The students explore and discuss issues of identity through brainstorming, buzz groups and drawing their own identity star. They compare their stars with those of the others in order to find out how similar or how different people in the group are.

Aims and objectives

  • to be aware of our own individuality and that of others
  • to identify what we have in common with others
  • to promote solidarity and respect

Materials needed

  • Coloured pens and markers, if possible a different colour for each participant
  • One sheet of paper per person
  • Flipchart paper and markers

Step by step description

  1. To warm up, ask your students to get into pairs to form buzz groups. Ask them to pretend that they are strangers and to introduce themselves to each other.
  2. Now ask them to reflect on what is interesting or important to know about someone else when you first meet, and make a brainstorming of the general categories of information (for example name, age, sex, nationality, family role, religion, age, gender, ethnicity, job/study, taste in music, hobbies, sports, general likes and dislikes and more).
  3. Explain the participants that they are going to find out how much each of them has in common with others in the group. Hand out the paper and pens and explain that the first step is for each of them to draw a representation of their identity. They should think of themselves as stars: aspects of their identity radiate out into society. Ask people to consider the 8 to 10 most important aspects of their identity and to draw their personal star.
  4. Tell people to go around and compare their stars. When they find someone else with whom they share a beam or ray, they should write that person’s name next to the beam (for example, if Jan and Parvez both have a “rapper” beam, they should write each other’s names along that beam). Allow 15 minutes for this part .
  5. Now come back into plenary and ask the students to talk about how individual each of them is. You could ask:
    Which aspects of identity do people have in common and which are unique?
    How similar and how different are people in the group?
    Do people have more in common with each other than they have aspects that are different?
  6. Finally, do a group brainstorming on the aspects of identity that people choose and those that they are born with. Make notes on the flip chart in two columns.

Reflection for the students / questions for debriefing

  • What did the students learn about themselves? Was it hard to decide which the most significant aspects of their identity were?
  • Were they surprised by the results of comparing stars? Did they have more or less in common than they expected?
  • How did the participants feel about the diversity in the group? Did they feel it made the group more interesting to be in, or does it make it more difficult to work together?
  • Were there any aspects of other people’s identity that participants felt strongly inclined to react to and say, „I am not.“? For example, I am not a football fan, not a fan of techno music, not a dog lover, not homosexual or not Christian.
  • How does identity develop? Which aspects are social constructs and are there any that are inherent and fixed?
  • In relation to gender issues in particular, which aspects are social constructs and which are assumed to be inherent and fixed? Did participants write „girl“ or „boy“? What do people associate with the words „boy“ and „girl“? Are these associations the same for both sexes and for all boys and all girls?
  • To what degree are people judged by their individual identity and how much by the group that they belong to?
  • How do participants feel about having the freedom to be able to choose their own identity? What are the implications for themselves and their society, and especially for the human rights of equality and respect?

Suggestions for adaptations and variations

  • In the warm-up you may want to support some participants by giving them a specific example. You could give yourself as an example or use an imaginary person like: Olena, woman, Ukrainian, mother, wife, trainer, traveller, music lover.
  • If the structure of the group is very homogenous, come up with some more specific categories in order to depict the individuality of each student.
  • If you wish, you can make the activity a little more sophisticated by suggesting that people draw their personal stars with longer or shorter beams or rays according to how public or private they feel a particular aspect of their identity is. Longer beams reach further out into society and are therefore more public.
  • You may wish to draw some conclusions from the discussions, for example, that we are all human beings who have rights which cannot be given or taken away regardless of race, colour, property, birth or other status.

Reference / original source of the method

The activity is from „COMPASS: Manual on Human Rights Education with Young People„. The manual was published by the Council of Europe and can be downloaded for free.

Further tips and resources

The activity can serve as an opener for many other discussions, for instance, questions about the universality of human rights, discrimination and xenophobia, children’s rights, and citizenship.