Establishing one’s identity is arguably one of the most crucial things learned in 6th grade. Identity not only plays into how a child sees themselves, but it also effects how others see that individual. Students often play around with different identities. Students struggle to connect with identities that are passed on by family (what I call “non-negotiable” identities) and identities that students can choose as they grow and change. Developmentally 6th grade students are just beginning to metacognate, and are just beginning to be able to see themselves from an outside perspective, but they often lack the understanding of how to change perceptions of themselves inwardly and outwardly. True confidence is hard to come by in 6th grade, which makes group identities and trying on new identities quite common, though these are not always helpful, appropriate, or true to oneself.
I often see many shifts of identity in each student as 6th grade progresses. When they come to Grade 6 in the fall, students still for the most part seem childlike. They rely on me to tell them what to do each day, and still have an innocence to them. At the same time, many of them have been through traumatic experiences, which often manifest as mental health issues and/or academic and social issues as they enter puberty. Whether they have experienced a traumatic experience or not, 6th graders constantly struggle with making good choices and impressing their peers. I see them grapple with this in each and every decision from throwing a crumpled paper into the trash from across the room to inappropriate sexual interest and behavior.
Additionally, many of my students are first-generation Americans. Many of these students struggle with establishing themselves as American kids while trying to grapple with their home culture and the expectations that accompany that. My intention with this unit is to help my students reach an understanding of who they are through how they feel, and what they have been through so far in life. My intention is to use the existing core novel and supplemental texts provided by the district to delve into and analyze the various identities of those characters. I plan on introducing other supplemental texts that were explored in this seminar. The texts I have chosen target feelings of confusion, frustration, confidence, pride, internal and external struggle, amongst many other pre-teen and teenaged emotions. The texts both analyze and showcase these feelings and struggles with identity relating to the issues and crises my students often face.
Using multiple texts to connect with a novel and oneself are skills that require higher order thinking skills. This unit will ask students to draw connections and conclusion between their core novel, supplemental texts of varying genres, and examples from their own personal life narratives. This unit encompasses several Quarter One Requirements for the NHPS Literacy Curriculum.