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Events That Shape Identity

Which events have had the greatest impact on your personal identity and the identity of your school and community?

Outcomes References Related Resources

Suggested Activities

Students explore the influences on identity by rating the events with the greatest impact on their personal identity and the identity of their school and community. Students explore events that shape personal and school identity before proceeding to events that impact community identity. If students are sufficiently familiar with the concept of identity, move directly to factors that shape community identity.

To review the idea of personal identity, see the activities in What Makes You, You? (Critical Challenge).

Review personal identity
Ask students to imagine one of these events:

  • your hockey team wins the tournament
  • you are voted most artistic student in the class
  • you win a new bike
  • you lose your allowance
  • your family has to move
  • your pet dies
  • your best friend moves.

Next, ask students to describe the changes—both positive and negative—to their feelings about themselves if the event happened. For example, if their hockey team won a major tournament, there might be these positive effects: improvement in their self-esteem, their perceptions of themselves as athletes, their commitment to the team and their motivation to play harder or improve their skills.

Consider the impact of five changes on personal identity
Invite students to think of several memorable or significant events in their own lives. Ask them to write a before-and-after reflection to explore the impact each event had on their personal identities; e.g., changes to their feelings, thoughts, actions, perceptions of self, coping strategies. To organize their thinking, students may wish to use a T-chart or sentence stems; e.g., "Before the event, I ... but after the event, I ..." Encourage students to identify at least five events and to record the positive and negative effects.

Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, it is important that students experience a safe and encouraging environment within which to share their personal feelings and histories.

Rate the impact of events on personal identity
Ask students to consider the degree to which each event impacted their lives and their personal identity. With the class, explore criteria for the greatest personal impact, such as:

  • moved me in a new direction
  • had long-lasting effects
  • changed how I look at myself.

You may want to use the Rating Impact chart found in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

After students have completed their ratings, organize them into groups to share the impact of their significant events.

Explore school identity
Invite students to think about their school's identity—what makes it unique, distinctive or reflects its collective spirit. If necessary, provide students with sentence stems, such as the following:

  • We're a school that prides itself on ...
  • Our school is known for ...
  • When people think of our school, they ...
  • When students talk about our school, they ...
  • Three words that best describe our school are ...

Explore how events impact school identity
Ask students to consider how these events might affect a school's identity:

  • alumnus won an Olympic gold medal
  • the school is renamed after a famous person
  • the school receives an award; e.g., environmental award, Green School project
  • students clean the school grounds; e.g., Pitch-In program
  • someone vandalizes the school; e.g., graffiti, broken windows
  • group of students bullies younger students
  • group of new students arrives at the school.

Remind students that events may have positive or negative impacts on school identity; e.g., students might feel pride, disappointment, honour, fear.

Rate the impact of events on school identity
Direct students, individually, to identify a significant school event and ask them to complete a before-and-after reflection. Develop criteria for determining the greatest impact on school's identity:

  • moved the school in a new direction
  • had long-lasting effects
  • affected a majority of the school population including students and staff.

Ask students to rate the impact of the events.

You may want to use the Rating Impact chart found in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Invite students to share their events and ratings with each other or with the class.

Introduction to community identity
Ask students to think about their community's identity—what makes it unique, distinct or contributes to its collective spirit. If necessary, provide students with sentence stems that parallel those suggested above for recognizing the school's identity.

Examine community changes
Invite students to consider how their community has changed in recent years; e.g., new big box store, new traffic light, new fast-food restaurant, major sporting/cultural event, new mayor, drought, oil discovery. Brainstorm and record these changes on a chart. Post the chart for later use.

Discuss how the community was before the changes and how it is after the changes. If necessary, point out that events affect the community in positive and negative ways. You may wish to share current or past news events, headlines, articles or photographs to illustrate significant economic and political changes.

Introduction to concepts: Political and economic events
Explain to students that many community events can be classified as economic or political events:

  • economic events deal with money—the way individuals and communities make money to pay their bills, become wealthy, take care of the community's needs
  • political events deal with how the community is run and managed—the way in which elected leaders make decisions and the kinds of decisions they make to ensure the community meets the needs of its residents; e.g., cultural, social, educational, physical, environmental.

Invite students to identify which events are primarily political events and which are primarily economic events.

Analyze impact of community events
Brainstorm the impact of the community events. Ask students to record their responses on a T-chart. In the left column, list the community change, and in the right column, use point form to indicate how each event shaped the community's identity. Consider using visual mapping tools, if available, to record the brainstorming.

Rate impact of events on community identity
After students have identified the impact of each event, invite them, in groups, to rate the impact on their community's current identity. With the class, review the criteria for judging impact on school's identity, and ask students to use similar criteria for judging impact on community's identity.

You may want to adapt the Rating Impact chart found in Rating Options (Support Material) to structure and assess this activity.

Reach consensus on the most significant event
Invite groups to share their ratings. As a class, try to reach consensus on the most significant political and economic events. Discuss how these events contribute to the community's identity.

Last updated: July 1, 2014 | (Revision History)
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