Who am I? Identity Portfolio


The theme for 8th grade is simply:  identity.  Students explore identity through forgiveness and justice, immigration, and making a difference.  Each novel, poem, short story, and writing piece is carefully chosen with identity in mind.  The assignments were designed to make them question who they are and what they stand for.  This year, I had my students create an identity portfolio from all of their writing pieces.  Why?  Because later in life they will be able to look back and reflect on who they were in 8th grade…because sometimes we forget…

The following pieces were included in their identity portfolios:

  • Bio Poem:  A fun reflection in prose.
  • Forgiveness Personal Narrative:  After reading The Sunflower by Simon Weisenthal, students question their ability to forgive.  They reflect on a time when they had to forgive someone or someone had to forgive them in a personal narrative.
  • I’m From Poem:  This poem is based on George Ella Lyon’s piece.  Students create their own poems, a collective poem, and a digital story based on it found here.
  • What’s Your Story?:  A creative writing project in which students designed a 3 dimensional object reflecting all of their heritages along with a story of how it came to be.
  • This I Believe:  A personal belief statement essay in 350-500 words.  Click here to view the entire project.
  • Six Words:  Students were challenged to create a story in six words using a visual and words.
  • Make a Difference Project Personal Reflective Paper:  A reflection piece about their year long project.
  • One Thing Photo Essay:  In a photo essay, students were asked to be photographed with the one thing they value most.
  • Bucket List: Students created a list of 50 things they would like to accomplish before their time is up.
  • Memory Letter:  Students wrote a heart felt letter to someone that is important to them with specific memories tied to it.
  • Graduation Speech:  Each student wrote a graduation speech to reflect on their years at Montgomery.

Students had the option of presenting their portfolio any way that they wanted in order to reflect their own personal identity and personalities.  I had scrapbooks, boxes, handmade books, binders, suitcases, and even an entire bookshelf of work created and written over the past three years with me.  These projects overwhelmed me.  When you see all that a student has accomplished within a year, how they have progressed, and what they have discovered about themselves is a humbling experience.  Many tears were shed as I flipped through each page.  I thought I knew these kids, but I learned something new about each and every student. This was the first year that I did this portfolio project, and I honestly think it is one of the most important things that they have done for me all year.  I hope that they will dig into their closets years from now and discover who they were in 2010, what their hopes and dreams for the future were, and are reminded of that amazing time in life when they asked themselves on a daily basis:  Who am I?

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38 thoughts on “Who am I? Identity Portfolio

  1. Pingback: A fabulous blog | techno6

  2. Holly A

    This work is amazing. These types of projects are exactly what are kids need to motivate themselves to learn. I would love to see how you lay this out throughout the year–would you be willing to share?

    I teach 6th grade but I can see this being very adaptable to all middle school grades.

    Great Work

  3. Jennifer

    I found your site at the end of this past school year and have been searching it all summer. I will be teaching 8th grade writing this year and love this idea. I usually have my 8th graders complete a time capsule of sorts but it doesn’t even begin to compare to this project. I would like to center my entire year around the theme of identity and this unit. Is there any other information you could provide me with that would help in my planning process? I also want to have my 7th graders complete your biography project.

    1. mrspal1 Post author

      Hi Jennifer.
      Thanks for your interest in my projects! I’d be happy to email you a few things to help get you started! I think you’ll find that the theme of identity is ideal to use with 8th graders. They are really beginning to question who they are and what their purpose in life is at 13. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll be able to get out of them when you focus on identity. Best of luck with the upcoming school year and new focus!

      1. kristenk

        Hi Megan,
        I am a grade 7 ELA teacher and am doing a unit with my students on Identity. I think that an identity portfolio is a perfect way to capture this. Could you send me some stuff as well.

          1. mrsghys

            Hello, I’m a new 8th grade teacher and my first unit is on identity. I stumbled across your page and would love to learn more about your ideas and lessons posted here.


      2. saldina

        Hey this sounds like an awesome idea. I would really like to give this try with my students. Could you send me the materials as well?


  4. Jennifer

    Thanks for offering your information. Can you also send information on the biography project? I haven’t noticed an email yet and am wondering if I need to give it to you as a post? If so it is jbennett0925@gmail.com If you sent something, it has been lost in my spam or I deleted it by accident. Again, thank you in advance. I am so excited to do both projects with my students.

    P.S. I recommended your advisory website to our new school counselor yesterday becuase I was so impressed with it, and our character ed program really needs some improvement.

    1. mrspal1 Post author

      Hey Jennifer.
      I shared both my folders via google docs…let me know if you got them.

      I’m so glad that you shared my advisory blog! I think more and more schools are ditching advisory programs because they don’t know what to do with them.

      Let me know if you need anything else. You can email me directly at meganpalevich@gmail.com

  5. Kelly Shoup-Hill

    This is a terrific idea. At Goshen Middle School we do a multi-genre project which is very similar but the idea of students finding/exploring their identity makes the project much more appealing. I am going to pass on your website to all the English teachers at my school.


  6. justgreene

    I just came across your site and found your Who Am I project to be exactly what I am looking for. I teach 6th grade LA and am working on themes of identity with my students. I was hoping you could share the groundwork for this project with me. Here is my email: jgreene@psd202.org

    I would also love to see the biography project as well. That is one of our required units in 6th grade and I love how you incorporated all the writing styles.

    I look forward to seeing what else you come up with. This is a great site and I plan to share with my colleagues.

  7. Heather Hollands

    Hi Megan,
    I teach 10th grade English in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. I stumbled across your students’ Three Words to the World videos on your wiki. I showed my students, and they LOVED them, and cannot wait to get started on their own. If you have any lesson plans/handouts that you would be interested in sharing with us, I would so greatly appreciate it. No need to reinvent the wheel when you obviously have done a great job with this! Please tell your students how much we enjoyed their work. Thanks so much!
    Heather Hollands, hholland@gwinn.k12.mi.us

    1. mrspal1 Post author

      Hi Heather.
      I had gotten the idea from ABC here: http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Your3Words/ Basically, the kids discussed what three words they would say to the world if they only had three. They drafted their sentences, then decided how they were going to present the three words in a creative way. From then, we decided as a class how we would sequence them and filmed them with a flip cam. I used the flip cam editing software to put all of the videos together and set it to music. It only took 2 class periods and the kids loved it! Thanks for your interest!
      :o) Megan

  8. Pingback: Identity portfolios « Differentiation Daily

  9. jordanjh

    Hi Megan! I am teaching 8th grade Humanities and my framework questions are Who Am I and Who am I as an American? I would love any ideas (from anyone!) on novels, short stories, poems to use to complement an American History (through the Civil War) curriculum that could also relate to identity! THANKS!

  10. kristenk

    Hello again Megan,
    I am going to start a Bucket List project with my grade 7’s. I am curious how you got your students to start thinking about their hopes and dreams. I find this to be a hard concept with middle schoolers. Any advice??

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  12. mpd72

    Hi Megan,
    I am also a 7th grade ELA teacher and I love your idea. We have changed our curriculum this year and identity is one of the themes. Could you please send me more information on this project?

  13. cooksclass16

    Hi Megan,
    I am going to be a first year teacher this fall. I will have 6th grade Pre-AP Reading, Pre-AP English, and Pre-AP Social Studies. The whole identity project and all of its components are exactly the kind of things I would like to implement! I had already stumbled upon the This i Believe idea awhile back, but I love how you have tied everything together. Would you mind sharing any of your folders with me? Do you think 6th graders will be ready to delve into such a topic or would you recommend any changes to the curriculum theme?

    I look forward to hearing from you!
    -Riley (rileylynn@gmail.com)

  14. kbice88

    Hi Megan!

    I am so excited that I found your blog. You have such amazing ideas, and the best thing is that they are shaped just the way I would shape my own 8th grade ideas.

    This will be my second year of teaching and I had already planned on having the students create a multigenre paper that defines themselves, but I was having a hard time figuring out how to go about it. Would you be willing to share any materials on this wonderful “Who Am I? Portfolio” with me? I would be forever grateful!

    – Kate (kate.bice.88@gmail.com)

  15. msjennaharris

    Hi! I am a brand new teacher in my second week of teaching 7th and 8th grade writing in the Mississippi Delta. I LOVE this idea and would love to incorporate it into my class’ narrative unit we’re working on. Could you please send me any materials? My email is jlharris08@msn.com. I already implemented some of the things I found in another post you have with the video narratives, and we’re going to try those out, too. Thank you so much 🙂


  16. spower74

    Hi Megan! This is such a wonderful project and it is exactly what I have been looking for. Your ideas are incredibly creative and motivating. I teach grade 8 and I would love to try this project with my students. Would you be willing to share anything you think would be helpful? Thanks!!!!

  17. kweenbee

    Hi Megan! Well, just like the previous posts, I would love if you could send me whatever you would be willing to share. This project is a gem and is exactly what I needed for my own grade 8 class. I loaded “The Sunflower” onto my kobo this afternoon. I would appreciate any of the resources you have for this project.
    Thanks much,

  18. msgaule

    Hi Megan! I would absolutely love any of your resources on your identity unit and portfolio. I’m starting a similar unit with my 8th graders right now and am drawn to doing a project like this. Thanks!

  19. mrsw308

    Hi! As most of the previous posters have said, this is AMAZING! I am just in love with the idea. If you have any resources that you’ve sent to previous posters, I would be so grateful if you sent them to me too. My email is katiewilson@anderson5.net. I am planning to do the identity portfolio with my 8th graders over the course of next year, but I have also pitched the idea of the Make a Difference project to my administration and fellow teachers. It is so inspiring to see that there are other teachers out there doing this kind of thing…caring about the students personal growth beyond test scores.
    Thank you!
    Katie Wilson

  20. laurenehead

    I have been meaning to ask if you would kindly send me any files for this identity project? I teach middle school Language Arts and Social Studies and would like to use this as a year long project. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  21. maribethw

    Hi Megan! I LOVE what you’ve done with this! I am an ESL Teacher and am working on putting together an Identity unit for my high school kids. I would love to see your resources as well, if you are willing to share!!

  22. cnewland

    Hi Megan,
    I have loved your ideas and am incorporating some and am excited about it. Wondered if you had anything organized and easy to share for your Identity Project. Thanks so much!

  23. fbs6

    I echo what others have asked as well. If you’d send me resources regarding this, and your Living Memoirs project my 6th grade teaching partner and I would greatly appreciate it.

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