Building Identity

9, 10, 11, 12

Students engage in a variety of activities that enable them to explore how their identity makes them part of their community.

Lesson Rating 
PrintOne 45-Minute Class Period

The learner will:

  • define the word identity.
  • identify attributes and factors that shape personal identity.
  • describe how community influences identity.
  • compare and discuss benefits of diverse interests and talents that contribute to community identity.
  • write creatively.
  • chart paper, markers
  • writing paper, pencils
  • 3x 5 index cards
  • chart paper or handout with vocabulary prepared in advance
  • student copies of Handout 1: Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself?
  • student copies of Handout 2: Personal Character Components Wheel
  • student copies of Handout 3: How to Write a Bio poem

community: a group of people with shared interests; a place where people with shared interests come together

responsibility: duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete a task (assigned by someone, or created by one’s own promise or circumstances) that one must fulfill, and which has a consequent penalty for failure

identity: the characteristics and qualities of a person, considered collectively and regarded as essential to that person’s self-awareness

trait: a distinguishing feature, as of a person’s character
character traits: the features, such as morals and reputation that make up a person’s personality
Home Connection 

Students take home their completed copy of Handout 1 and use it to guide a family discussion about the traits of family member’s identities. They may discuss how their family traits and interests influence how they contribute to the community in which they live.


Hand out blank paper and have students respond in writing to the questions:

  • What were you most surprised about in your observations of other students' wheels?
  • What were you least surprised about?
  • How does your identity make you a part of your community?


  1. Anticipatory Set:

    Write the word identity on chart paper and ask students what parts of a person's life make up his or her identity. Write student responses on chart paper. Some possible responses include the following: interests or hobbies, family, religion, character traits, personality, ethnicity, and community. Ask students how their specific community influences who they are. To help students understand how a community affects identity, have them picture how someone from a small town in Alaska might have a different perspective than someone from a large city on the East Coast.

  2. Explain to students that they will be exploring their identities by thinking about and listing their character traits. Hand out the index cards and ask students to write one fact about themselves, a fact a classmate cannot tell by looking at them. Collect the cards and read the cards to the class one at a time and ask the class who they think the fact belongs to. After reading all of the cards, ask students to list things they have in common with their classmates. Distribute copies of Handout 1: Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself? Give students 5 minutes to fill it out about themselves.

  3. Then have them select the traits from the handout that are most important to them and place them in Handout 2: Personal Character Components Wheel.

  4. Tell students to walk around the room and compare their wheels with others, looking for someone whose wheel is just like theirs. As they compare their identities, they learn about the diverse interests and talents that make up the classroom community. Bring the group back together and discuss.

    • Are any two people in a community exactly alike?
    • What similarities did you find? How did you feel when you found a similarity with someone that you didn't know about before?
    • What are the benefits of having diverse people in a community?
    • What identity traits are unique to our community? (e.g., loyalty to local sports team)
    • Howcan we use our diverse strengths and interests tomake our community stronger?
  5. Introduce Handout 3: How to Write a Biopoem. Tell students to write a poem, following the step-by-step instructions that describes who they are. They may refer to the first two handouts for ideas as well as the observations from the discussion.

  6. Pair students to share their bio poems. The pairs give feedback and editing help on their bio poem drafts.

  7. Students write a final copy of their bio poems. (This may be completed as homework, and it may include an illustration.)

Philanthropy Framework

  1. Strand PHIL.II Philanthropy and Civil Society
    1. Standard PCS 01. Self, citizenship, and society
      1. Benchmark HS.4 Describe and give examples of characteristics of someone who helps others.
  2. Strand PHIL.III Philanthropy and the Individual
    1. Standard PI 01. Reasons for Individual Philanthropy
      1. Benchmark HS.1 Define and give examples of motivations for giving and serving.