Identity Essay Assignment

Read a short extract. “I was born in the Sothern California. My parents decided to move to New York when I achieved the age of 10 as they believed it offers better opportunities for young people like me. I still miss my native land – it is like living in 2 different countries because the customs & traditions of these parts of the United States vary greatly.”

It is a cultural identity essay example. Did you get what it stands for?

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Cultural Identity Essay: The Role of This Assignment

How would you characterize a cultural identity essay? It is a typical academic essay made of 5 paragraphs; unlike general papers, this one should relate to the topics associated with the origins of the writer. It is a great chance for all international students who made their long way to the United States or the United Kingdom from China, India, German, Egypt, and other countries where English is not an official language. Such students can express their feelings and emotions in a nostalgic composition about their land.

The main purpose of the essay about cultural identity is to share a sense of identification with the particular nation. Describing the most vivid traditions and episodes from history will help. It looks like a narrow, restricted assignment, but students can choose out of a great range of paper titles:

  • Anthropology
  • Religion
  • Demographics
  • Language
  • Nationality & ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Social status
  • Economic factors
  • Local political regime
  • Education
  • Etc.

A person can write about everything related to his motherland. The main point is to present the information based on both primary sources (facts & statistics) and personal judgments of the writer. A teacher will appreciate the usage of any literature. Use it to describe the native land of the student (novels, short stories, poems, etc.) A student can dig deeper into the history of his native land and recall the lines from the best ancient authors’ masterpieces. A student from Iran can identify his native land as Persia. He might get extra points from the teacher by mentioning the most distinguished poets of Persia (Omar Khayyam, Rudaki, Asad Gorgani) in the essay about cultural identity. Insert the quotations of these authors to depict the spirit of Persia.

If a student gets stuck at the beginning, it means he faced a writers’s block.

Cultural Essay: Things to Talk about While Writing

A cultural identity essay has no particular differences from a typical reflection paper. To succeed, a student should mix a reflection essay with a history research paper. Do not focus on the particular historical episodes like wars or certain ruler’s reign – explain what makes this land stand out from the rest of the world. It would be the 1st part of the project.

Another part of the essay on cultural identity must describe the author’s personal feelings & emotions. That is why a writer can use a 1st person. It is possible to compose a paper in the 3rd person like a separate short story. The same with the primary sources: a student may involve the quotes of other authors, facts, statistics, and examples from books if he wants to highlight the topic from different aspects. It is not obligatory because a cultural identity essay has to focus on the personal experience and feelings. Additional research is an advantage in any situation. A student may view various examples to get inspired and outstandingly start the paper.

As for the format, teachers recommend using the one established by the Modern Language Association because MLA is what a student needs in his English Language and Literature class. A paper should have a narrative/descriptive form.

Let the cultural identity essay example give an overall understanding of how to compose this type of paper.

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Grab Free Cultural Identity Essay Example Example!

“My parents told me that my cultural identity is African American. It is reflected in meals, literature, religion, anthropology, behavior, family structure, cinematography, music, art, language, and many other factors. It is a symbolic level. African American life is based on the faith and hope: we express it via music, prayer, and worship. The religion of my family reminds more of the modern United States than African tribes, but it is different from a typical Christianity.

I have felt my passion for the humanitarian subjects from the beginning of the educational process. The one subject that people of African American origins stress among the rest is music. Music is the best way to identify one with the particular culture. Various thematical papers and songs have informed the listeners about the deeds & events that took place within African American society. There are many different genres applied to express various emotions.

One of my favorite historical episode to describe my ethnical belonging the best was June 19th when the slaves started to celebrate Juneteenth Holiday, which is recognized by the entire country nowadays. It became the African American addendum to the US Independence Day. This holiday reveals the most important attribute of my nationality – love for freedom.

Each new year the African American community celebrates this date, it becomes more exciting: the spirit of my ethnical group is flying in the air. I have met different people from various regions of Africa in the US. The celebration unites these representatives with different tastes, life goals, stories, and views in one location where we can exchange the obtained experience. It returns the sense of cultural identity to each of us.

The celebration helps to understand these people have more in common than they thought even though each of the African American citizens of the United States is an individual with his own preferences and opinions. I pay attention to the specific, behavioral, and the symbolic for they possess their place in a person being who they are. I wish other citizens of the US who came overseas will realize their belonging one day. There are several helpful ways. One of them is “to acquire a new culture by becoming disabled, moving to a new country or region, or by a change in our economic status. It is enough to start thinking about our belonging to let nostalgia win.” (Community Tool Box, 2013). This truth of life should go hand in hand with every man. Without knowing our identity, we do not exist; people are born to serve their native land as well as the word of God, and I believe it is equally important.”

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Identity Exploration Assignment

¶ 1For background, see essay by Rochelle Rodrigo and Jennifer Kidd, “Getting Uncomfortable: Identity Exploration in a Multi-Class Blog” in this volume. This assignment prompt has been condensed for publication purposes. A longer version includes both the technical support materials and a rubric.1

¶ 2 This assignment has two objectives:

  1. Students will explore the influence of one of their group memberships (e.g. race, class, gender, religion, etc.) on their identity as a student
  2. Students will consider how students’ identities are shaped by their group memberships and interactions with others.

¶ 4Creative Commons licensed image posted at Flickr by merrick brown

¶ 5Section 1: Watch, Read and Reflect
Explore the following videos and readings to see how students’ identities are shaped by their race and ethnicities (warning: these materials contain intellectually challenging content, some contain graphic language). Answer the questions after reading or viewing.

¶ 6 1. Watch Kai Davis’ Fuck I look like Video. 2
What is the purpose of Kai’s video? What does she want viewers to understand?

¶ 7 2. Watch the two-minute excerpt from a speech by Michael Apple, Ed.D.3 arguing that teachers and schools shape students’ identities.
What expectation did the teacher communicate to the homeless Latino student? What expectation did she communicate to the student who always has the right answer?

¶ 8 3. Read the Excerpt from “Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only” by Mary Waters. 4

  • According to the article, why is racial/ethnic identity different for white students than it is for Black and Latino students?
  • According to the article, why may some racial/ethnic minorities band together on a college campus? What can happen to members of these minority groups that do not band together with their racially/ethnically similar peers? Does this happen at Old Dominion University?

¶ 10 4. Read Chapter 6: How Racial Identity Affects Performance: 5 (You are not expected to read the other articles referred to in this reading, but of course you are welcome to do so.)

  • Using one of the racial identity development models in the reading, name the stage that best describes your racial identity and explain your choice.
  • Describe an example of how you, your peer, or a student you observed was affected by any one of the following (stereotype threat, dis-identification, oppositional behavior) or how racial identity affected your/their academic performance in another way.
  • What is one thing you will do to support your students’ racial identity development and to have a culturally responsive classroom?

¶ 12Section 2: Remembering Yourself
As you think back you will be engaging in pre-writing activities that will help you complete the more formal writing in Section 4.
1. How did you see yourself as a K-12 student? Make a list of ten words that described you.
2. Your identity consists of multiple dimensions, which we might also call group memberships, including those listed below. Fill in the following list thinking about how these characteristics affected your identity as a K-12 student. (You may choose not to include responses for any of the listed areas.)

CharacteristicYour group identity
Gender
Race/Ethnicity
Religion
Socio-economic Status (e.g. Lower class/Poverty, Working class, Middle class, Upper-middle class, Upper class/Wealthy)
Sexual orientation/Gender identity
Academic Ability/Track Placement (e.g. Basic, Average, Advanced, Honors/gifted)
Special Needs/Services (e.g. ADHD, English as a Second Language, Learning Disability)
Sports Participation
Club/Organization Participation
Social Clique
Other defining characteristic (e.g. obese, blonde, teen mom, military brat etc.)

¶ 13 Choose ONE aspect of your identity from this list (one group you belonged to) that had a significant impact on your identity as a K-12 student. Explain why you chose this characteristic.

¶ 14 What did other people (peers, parents, teachers, administrators etc.) believe about members of this group? Try to recall specific comments or behaviors that demonstrated their attitudes. Did they have policies (official or not) that impacted how they behaved? How did the media portray members of this group? Was the depiction accurate about you/your group? How was it off-base? Answer these questions by completing the following graphic organizer (word document, PDF)

¶ 15Identity Exploration Graphic Organizer

¶ 16Section 3: Read and listen to middle and high school students’ stories of identity.
In this section you will hear other students’ stories of their identity development. As you listen, think about the interplay between the students’ beliefs about themselves and the beliefs other people had of them. Also consider how the students tell their stories. What details do they use?

¶ 18Section 4: Write your story
By sharing our stories we can better understand how other students’ development was both similar to and different from our own. Stories are powerful teaching tools. As teachers, we need to understand what makes a powerful story. Stories that provide specific details and focus on a single event are often more powerful than those that make only broad generalizations. As you plan what to write, think of a specific incident that can explain how your identity was influenced by one of your group memberships. Use the following questions to help focus on the specific story you want to tell:

  • Which group membership contributed most to your identity as a student?
  • What did it mean to you to be a member (and be seen as a member) of this group?
  • What expectations did people have of you because of your group membership i.e. what behaviors or attributes were ascribed to members of this group?
  • How did these expectations affect you?
  • How did your interactions with others (peers, parents, teachers, administrators, etc) affect your identity as a member of that group and as a student?

¶ 20 Tell your story by either composing a script for a This I Believe recording (Follow the Guidelines) 11 or by writing a more traditional narrative essay (500-600 words).
Post your story on the TLED 301 Identity Exploration Blog and tag it with the group membership you explored. (Note: your blog will be open for others to read. Either do not include information you do not wish others to know, or use a pseudonym when posting your content to protect your identity.)

¶ 21Section 5: Read and respond to other TLED 301 students’ stories
1. Read stories by two students who posted about a group membership that is the same, or similar, to yours.
2. Read the stories of two students who are from groups to which you do not belong.
3. After you have read each story, reply to your classmate’s posting by answering one or more of the following questions:

  • What did you like about the story? why?
  • What surprised you about the story? why?
  • Where were you confused? What questions do you have based on that confusion?
  • Where would you like to know more? Be specific, ask questions based on what you want to know.

¶ 23Section 6: Reflect – What role does student identity play in teaching and learning?
In this section you will reflect on the readings from section 1, your own identity development, and the stories you read from other students. You will synthesize your thoughts into a brief statement explaining the importance of student identity development in teaching and learning.
To conclude this assignment, write an approximately one page (single space) reflection in which you address the following questions:

  • In what ways were the experiences of the students who chose to focus on the same group membership similar and different to your own?
  • In what ways were the experiences of the students in a group you did not belong to similar and different to your own?
  • How are the identities of students shaped by their interactions with peers, teachers, and schools? How can these identities affect students’ achievement?
  • What is the significance of this for you as a future teacher? Consider both the identities of your students and your own identity. Refer back (by paraphrasing or quoting and then making a citation) to at least one idea from the readings listed in Section 1 above.

¶ 25 You will post this reflection in the same blog posting as your This I Believe story. Compose and save your reflection in a word processor before posting to the blog.

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