Fourth graders spent time learning about themselves and others for an assignment called “Identity Stories” with Ms. Jess Williams. Exploring each other’s similarities and differences is an important part of Graland’s culture of acceptance and inclusivity as students learn to value diverse perspectives. This project was only the start of a much longer journey of identity, self-expression, and acceptance.
Students spent the first two weeks of school learning about identity. They brainstormed an identity web and decided what aspects of identity were important to them. After watching and listening to a variety of stories focusing on different aspects of identity, they chose their own identity topic. Students worked together to help explore their stories and then created a presentation to share with their classmates.
“Identity stories help us realize something about ourselves that we can share with everyone else,” explained Ben Asarch. After giving a presentation about his diabetes, Ben found out a classmate’s father also has the illness, allowing him to connect in a new way to one of his peers.
“As I planned this lesson, I assumed students would stick to top line identity aspects like personality or a favorite hobby,” shared Ms. Williams. “However, as my students presented, I was impressed to see them push their connection to their own identity to include topics like divorce, culture, family traditions, and how being the middle child effects personality.”
Using a slideshow presentation, Bryn Stewart told of how she discovered her love for swimming this summer after her family traveled to various water destinations. “My mom calls me her ‘water baby’ now,” said Bryn.
Francesca Noguera and Shaina Partilla paired up to interview each other about family traditions; their class learned that one is being raised in a strong Latin culture and the other celebrates both Jewish and Christian holidays.
Other students provided a recorded presentation or a “small moment story” such as Jack Tankersley’s snapshot of his three favorite sports. After each student’s turn, the class could ask questions or share a way they connected with the story. Through the assignment, fourth graders practiced skills such as self-reflection, risk-taking, interviewing, and thought organization.
“Identity is such an important topic, regardless of age,” Ms. Williams said. “I want my fourth graders to not only be proud of their individuality, culture, and uniqueness but to also celebrate what is important to their classmates. I started the year with this project because it is a great way to help the students get to know each other as we work to build our classroom community. It also provides each of them an opportunity to reflect on who they are as they begin to discover themselves as individuals and learners.”
Graland Country Day School is a private school in Denver, Colorado, serving students in preschool, kindergarten, elementary, and middle school. Founded in Denver in 1924, Graland incorporates a rich, experiential learning approach in a traditional classroom setting, emphasizing the development of globally and socially conscious leaders who excel academically.