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Imagining Our Future Selves

In this activity, students will explore the importance of the bat/bar mitzvah in the Jewish life cycle. They will examine events that are or will be important to them throughout their lives and will imagine their future selves in order to reflect on their beliefs and hopes for their lives.

Overview

Enduring Understandings

  • Imagining ourselves as adults can help us determine what is most important to us and what kind of people we want to be
  • While bat/bar mitzvah signifies the beginning of adulthood in Judaism, there are many different ways to think about what comprises adulthood and when it begins

Essential Questions

  • What is adulthood and when does it begin?
  • What is the significance of the bat/bar mitzvah milestone as a life cycle event?
  • What are the important events that mark transitions, changes, and achievements in our lives?

Materials Required

  • Dry erase/chalk board or butcher block paper
  • Writing implements (markers, chalk, pens, pencils)
  • Photocopies of the My Future Self profile worksheet
  • Craft supplies (markers, crayons, glue, etc.)
  • Tape

Notes to Teacher

The lessons included in the My Bat Mitzvah Story curriculum are intended to take much longer than an average class period, and they offer many options for extended projects. Please feel free to pick and choose what will be most practical and useful for your own classroom, and do not feel obligated to complete the lessons in full.

These lessons are intended for b’nai mitzvah students and draw on the Bat Mitzvah experience in particular. While they can certainly be completed in all-girl classrooms, teachers are encouraged to use these lessons in multi-gender classrooms as well. While the lessons are rooted in the Bat Mitzvah experience, the themes are applicable to all students in this age group.

Lesson Plan

Timeline of Our Lives

This activity will help encourage students to think about their whole lives from birth until death. It will allow students to compare similarities and differences between one another and will also put the process of becoming adults into the context of their own lives.

To prepare for this activity:

  1. Draw a long horizontal line across the board or on a large piece of paper.
    1. You may want to label the timeline with ages from birth-120 years old (the age Abraham died and therefore the traditional number used to demarcate end of life) as benchmarks.
    2. It helps to use slips of paper with tape so you can move them around as events and ideas are added/changed.
  2. Prepare by predicting some common life events (graduations, wedding, sweet 16, having grandchildren, etc.).
    1. To add some variety to your timeline, print pictures to represent these events ahead of time.
    2. Make your own list of events that are important to your community to ensure that all of the ideas are included.

Activity Plan:

  1. Students should sit where they can see the timeline you have set up.
  2. Choose one or two students to be in charge of writing or taping events on the timeline.
    1. Students can also take turns writing up their own ideas.
    2. If parents are in attendance, invite them to participate in this section, as they’ll have a different perspective on the milestones that take place over the course of one’s life.
  3. Explain that the timeline represents one’s life. Ask:
    1. What are the important events that mark transitions, changes, or achievements in our lives?
    2. You may need to begin by giving an example or two. (Birth and death are good starters).
      1. If you want to emphasize Jewish milestones, include texts about other Jewish life cycle events to deepen students’ understanding.
    3. What goals will you have for yourself?
    4. What expectations will your family have for you?
    5. What expectations will your community have for you?
  4. Call on students (or have them call on one another) to suggest important events that happen in a person’s life and mark them on the timeline.
    1. Ask questions as needed to help guide students to include religious and American cultural milestones.
    2. When ideas start to slow down, prompt students with “is there anything missing?” Feel free at this point to suggest things that may be missing.
    3. Some students may disagree about what belongs on the timeline. Emphasize that this is a collective timeline and that not everyone will do everything, but these are many of the options.
  5. Ask some questions for participants to discuss as a class or in small groups (7 mins):
    1. What things on the timeline have you already done? What things will you do?
    2. Are there events or achievements which are not on the timeline that you have done or will do?
    3. Are there events or achievements on the timeline that you don’t expect to do/have in your life?
  6. Then ask the following questions to the larger group:
    1. At what point on the timeline do you become an adult? Have the students share their ideas and see if they can decide on one time period or event as a group.
    2. Is this the same as the age of bat or bar mitzvah (12-13)? Why or why not?
    3. Why do you think the Jewish tradition recognizes people as adults at this age? Do you agree? Why or why not?
      1. What is seen as adulthood in American culture? Why do you think it is different? Do you think the age of adulthood changes based on time and place (e.g. in different historical periods or cultures)? If so, why?
    4. Do you think it’s important to mark the transition of bat/bar mitzvah? Why or why not? What does it mean to you? (Could also add a question that addresses the newness of the bat mitzvah: Do you think this is a meaningful innovation and opportunity for girls? Why or why not?)
    5. Do you feel like you have any special responsibilities now that you are becoming a bat/bar mitzvah? What are they? What rights will you have once you become a bar/bat mitzvah?
      1. What expectations will you have for yourself?
      2. What expectations will your family have for you?
      3. What expectations will your community have for you?

Note: This conversation can really benefit from disagreement because students come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Encourage students to discuss differences and emphasize that these differences are okay.

Classroom Café

This activity provides a fun and informal forum for students to talk about their goals and hopes for the future as well as their expectations for their future lives. Sharing in small groups will help set the tone and get creative juices flowing for Part 3 of this activity. 20 minutes leaves you enough time for three questions or so. If you would like your group to discuss additional questions, consider extending the time allotted for this section.

To prepare for this activity

  1. Arrange the classroom so that there are little tables or desk groups for 2-4 students, much like a restaurant or café. 
  2. Choose some questions from the list below, or generate your own, for students to discuss in small groups. Place one question on each table or desk group.
    1. What is your favorite holiday? How does your family celebrate it? How do you think you will celebrate it when you grow up?
    2. What do you think your family will be like when you grow up? Will you have kids? Pets?
    3. Does your family have any traditions? What traditions do you want to start for yourself?
    4. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? What would you do there?
    5. Imagine yourself as an old man or an old woman. What do you hope your grandchildren or great-grandchildren will admire you for?
    6. What do you want to do/be when you grow up? Why?
    7. What do you imagine the world will be like when you are 100? How will people get around? Where will kids go to school? How will people communicate?
    8. If you were making a museum of your life, what object would you put in it? What would people who visited the museum learn about you from looking at that object?
  3. You may want to have some snacks or drinks for kids to have at the tables to make it feel more like a café. If you think this will be too distracting for your students, it will be fine without treats.

Activity Plan

  1. When students come into class, have them sit in groups of three at the different tables/desks. Explain to them that at each table there are questions to help them imagine the future and what the world/their lives might be like when they grow up. Every few minutes, the facilitator will announce the beginning of a new round and each student will choose a new table at which to sit.
    1. Be very clear that there will be a time limit for each question and that each student at the table should get a chance to share.
    2. Reinforce the idea that students should try to sit with different people and at a different table each round. You may have to help facilitate this to make sure that students aren’t just staying with their close friends in the class or answering the same question over and over.
  2. Once at the tables, each group should read the question and then each person should get a chance to answer it.
    1. If your students need more guidance you can assign letters to each seat (A, B, C) so that they have an order for sharing.
    2. You can also give a reminder when it is time to let the next person talk in addition to a reminder for when it is time to transition to the next table.
  3. Allow students to rotate until they have been to all or most of the tables.

My Future Life

The My Future Life profile activity prompts students to think creatively about who they might become when they grow up. After imagining themselves as adults, students will have a conversation about how their hopes and expectations for their lives can influence the decisions they make as b’nai mitzvah.

  1. Have students complete the My Future Life profile worksheet. Encourage them to talk as they work. Because this is based on their imaginations, the sky is the limit. At the same time, reiterate that you want them to consider seriously what they might be like when they grow up.
    1. Provide materials for students to draw a self-portrait or make a collage in the provided space or another page.
  2. When all the students have completed their profiles, take a few minutes for them to share about their future selves.
    1. Ask students to share what they chose for occupation, the coolest thing they’ve ever done, and their relationship with Judaism.
    2. Ask students to share why they chose to write what they did and see if others in the class have similar reasons.
  3. Revisit the timeline from the beginning of this activity. As young adults, your students probably follow a lot of the traditions of their parents or families. Explain that as adults, in the Jewish community and in general, they will need to think about what parts of the life cycle are important to them. Here are some questions to pose to the group:
    1. Is it important to celebrate or recognize the things we have marked on this timeline? Why or why not?
    2. Are you going to observe similar traditions and holidays as your family does when you are older? Why or why not?
    3. What will you do differently than your family? What will carry on?
    4. What values or beliefs will be important to you and your family?
    5. How will you share that with your community?
    6. Do you think your values and beliefs might change over time? Why or why not?

Handouts

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Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan
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Elena Kagan is the fourth woman, and second Jewish woman, to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Imagining Our Future Selves." (Viewed on December 16, 2017) <https://jwa.org/teach/mbms/imagining-our-future-selves>.

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