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Identity: Sense of Self/Sense of Place


  • Project TitleIdentity: Sense of Self/Sense of Place
  • Themeidentity, sense of place, envisioning the future, community improvement, politics & government
  • Submitted ByMelissa Quirk
  • OrganizationDrury High School
  • Brief DescriptionDiscovering a sense of identity, starting with self, then expanding to include community, students then research and become empowered in having an impact on the future of their city.
    Attached is the complete UbD (Understanding by Design) backward planning chart with more detail on the overall plan/design for this unit.

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/IDENTITY_UbD_Template.doc

  • Materials / ResourcesDocumentation on local history, local historians, public library (particularly archival section), local arts organizations, local community organizations, poems and videos on identity, laptops and projector
  • Team membersMelissa Quirk (English teacher), Anne French (Service Learning Coordinator), mayor, city council members, students, local historians, public librarian
  • Pre-requisite knowledgeknowledge of field trip procedure, available funds, professional development in service learning, contacts with community members, access to service learning coordinator/support, knowledge of PowerPoint, Word, use of projectors, awareness of local arts and community contacts, knowledge of working with local media/writing press releases, awareness of school/district policy on publicity,
  • Technical support neededInternet searches available, digital projector for teacher and student presentations
  • Any modifications or extensions for particular student populations?Resources and specifics of assignment may vary depending upon culture of community and that community`s history; however, every town/city has a story. Utilizing area historical (museums, historians, etc.), research (public libraries, college libraries in area, census documents, etc.), and human resources (local entrepreneurs, politicians, community leaders, artists, officials, etc.)will help teacher and students uncover/discover identity of community/society and connect to sense of identity of self.

Key Questions

  • Key QuestionsWho am I?
    Where does identity come from?
    How does environment shape our identity?
    What identities, if any, are permanent and which do we have the power to change?
    What roles do neighborhood and community play in shaping who we become?
    How do individuals influence the identity of their society?
    Who is
  • Connections: How or why was this topic identified? Why is it meaningful?Among other things, ninth grade English students need to learn to read informative texts, write research papers, listen to a speaker to learn information, collaborate, and present to an audience. This project connects them personally to their community, while remaining focused on the skills identified by MA common core standards.
  • Background Research: What resources were used to find background information for this project?Local librarian, online research into community organizations, local political leaders including the mayor‘s office, district service learning coordinator, MA common core skills list, web research on identity artwork (songs, videos, poems, etc.), contacting local press including local broadcast (tv) station
  • Outcomes: What was the outcome? How was it shared or applied in the community?Students created individual research papers. In addition, students opted to either work independently or in pairs/groups to create a proposal and a presentation of their proposal for a "better North Adams." All students presented to class, and class elected three to present to city council. This was televised on local television station.

Units / Activities

  • Sense of Self (1-10 days)1. Big Picture/Silent Conversation
    2. Personal Inventory (online)
    3. Identity Box with artist statement
    For detailed list of materials/ resources, see UbD attachment under "Brief Description" on "1 Basics." SAMPLE STUDENT "I AM FROM" poems - see weblink

    Web Link:

    Web Link:

  • Sense of Family (1-3 days)Interviewing Family Members; creating a family tree; "How many generations ago did your family come to North Adams?"
  • Whole Class Research: History of a CityGuest Speakers: historians - overview of historical points of interest, general history of city, etc. In our case, one historian highlighted the child workers in a local mill 100 years ago. The mill is now home to an art gallery which was hosting an exhibit about the children of the mill, so we had a field trip there.
    LESSON: How to conduct interviews
    LESSON: Recording sources
    LESSON: Creating a works cited page (do this as you go - it`s easier!)
  • Individual Research: Learning about My CityStudents select area of interest (a location such as the library, the old movie theatre, the "haunted" mansion, etc.), a topic (such as the arts, the economy, etc.), or geography (such as the river, the tunnel, etc.
    LESSON: reliable research on Internet
    LESSON: PRIMARY VS. SECONDARY resources: Trip to library to view archival (must wear the gloves!) documents.
    LESSON: Putting it together - writing a research paper
    SUBMIT: draft of research paper
    SUBMIT: Once draft is corrected and returned by teacher, student submits a final, revised & edited draft.
    Landmark Citation Machine (see weblink)

    Web Link:

  • Proposal for a Better North AdamsLESSON: What is "branding"?
    ASSIGNMENT: Create a logo and slogan for a better North Adams
    ASSIGNMENT: What would make North Adams better, based on what you learned? Create a proposal (using visual aids, your slogan, and your logo) to convince the city council that your idea should be adopted.
    EVALUATE: Class creates rubric for PRESENTATION (what makes a presentation "professional" looking? interesting and effective? influential?) and for PROPOSAL (what makes a proposal viable? interesting? worth the money, time & resources?)
    LESSON: Presentation skills
    PRESENT: Present proposals to class ("once for nothing" - just practice - not graded); get feedback from classmates.
    ELEVATOR SPEECH: Students write elevator speeches to summarize their proposals. (These are compiled into a brochure that is handed out to all city council members and mayor.)
    PRESENT: Present to class, graded based on rubric.
    ELECT: Class maintains scoresheet on presentations using rubric
    Rubrics by students Scoresheet used by students Elevator Speech Assignment Elevator Speech brochure (this was created by a student volunteer) SAMPLE STUDENT PROPOSALS (see attached)

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/Proposal Rubric.docx

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/Presentation Eval Grids.docx

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/PRESENTATION RUBRIC.docx

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/TYPE 3 elevator speech.docx

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/Brochure For Presentations-1.docx

Instructional Techniques

  • BIG PICTURE/SILENT CONVERSATIONQuestions posted on poster-sized paper on walls. (What creates identity? Do we have control over our identity? etc.) Students SILENTLY walk around room and write their comments on posters. They may comment on question, or respond to others` comments. After everyone has had a chance to write his/her comments, volunteers stand at each poster and share back with class.
  • GUEST SPEAKERSHistorians and experts on the area are helpful in getting/keeping students` attention
  •  /project316_0003/Mill Children Exhibit 045.JPG
  • COLLINS TYPE WRITINGFirst draft of research paper focuses on three specific "Focus Correction Areas" so students direct their energy.
  • PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICEStudents having a "once for nothing" practice of their presentation helped ease tensions around this aspect of the project.
  • STUDENT CHOICEStudents chose their topic/area of focus. They also chose whether to work independently or as a pair/group for the proposal for future of the city.
  • JOURNALSUse of journals for responding before discussing was helpful.
  • POETRYStudents wrote poems as well as research papers. The "I Am From" poems from mill workers` perspectives gave students opportunity to demonstrate factual learning in a more creative manner.
    Some students volunteered to share their poems orally at the "Children of the Mill" gallery opening (see photos attached)
  •  /project316_0003/Mill Children Exhibit 024.JPG
  • INTEGRATING ARTWORKStudents viewed artists` interpretation of local history on their visit to the Eclipse Mill for the Children of the Mill exhibit. They also had the opportunity to artistically express their identity through their identity boxes.
  •  /project316_0003/IDENTITY BOXES 2011 020.JPG/project316_0003/IDENTITY BOXES 2011 013.JPG/project316_0003/Mill Children Exhibit 062.JPG

Assessment Techniques

  • Formative Assessmentsjournal entries, class discussion, "I Am From" poems, notes on research, and quizzes on research skills taught served as formative assessment along the way
  • Summative Assessments: Research PaperResearch Paper (see student sample)
    that includes Works cited page, at least four resources, and properly cited information in a well-organized informative paper.

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/Emma research paper.docx

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/emma works cited.docx

  • Summative Assessments: Presentation of ProposalStudents present proposal to class second time for a grade based on rubrics they created as a class.

    View/Download File: /project316_0003/Emma proposal.ppt.pptx

Tags = community | government | history | interdiciplinary | self | service-learning | research | writing | Subject = ELA, History, Arts, Technology, Service_Learning | Grade Level = HS | Time Period = School Year | Program/Funding = 355 |
Direct website link to this project: