Lesson 1: Who Are You?

Grade Level



History, Social Studies, Humanities, Language Arts


During this lesson, students will:

  • examine notions of individual identity and the intersecting categories that shape identity;
  • understand connections between broad historical events and individuals/groups who respond to, and further influence, historical events.

Estimated Time Required

Two class sessions for discussion and activities.



Prior to viewing clips from THE JEWISH AMERICANS, Night One, ask students to reflect on who they are. Acknowledge they are teens living in the United States, but in addition, explain that their identities draw from multiple categories. These connect to a range of attachments, including, but not limited to, ethnicity, religious affiliation, local and regional associations. Direct students to write a journal entry in which they create a short essay about how they see themselves.

Video Activity

« Watch this video clip

Launch a discussion about the “tug of war between being American and being a Jew.”  Broaden the conversation to include all members of the class, their backgrounds, and the pulls they experience. The discussion will become “the tug of war between being American and being a ______.”

Direct students to return to their journal entries about their views on their identities. Share a few of the essays with the rest of the class. Following the sharing and discussion, assign a second journal entry in which students reflect upon what they have learned through viewing and discussion and use that information to expand upon their initial self-definition.

Extension Activities

« Watch this video clip

Part A.  Ask students if their families possess similar photographs that reflect achievement or document a passage into another status. Invite students to bring copies of these photos to class. (Emphasize that students should not bring in valuable original photographs.)

Part B.  Broaden the conversation to a discussion about material goods. In the video segment, families bought new “American” clothes to announce their new status. What items might be selected today?

Part C.  Deborah Dash Moore and Tony Kushner comment about pulls between one’s homeland and the United States. Kushner’s comment, in particular, allows for a consideration of what “home” means. Create a conversation about the process of transforming a place into a home. What are its central components?