A symbol is something that is itself and yet stands for or suggests or means something else; as the letters a p p l e form a word that stands for a particular objective reality; or as a flag is a piece of colored cloth that stands for a nation.
A T-Chart is a type of graphic organizer in which a student lists and examines two facets of a topic, like the pros and cons associated with it, its advantages and disadvantages, facts vs. opinions, etc.
Identity Symbol Chart
An identity symbol chart is used to help a student think about labels and symbols they use to define themselves and others.
College Admissions Essay
A college admissions essay is an essay written as part of the college admittance process. It is a personal statement; it often provides a wonderful opportunity to share your thoughts with the admission committee and lets them see another side of you.
I. Sequence of Activities (Instructional Strategies)
Students will participate in an activity entitled “Step into the Circle.”
Students will form a large circle.
The teacher will read a series of statements and instruct all students for whom the statement (i.e. “You are wearing sneakers”) is true to step into a circle.
Instruct students to take note of who is in the circle, and who is not, and then return to the outer circle.
The purpose of this activity is to see where students share common ground, as well as uniqueness in their identity and experience.
The following are suggested statements:
1. You are wearing blue today.
2. You ate breakfast this morning.
3. It took you longer than a half hour to get to school today.
4. English is your first language.
5. You have at least one sibling.
6. You have mixed ancestry.
7. You practice a religion other than Christianity.
8. You have a MySpace or Facebook page.
9. You have traveled outside of the United States.
10. You are a member of a sports team.
The teacher should call the first few statements to set the tone, and then, of appropriate, students can create their own statements. Typically students should be instructed to call statements that they identify with themselves, rather than solely to “out” other students. Suggested topics for additional statements: entertainment preferences, extracurricular activities, familial or geographic diversity, skills, experiences, etc.
B. Instructional activities
(demonstrations, lectures, examples, hands-on experiences, role play, active learning experience, art, music, modeling, discussion, reading, listening, viewing, etc.)
After students have completed the activity, lead a brief discussion by asking students some or all of the following discussion questions:
What did you notice about yourself during the activity?
What did you notice about other people during the activity?
Did you learn anything new about this group?
How did it feel to participate in an activity like this?
Do you think this activity is representative of our school? Why or why not?
Do you think diversity is valued at our school? Why or why not?
What does it mean to be an individual within the context of a larger community?
C. Guided activity or strategy
As a class, read and discuss the article “The Poncho Bearer” (http://www.nytimes.com/learning/teachers/featured_articles/20070108monday.html), focusing on the following questions: (Handout # 1 – “The Poncho Bearer”) (Handout # 2 – Questions to accompany “The Poncho Bearer)
1. Who is Sam to the author?
2. Why is the wearing of the poncho significant?
3. What does the author assert is an intense “pressure” point in high school?
4. What three types of kids did Sam perceive to exist in his fifth-grade class?
5. Some people worried that wearing the poncho would result in Sam not being taken seriously. Do you agree with this concern? Why or why not?
6. Does anyone at your school do something individualistic like Sam wearing his poncho? If so, what do you think of this person and what he or she does? If not, why do you think that might be?
7. The article implies that Sam is not Mexican. What do you think of his choice to wear a “Mexican poncho” to school every Friday?
8. Sam penned a Haiku poem about wearing his poncho. What do you think the poem means? How would you interpret it?
9. Do you agree with the author that “defining yourself is the central questions of adolescence”? Why or why not?
10. If Sam went to your school, would you want to have the poncho passed on to you? Why or why not?
Explain to the students that, by expanding on the warm-up activity and the article, “The Poncho Bearer,” they will begin to think about their identity by creating a word web. They will write their name, and then add adjectives, nouns, verbs or adverbs that describe who they are.
After they have completed the word web, students will create a T-chart of their own personal strengths and weaknesses. They should include at least three for each side. (A T-chart is simple the letter T, drawn with “strengths” written at the top of one column, and “weaknesses” in the other column.
After they have worked on developing their strengths and weaknesses, they should begin thinking about who they are and what symbolizes their identity. Do they have a particular object or symbol that they identify with (i.e. the poncho)? Of so, what is it and how does it reflect them? If not, they should come up with one that reflects who they are. Have students sketch the object or symbol and then post the sketches around the room.
Explain to students that they are going to be crafting a college essay for homework based on their personal object or symbol. Have each student briefly explain to the class why they have chosen their symbol, and provide time before the end of class for students to discuss further the issues of identity and adolescence: How well do you think your school encourages you to be yourselves? How well does the larger society honor and encourage you to be yourself? Why do you hold that perspective?
Students should be given guidelines for creating a 500-word college essay based on the Common Application, which allows students a topic of their choice as part of the admission process (http://commonapp.org/#).
Guidelines might include (Handout # 3 – Guidelines for 500-word College Essay)
1. The topic is what is unique about yourself, based on your object or symbol. How might you turn this into a question to guide your essay?
2. What might your main point or thesis be for the essay?
3. How might you use your word web and T-chart to develop ideas for your essay?
4. How might you craft an outline for the progression of your essay?
5. How will you structure your essay? Chronologically?
6. What type of opening paragraph will you create? Will you lead with a quote or anecdote?
7. Have you thought about your paragraphs and topic sentences? If so how will they work to transition your thoughts?
8. How will you provide support for your statements? Will you use examples from your life experience?
9. How will you conclude your essay? Will you refer back to the opening paragraph, or will you reiterate a general theme from the essay?
Individually, students craft 500-word college admissions essay about themselves and their unique identities.
E. Enrichment II. STUDENT PERFORMANCE
The teacher should have individual handouts of the following:
Handout # 1 – “The Poncho Bearer”
Handout # 2 – Questions to accompany “The Poncho Bearer
Handout # 3 – Guidelines for 500-word College Essay)
Handout # 4 – Rubric for grading College Admissions Essay
Materials to create and hang sketches of symbols of identity (colored pencils, paper, markers, tape, etc.)
Students requiring accommodations/modifications should have access to the Learning Lab as well as extended time.
Students requiring enrichment may choose from the following activities:
Using all available materials, create a collage of photos, magazine ads, or other materials about what it means to have a contemporary adolescent American identity.
Craft a poem in any style you choose entitled and themed, “What It Means to Be Me.”
Create an illustrated life map, which uses a timeline of key moments of your life from birth to me. Examples include moving, new siblings, changing schools, religious celebrations, monumental family occasions, etc. Your map should be illustrated, using words, sentences, or symbols. It can be linear and chronological or open-ended.
Students will be evaluated based on participation in the initial activity, reading and discussing “The Poncho Bearer,” active participation in activities and discussions, and a well-crafted college admission essay.
B. Rubrics/grading criteria
See Handout # 4 – Rubric for grading College Admission Essay
Students requiring accommodations/modifications may use the Learning Lab and/or have extended time.
Students requiring enrichment may present their extension activities to the class and/or receive extra credit.
Sample discussion questions
What does it mean to identify yourself in relation to others?
What are some of the benefits of being in school with people who are different from you?
What are some of the benefits of being in school with people who are similar to you?
What other symbols of identity are you familiar with?
IV. TAKS Preparation
A. Transition to TAKS context
In the TAKS ELA test, students are asked to write a two page essay. The two page essay is comprised of an introduction, a descriptive narrative story, and a conclusion. Sample TAKS ELA essay prompts that have been used in past tests are:
Sample TAKS questions (See Handout # 5 – Prompts of the Past)
(reteaching, cross-curricular support, technology activities, next lesson in sequence, etc.)
A. Review of skills
Sample word webs, T-charts, and graphic organizers are included with this lesson plan.
B. Next lesson in sequence
The next lesson in sequence might include the presentation of enrichment activities.
The film “Mean Girls” (2004), based on the book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” by Rosalind Wiseman, depicts cliques in high school and stresses the importance of identity. The class might watch the film and then write a review of the film or book comparing it to the social structure in your school.
viii. Teacher Notes
This focus plan is based on the following website: