Introducing Identity with an Identity Bag

6th graders are beginning a long journey into using stories as mirrors and windows , a concept that is invaluable to know (you can learn more about it here, or by researching the work of Rudine Sims-Bishop) but so tricky to teach. Sixth grade English teacher Mr. Passmore and I decided to start at the very first step by looking at identity. If you don’t understand what makes you who you are, how can you see pieces of yourself reflected in what you read or recognize differences between yourself and your character?

7CF5A640-81A8-4054-9A33-34C3357A42B7We felt that we needed to take some time to talk about reflections, and the many pieces of identity that can’t be seen from the outside, or are more like an iceberg with only a small portion above the surface. We modeled an Identity Bag activity to get readers thinking more deeply. This Identity Bag contains 6 items that represent parts of my identity that I feel are important to who I am as a person, but that you might not know just from looking at me. It was so hard to choose just 6 items, and looking at it now, this only represents such a tiny piece of me!

As a relatively private teacher, it was also a challenge for me to bring some of these pieces of myself to school. But I will not ask my students to do something that I don’t feel comfortable doing myself. So we’ll consider identity together, beginning with this first step. I can’t wait to learn from them as the year goes on.

How do you talk to your readers about identity? Do you discuss stories as windows and mirrors in your library or classroom?

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