Lesson Plan: The ID Project
Exploring Identity Through the Lens of Culture and Religion

Activities and Procedures

3. Class Project

Have students use the “Identity Chart” reproducible to map out their own identities. Once they have finished, they should answer the following questions either in their journals or in a group discussion:

  1. Underline or highlight the most important aspects of your identity
  2. How have words or phrases that others use to describe you shaped your identity?
  3. What aspects of your identity are most relevant when it comes to making important decisions such as how you dress, what movies or TV shows you watch, or who your friends are?

Have students repeat this activity by mapping out the identity of one of the authors from This Is Where I Need To Be. They should answer the above questions in context of the writer's oral history, using the identity chart and oral history as source material.

Wrap up this activity by having students discuss how dissecting identity made them view themselves, their classmates, and the authors of This Is Where I Need To Be differently.

4. Homework or Longer-term Assignments

  1. Ask students to use the words they generated in their “Identity Chart” to write an “I Am From” poem both for themselves as well as for an author from This Is Where I Need To Be (preferably, the author’s whose identity they have already mapped out using the “Identity Chart”). See a sample “I Am From” poem by poet George Ella Lyon and instructions for how to write it at www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html.
  2. Have students create a website or exhibit titled “Islam 101.” Their exhibit should include the following:
    1. What are the Five Pillars of Islam?
    2. Who is the main figure in Islam?
    3. What is the main language in Islam?
    4. Some moral teachings, quotes, or sayings from Islam.
    5. Who are Muslims? A pie chart showing the countries of origin of American Muslims.
    6. Photographs of Muslims in America that show dual identities.
    7. Images of American mosques.

    Engage students in a class discussion about how these factors shape the identity of an American Muslim.

  3. Have students read and discuss the following personal essays by Muslim Americans from the NPR series, “This I Believe”:
    1. “We Are Each Other’s Business” by Eboo Patel
    2. “The Right to be Fully American” by Yasir Billoo

    Ask students to write their own "This I Believe" essays about their identities.

  4. Ask students to list any seven nations that have Muslim majorities, beginning with the nation with the largest Muslim population. They should research the languages spoken there and list their neighboring nations. Then, students should investigate how religious identity can be impacted by one's culture, citing examples from the oral histories in This is Where I Need to Be as evidence.
  5. Have students read The Koran, punk rock and lots of questionsby Erika Hayasaki. This article in the November 19, 2008 issue of The Los Angeles Times takes an in-depth look at Muslim American youth’s search for identity. After students have read the article, ask them to write an essay comparing it to the oral histories in This Is Where I Need To Be. What are the common themes and issues faced by the youths featured in both works?
  6. Explain to students that they will be investigating the idea of identity and what it means in the context of African American Muslims. Provide them with the following articles from Common Ground News and divide them into small groups to discuss how identity and faith co-mingle in the African American Muslim community.
    1. "A Royal Heritage" by Sheik Anwar Muhaimin. An article about how an African Muslim used his faith and African heritage to keep from indulging in the "blame game" and instead taking responsibility for his own actions and related outcomes.
    2. “African Americans Help Diminish Islamophobia” by Faheem Shuaibe. Having faced derisive stereotyping before, the author elaborates on why he feels African American Muslims can stem the tide of Islamophobia.
    3. “African American Muslims refute the clash of civilizations” by Dawud Walid. This article chronicles the ways in which the Civil Rights Movement and African American Muslims paved the way for Muslim immigrants to America.

After they have read these articles, ask students to write a paper on ways in which the Civil Rights Movement and African American Muslims have paved the way for Muslim immigrants to America. When students have completed their assignment, reconvene as a large group to review their conclusions. To wrap up the activity, ask students to highlight the dual identities that Muslims in This Is Where I Need To Be have and how they perceive themselves.

Related resources for this lesson plan.

To Be Muslim
Boston Globe
photographer Christopher Churchill’s photo essay of Muslims from across the Boston area, with text and audio about their conversations ranging from women and independence to peace and violence to the role of religion in their lives.

Muslim in America
An intimate portrait of America’s Muslim community, also from Time magazine.

Five reasons to teach, This is Where I Need to Be.
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