Living the Legacy


Exploring My Identity

Unit 1 , Lesson 1

Jewish Women's Archive - Living the Legacy

Exploring My Identity

Lesson plan:
  1. Defining My Identity

    1. Hand out one colored index card to each student. Ask your students:
      • If I were to ask you right now "Who are you?" what are the first five things that would come into your head? "I am a…." Write these five things down on your index card.
      (If you plan to do Unit 1, Lesson 2, have students write their names on the back of the cards so you can collect them and then hand them out again. The "Five things" activity was developed by the Contemporary Jewish Museum in 2005 for the exhibition The Jewish Identity Project,
    2. Explain to your students: Today we’ll be talking about identity, a term that’s often thrown around without much exploration. The exercise we just did on the index cards is meant to help us think more concretely about the concept of identity by naming some aspects of our own lives by which we define ourselves. The five things we each listed on our cards represent facets of our identities and should help us understand that our identities are complex and change over time and in different contexts.
    3. Have each student find someone else in the class with which they share at least one thing in common from their list. Give each pair a piece of white paper and have the students draw a Venn diagram of their identity lists showing in what ways their identities are similar (overlap) and in what ways they are different. Once the diagrams are drawn have your students discuss whether there are things from the other person's list that they would have added to their list if they could have written down more than five things? Write these items next to the Venn diagram.
    4. Have your students come back together as a class and ask a few of the groups to share their Venn diagrams. Ask your class:
      • What about the similarities and/or differences we found in each other's identities surprised you?
      • Think to yourself: what things came to mind that you chose not to include in your list or Venn diagram?
      If your students are keeping journals, this is a good time for them to do some writing to reflect on the index card activity.
    5. Ask your students to return to their index card and think about which things they would remove or add if they were filling it out in a different setting: at their school; while doing their favorite activity or hobby; while in their own neighborhood; at synagogue; at camp.
    6. When all of your students have had a chance to write down their new identity list, ask the following questions:
      • What things remained the same when you revised your list?
      • What did you delete or add when you revised your list?
      • If your lists are different, why do you think this is?
      • How do you think a setting/group of people might change the way you think about your identity?
      • How do you think a setting/group of people might change the way you choose to present your identity? (i.e. are there times that you would choose to wear or not wear a piece of jewelry with a Jewish star? What other examples can you think of with other aspects of your identity?)
      • What assumptions do people make about you – accurately or inaccurately? What parts of your identity do most people "see" from looking at or speaking with you?
      • Which parts of your identity are only "visible" if you choose to express them?
      • What do you think this means about our identities?
    7. Remind students to consider again:
      • What did you think of, but choose not to say aloud?
    8. If you are teaching Unit 1, Lesson 2, collect your students' index cards and Venn Diagrams and keep them to be used for the beginning of that lesson.
  2. Document Study

    1. Hand out the Document Study you chose for your class.
    2. As a class, discuss the first set of questions that precede the chosen article or portrait. (Discuss these questions before reading any of the text. The discussion will be based on the title of the article or on visual analysis of the photograph.) You may want to list your students' assumptions about this individual on a chalk board, white board, or chart paper at the front of the class so that they can be referred to later in this activity.
    3. Have a couple of students read aloud the text (article or transcript) featured in the Document Study.
    4. As a class, discuss the second set of questions (which follow the article or transcript). Try to draw out from the discussion the following main themes: how the person feels about his/her identity, are any parts of his/her identity in conflict and why, to what degree does s/he have a choice about his/her identity, and do other people see him/her the way s/he sees herself. Give your students as many opportunities as possible to also reflect on their own experiences related to identity.
  3. Conclusion

    Reiterate to your students some of the following ideas:

    • Just because we are all Jews doesn't mean we are all identical or all value the same things.
    • Like all of you and [name of the person whose document you studied], Jewish people have always had and will continue to have complex identities.
    • Some parts of Jews' identities have been chosen, and some parts of their identities have been imposed by others. (You may want to give some examples here taken from individuals your class has already studied during the year.)
    • Whether chosen by them or given by others, these identities have affected how Jews—and all people—have seen themselves and how they've acted in the world around them.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Living the Legacy - Lesson: Exploring My Identity." (Viewed on April 21, 2014) <>.