informational writing · writer identity · writing workshop

Identity Webs to Generate Ideas for Information Writing

In my May blog post, I mentioned one way to incorporate social, emotional learning into your writing workshop is to use identity webs. You can read more about that here. In addition, I explained how Alex Czerterko, staff developer at the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project, modeled how students can use their identity webs to generate ideas for small moment stories with students at my school. 

Currently, I am teaching summer school to our multilingual students. After a year of virtual teaching and hybrid teaching, this group of students is my first in person. Thus kids must have multiple opportunities to reconnect while I continue to reimagine what teaching looks like in person—especially the nebulous teaching of information writing. I reimagined the teaching of information writing inspired by what I saw Alexis model to students back in January. However, this time their identity webs were used to generate ideas for information writing. 

Identity Webs

In Sara Ahmed’s book, Being the Change, she provides a framework for introducing identity webs to students. She explains that it is how she introduces herself to a group of new students. Hence, on the first day of summer school, I created an identity web about myself. 

Next, following her steps, I invited students to think and write down what comes to their minds when they hear the word identity. After thinking and writing down on their paper, I asked students to share in partnerships what they think of when they hear the word identity. Finally, I asked students to share their thoughts. As they shared, I recorded it on chart paper. 

Due to time, I had skipped the third step Sara shared. In step 3, she asks students to look into the identity of a character in a book. So instead, I had students make their identity webs.

Generating Ideas

When it comes to generating ideas for information writing, my experience has been that some students freeze. There are two things I have learned about why this occurs. The first, coming up with something to write about. And the second, usually related to the first reason, is that they feel what they know is not pertinent enough to write about. 

I invited students to the meeting area and asked them to bring their identity webs. Next, I used the connection in Session 1 of Up the Ladder Information Writing. In the connection, I said to students that I’ve been watching them these past two days and realized they could teach me just as much as I could teach them. Pointing to Seoyul, I said, “Seoyul could teach me a lot about basketball or Korean food. Dennis, you know so much about art, a skill I’ve always wanted to get better at.

A while later, the connection, I modeled how I could use my identity web to develop an idea about what to write. Mulling over my identity web, I chose the topic of cooking coconut noodles. Students were invited to look into their own identity webs and to choose one topic. 

Once students had their topics chosen, they went off to write:


I noticed students did not have the same hesitation as they have had before when coming up with topics for information writing. Instead, students were proud to write about their topics and show them off to their peers. We do carry our identities everywhere, and students are no different. 

4 thoughts on “Identity Webs to Generate Ideas for Information Writing

  1. I love the discussion and activities around identity. This seems like such a straightforward way to get kids thinking about who they are, about what’s important to them. What I really love about this activity is that it doesn’t force kids to rank or parcel out proportions – their identity just…IS. I can also see repeating this activity from time to time – I’m guessing who we are, what pieces of ourselves we’re feeling more strongly, might shift – ESPECIALLY when we’re filtering our experiences as readers, as writers, or as humans.
    Thanks for giving me something to think about!


  2. I love your practical advice for getting kids to ease into writing. Too often I push them in before they are ready. Next year, identity webs will be our starting point. Thanks!


  3. Love the idea of using identity webs at the beginning of the upcoming school year. Gives students a chance to explore their identity and to reconnect after being disconnected for awhile. Also love the idea of using identity webs to introduce myself to the class while at the same time modeling the web making “process.” I always learn so much from these blog posts!


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