Learning to Give, Philanthropy education resources that teach giving and civic engagement

Building Identity
Lesson 1
Academic Standards
Philanthropy Framework


Students engage in a variety of activities that enable them to explore how their identity makes them part of their community.


One 45-Minute Class Period


The learner will:

  • define the word identity.
  • identify attributes and factors that shape personal identity.
  • describe how community influences identity.
  • compare and discuss benefits of diverse interests and talents that contribute to community identity. 
  • write creatively.


community: a group of people with shared interests; a place where people with shared interests come together

responsibility: duty or obligation to satisfactorily perform or complete a task (assigned by someone, or created by one’s own promise or circumstances) that one must fulfill, and which has a consequent penalty for failure

identity: the characteristics and qualities of a person, considered collectively and regarded as essential to that person’s self-awareness

trait: a distinguishing feature, as of a person’s character
character traits: the features, such as morals and reputation that make up a person’s personality


  • chart paper, markers
  • writing paper, pencils
  • 3 x 5 index cards
  • chart paper or handout with vocabulary prepared in advance
  • student copies of Handout 1: Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself? 
  • student copies of Handout 2: Personal Character Components Wheel 
  • student copies of Handout 3: How to Write a Bio poem
Handout 1
Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself?
Handout 2
Personal Character Components Wheel
Handout 3
How to Write a Bio Poem

Instructional Procedure(s):

Anticipatory Set:

Write the word identity on chart paper and ask students what parts of a person's life make up his or her identity. Write student responses on chart paper. Some possible responses include the following: interests or hobbies, family, religion, character traits, personality, ethnicity, and community. Ask students how their specific community influences who they are. To help students understand how a community affects identity, have them picture how someone from a small town in Alaska might have a different perspective than someone from a large city on the East Coast. 

  • Explain to students that they will be exploring their identities by thinking about and listing their character traits. Hand out the index cards and ask students to write one fact about themselves, a fact a classmate cannot tell by looking at them. Collect the cards and read the cards to the class one at a time and ask the class who they think the fact belongs to. After reading all of the cards, ask students to list things they have in common with their classmates.
    Distribute copies of Handout 1: Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself? Give students 5 minutes to fill it out about themselves.
  • Then have them select the traits from the handout that are most important to them and place them in Handout 2: Personal Character Components Wheel.
  • Tell students to walk around the room and compare their wheels with others, looking for someone whose wheel is just like theirs. As they compare their identities, they learn about the diverse interests and talents that make up the classroom community. Bring the group back together and discuss.
    • Are any two people in a community exactly alike?
    • What similarities did you find? How did you feel when you found a similarity with someone that you didn't know about before?
    • What are the benefits of having diverse people in a community?
    • What identity traits are unique to our community? (e.g., loyalty to local sports team)
    • How can we use our diverse strengths and interests to make our community stronger?
  • Introduce Handout 3: How to Write a Biopoem. Tell students to write a poem, following the step-by-step instructions that describes who they are. They may refer to the first two handouts for ideas as well as the observations from the discussion.  
  • Pair students to share their bio poems. The pairs give feedback and editing help on their bio poem drafts.
  • Students write a final copy of their bio poems. (This may be completed as homework, and it may include an illustration.)

Youth Voice:

Knowing your identity helps you to better influence your community in a positive way. Understanding that people have different identities helps us to appreciate the differences that are needed in forming a successful community.

School/Home Connection:

Students take home their completed copy of Handout 1 and use it to guide a family discussion about the traits of family member’s identities. They may discuss how their family traits and interests influence how they contribute to the community in which they live.

Cross-Curriculum Extensions:

  • Art/Writing: Have students create a caricature in their own likeness, using their bio poems and character traits to write about their identity. For example, “I am very emotional and my caricature cries rivers of tears. These tears flow into the dirty rivers and streams with fresh water." Or "I talk a lot, and my breath is like a cleansing wind.” Students name their caricature with a super hero, video game or cartoon name. 

Reflection: (click to view)


Handout 1Print Handout 1

Who Are You? How Do You Identify Yourself?

Handout 2Print Handout 2

Personal Character Components Wheel

Handout 3Print Handout 3

How to Write a Bio Poem

Think about the past few years in your life, or think about your entire life. Come up with some ideas for your draft bio poem. When you have a bio poem that represents you, edit and finalize it so that you have something written for every line. Try to keep each to one line only.

For lines 1 through 10 of the bio poem, follow the steps below. Each step should be one
line in the poem.
[line 1] Write your first name
[line 2] List three or four adjectives that describe you
[line 3] Write some important relationships you have in your life (e.g., daughter of . . . ,
friend of . . . )
[line 4] List two or three things, people, or ideas that you love
[line 5] List three feelings you have experienced
[line 6] List three fears you have experienced
[line 7] Write down some of your accomplishments (e.g., who won . . . who performed . . .
who learned . . .)
[line 8] Write two or three things you want to see happen or want to experience
[line 9] List the town or area (borough) of your residence
[line 10] Write your last name

Philanthropy Framework:

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