Building Identity

9, 10, 11, 12

Students explore identity traits through some reflection and discussion activities. They discuss how a community is strengthened by similarities and differences among them. Each student writes a biographical poem using the provided template and their discussion notes. 

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 (below) prepared in advance
  • student copies of handouts below: Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself?; Personal Character Components Wheel; 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 the handout "Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself?" and use it to guide a family discussion about the traits of family members' 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 to name what parts of a person's life make up his or her identity. Record their responses. (examples: interests or hobbies, appearance, family, religion, character traits, personality, ethnicity, and community) 

    Discuss how community influences identity. (Imagine life in a small Alaskan town vs New York City.)

  2. Hand out the index cards and ask students to write one character trait in sentence form about themselves, something a classmate cannot tell by looking at them. (I like to be the leader; I prefer to be quiet; I would love to climb a mountain because I'm adventurous; I will work hard if I'm getting paid.) Post this list of traits for ideas.

    Collect the cards and read the cards aloud to the class. While reading all of the cards, ask students to take notes of things they have in common with their classmates.

    Distribute copies of the handout: Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself? Give students 5 minutes to fill it out about themselves (may be started now and finished at home).

  3. Students select traits from the handout and their notes from the index cards that are most important to them and write them in the wheel of the handout: Personal Character Components Wheel.

  4. Tell students to leave the wheel on their desk and walk around the room and read the other wheels, 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)
    • How can we use our diverse strengths and interests tomake our community stronger?
  5. Introduce the handout: 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.