when describing their identity. I briefly read each one aloud, along with the examples and make sure that students understand what these mean. The one that needs more explaining is the "theoretical/political affiliation" category. For this I use the examples listed to explain that people identify with a particular group based on a set of shared beliefs and that these often take a central role in their lives. For the rest of the categories, the examples do a good job of illustrating the category.

I tell students that they are to think of a personal experience where they know one of these categories played a role and that they will write it on a small sheet of paper I provide for them. I give each student a quarter piece of an 81/2" by 11" sheet. They need examples to understand what I mean. My examples are listed here, but you should provide your own. Students are very attentive as they enjoy learning about my experiences. In addition to writing their experience, I ask them to identify the category(s) from the wall that played a role and to list them as bullet points. I give them the option of writing their name on the paper. Most of my students chose to not write their name on it.


1.I am one of six daughters. During high school, my father rarely allowed my sisters and I to leave the house unless it was to school or to church. He was extremely conservative, religious, and sexist and believed that women had no business leaving the house freely. 

      • gender
      • religion

2. Because I am light skinned, and an adult female with a decent-looking car, I am less likely to be pulled over by the police.

      • race
      • age
      • gender
      • class

I write these two experiences on a quarter piece of paper and tape the first one somewhere in between the paper with the label "Gender" and the paper with the label "Religion" on the wall. I do the same with the other paper, but this time I estimate a point on the wall where all four categories might meet. The point I am trying to visually illustrate is that we often see more than one of these categories interacting and playing a role in our lives. Students understood this idea well. This is what the wall looks like once the student experiences are included.


Write Your Experience and Find Common Ground

20 minutes

After I distribute the pieces of paper, I give students at least 5 minutes of quiet time to think of an experience, write a brief summary of it on the paper as well as a bulleted list of the categories that played a role and to tape it on the wall. Some students say that they cannot think of an experience. I ask these students to think of something they have observed and share that instead. Very few students do this. They are all able to think of a personal experience.

Once everyone has taped their paper to the wall, I give students time to go up to the wall and read all the experiences shared by their classmates. I ask them to look for any experience they can relate to and to write their name on that paper. In this manner, I am helping students understand the point that these are categories that affect the lives of many people, which is why we find that these are often used when people define their identity.

Revisit Your Identity Chart and Reflect on This Activity

15 minutes

After this activity, I want students to reflect on their their own identity and how they define it.  I ask students to revisit their identity chart, which was created in the previous lesson and take the time to add or delete categories.

I give students time to reflect on this activity in writing. I ask them to write about the following three on the back of their identity chart.

  • Write about your observations of the group. Specifically, notice trends using what was posted on the wall as a visual representation of these trends.
  • Write about the experiences you relate to.
  • Write about what you have learned about identity.



5 minutes

I close by holding a short class discussion where students share what they wrote in their reflections. I point out that not every single one of the categories on the wall make it into people’s definition of their identity, only the most significant ones, and that individual people determine which ones these are. In this video, I discuss some of the common experiences. You can also see the visual representation we ended up creating of these categories intersecting and how often they play a role in people's lives.