Who Are You? What Shapes Your Identity?

Throughout the school year I love to post what we are unpacking in our classes here at Oak Bay High School.  Being a full-time English teacher (this year my timetable consists of English 12, English 11 and Creative Writing) I am actually living in the inquiry pool that I outline in Dive into Inquiry.  We are following the processes outlined in the book and using structures such as the Four Pillars of Inquiry, the Inquiry Process, and the Free Inquiry Proposal that are in Dive into Inquiry.

Our current unit of study, a structured inquiry unit, focuses on the essential questions Who are you?  What shapes your identity?  

In rolling out this essential question I presented students with a number of provocations to get their wonderings and understandings out publicly and to help drive my instruction and their shape role in the unit.

I first shared with them the below slide to set the shape of our unit.  I outlined that we will be looking at identity in many contexts and understandings to help deepen and enrich each of our perspectives on the factors that shape who we are.  We’ll be grappling with many readings, resources, images and art, as well as speakers and other multimedia provocations.  Each of these will at times challenge our perspective, reaffirm our beliefs, and perhaps steer us in a new direction and understanding.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.08.42 AM

We then spent time in small groups of 3 (the magic number of optimal collaboration) contributing our ideas on what actually shapes our identity to a digital pin-board using Answer Garden.  We discussed ideas around each perspective and students spoke to their opinions and prior knowledge.  Have a look at the images below!

I then shared the below provocations in order to see what they noticed, what they wondered and what they knew about each.  This was a great activity as it solidified how we, as a community of learners, will have our voice heard in the course and that this will guide my instruction and their role in their learning.


We settled on the below image and followed the same notice, wonder, know process.  The conversation was powerful.  We discussed the why behind the before and after of each pairing, the factors that students knew contributed to this change, and highlighted some big ideas and conceptual understandings that will be the backbone of our unit.  Beyond identity words that surfaced included assimilation, discrimination, segregation, racism and residential school.

Screen Shot 2017-09-13 at 9.09.29 AM

As you can see the provocations slowly, step by step, began to narrow our focus on one lens on identity: aboriginal people.  We will now spend a few weeks deepening our understanding on this aspect of identity.  Students have a few novels to select from: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Three Day Road, or Indian Horse.  We are also looking at the life and death of Chanie Wenjack as well as a few other pieces that I’m certain will resonate with students.

We will then shift our focus on identity to other lenses such as gender and identity, politics and identity, and art and identity.  In this structured unit we are not tied to a single text or resource.  Rather we are connected to an overarching essential question and interact with a broad range of readings and artifacts that deepen our understanding of the essential question.

I’ll keep you all posted as this structured unit unfolds.  Feel free to leave a comment for my learners (or me!) below.


One thought on “Who Are You? What Shapes Your Identity?

  1. I ❤️ This inquiry focus Trevor. I might add the Wab Kinews book The Reason You Walk and Thomas King: The Inconvenient Indian to your excellent list!

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