Lesson 1: What is Identity?

Understanding Identity and Identity Formation



  • Students will explore the concept of identity.
  • Students will introduce themselves to their peers.
  • Students will recognize similarities and differences between themselves and their classmates.



  • Colored construction paper
  • Markers



Explain to the class the purpose of the lesson with the objectives above.


Write the word “identity” on the board. Ask the students, “What is identity?” or “What is your definition of identity?” Have students brainstorm definitions.


Note for Teacher: Dictionaries have defined identity as “the collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognized or known,” or as “the set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.”


Engage the students in a class discussion about the definition of identity by encouraging students to think about their own identity. In addition, ask students to think about their self-identities in relation to external factors that may be affecting their self-identities and how they can deal with these external factors in a healthy and productive manner.


Following the discussion on identity, students will explore their own identity through the creation of an identity map:

  • Ask students to select a colored paper that represents them.
  • Ask students to write their name in the center of the paper. If students have an ethnic name and are able to write them in their heritage language, encourage them to do so.
  • Ask students to draw lines out from their name and write aspects or parts of their identity, such as age, gender, birthplace, birth order, spoken languages, groups they belong to, family roles, religion, beliefs, values, hobbies, etc.


After completing their identity maps, students will participate in the “Stand Ups” activity as a way to acknowledge others’ identity as well as to express and take pride in their own identity.

  • Ask students to stand up if he/she falls into a category (such as teenager, daughter, middle child, speak two or more languages, artist, student, male, etc.) while others seated clap and celebrate those standing.
  • After a few rounds, ask, “Is there anyone who did not stand up yet?” Encourage students who did not stand up yet to discuss aspects of their identity and how they are similar or different from others.
  • After everyone has had an opportunity to stand, ask, “How does it feel to be… (insert a category, such as ‘How does it feel to be an only child?’ ‘How does it feel to be bilingual?’).


By the end of this lesson, students should see how beliefs, characteristics and conditions can affect how the individual identifies himself/herself and how others perceive him/her. Students should also come to understand that one’s identity is not simply self-constructed, but is also shaped or imposed upon by others, including families, friends, classmates, society and other social influences.



Ask students to share aspects of their identity or their identity map with their friends and/or family members. Encourage students to add 3-4 additional characteristics (how their friends and/or family members see them). Ask parents and/or family to answer the following two questions:

  1. What is the meaning of the student’s first and last name?
  2. Why did the parents/family select the name?


Students will use this information to write their name poem in the next lesson. There are two options to use according to your students’ level.


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