For this unit we chose to focus on the theme of identity. The students in this class are freshmen in high school and are currently dealing with adolescent issues of identity development and fluctuating self esteem.  We felt that this would be a beneficial time to discuss the creation of an individual’s identity and the many different aspects that are involved in this complex process. We chose to pick the two novels, The Catcher in the Rye and The House on Mango Street, because of the different issues that both of the main characters deal with as they try to develop into the person they would like to be.

We will start with The House on Mango Street because we feel that it is an easier text to approach and we want the students to get used to issues involving identity development before approaching a more difficult text.  Since this book is not being very long, it will enable us to elaborate more on identity issues and get an idea of where our students stand academically along with their prior knowledge on these issues.  We will then move on to The Cather in the Rye, which is a more difficult text and contains more mature themes. These themes are only implicit in The House on Mango Street, but more explicit in The Catcher in the Rye, which will enable us to discuss these issues in greater detail.

We decided to introduce the unit by having the students examine their own identity using their personal background to create ‘Where I’m From” poems. This activity will lead into presenting various materials dealing with identity, such as videos, excerpts from stories and art.  This material will help students understand that there are various ways to express identity other than poems or novels.  We will start by reading the book and holding daily discussions focusing on ideas brought up during the reading from the previous night.  These discussions will also include a variety of activities and assignments such as quick writes, journals, quizzes and in-class activities. 

After we finish The House on Mango Street, the students will be asked to complete a project that involves exploring different aspects of Esperanza’s identity through pictures, poems, a family tree and much more.  We believe this is a good cohesive assignment to complete before the test is given. 

After the test, we will do a mini unit on short stories which also addresses the theme of identity.  The short stories we will use are “A Sorrowful Woman” and “On the Sidewalk Bleeding.”  These short stories help to elaborate more on different aspects of identity.  “On the Sidewalk Bleeding” will help to foreshadow the next novel which is The Catcher in the Rye. 

As with The House on Mango Street, the discussions on The Catcher in the Rye will be focused around major themes and ideas from the previous night’s readings.  We again decided to assign twenty pages of reading a night because we feel like it is a manageable amount for freshmen.  While it is more reading than The House on Mango Street, it is still only three chapters, which should translate to no more than an hour of reading a night.  The discussions will also entail a variety of different reading materials and activities to help further our exploration of identity development.  We decided to end the novel with a theatrical performance to get the students to realize that anything written can be performed.

To tie everything together we decided to do a paper that focuses on the students’ own identity as well as issues of identity mentioned within the many readings for this unit. The students will be able to pick two different texts that we read throughout the unit to include in their papers. We will provide a writer’s workshop during week nine with lessons on how to approach writing papers. Because the students are freshmen, each lesson will cover a different stage of the writing process in order to make sure they have the skills necessary for brainstorming, writing introductions, conclusions and body paragraphs.