Overcoming Obstacles

Lesson 1: Who Are You?


  • Students will identify themselves and learn their classmates’ names.

  • Students will explore and share ideas and images that represent them as individuals.

  • Students will break down personal space boundaries and develop teamwork skills.


  • A sheet of writing paper or interactive electronic device for each student (Part II)

Starter (3 minutes)

Welcome students. Ask them to seat themselves alphabetically, but to complete this task without talking to each other. Allow several moments for students to attempt this task. When students begin to get frustrated, ask them to identify why they are having difficulty completing the assignment. (Students should say that they don’t know each other’s names.)

Tell students that this course is all about them. Explain that if they are going to feel comfortable talking about ideas and learning together, they need to get to know one another.

Explain to students that the purpose of today’s lesson is for them to learn each other’s names, to learn some facts about one another, and to consider some facts and feelings about themselves.

Part I: The Name Game (15 minutes)

Purpose: Students play a game where they identify themselves and learn their classmates’ names.

1. Students listen to directions.

Ask students to arrange themselves according to the order of their birthdays. (Allow them to speak as they complete this task.) Once they have arranged themselves, ask them to sit in a large circle. Take a place in the circle yourself. Explain that students will take turns saying their names, along with facts or adjectives about their names or themselves. For example, students might say “My name is Cheryl—with a C,” “I’m Mark, after my grandfather,” or “I’m Soccer Sally.” Give students a few moments to think of how they will introduce themselves.

2. Students introduce themselves and rearrange themselves in alphabetical order.

Begin by saying your name and a fact about yourself, and then have students take turns doing the same. As students introduce themselves, invite them to rearrange themselves in alphabetical order by their first names. Explain that students whose names begin with “A” should be together, followed by students whose names begin with “B,” and so on. Observe how students accomplish this task. Step in to give guidance or to offer suggestions, but only when necessary.

Afterward, go around the circle and have students introduce themselves again, in alphabetical order. Allow students to make final adjustments in seating.

3. Students identify classmates by name.

Tell students that they are going to introduce themselves, alphabetically, one more time. This time, challenge them to say their own name and repeat the names of the people who have gone before them. Tell students that they may help each other if they get stuck. If you have a large class, consider dividing students into groups of six or eight for this portion of the activity. 

When students have finished, tell them that it will be much easier for them to work together now that they know each other.

Part II: If I Were… (20 minutes)

Purpose: Students explore and share ideas and images that represent them as individuals.

1. Students explore and identify ideas and images that represent them as individuals.

Ask students to take out a piece of paper or interactive electronic device.

Ask students to write answers to the following questions. Point out that these questions require students to think about themselves—something this course will help them learn to do.

Pause after each question, allowing students time to jot down answers:

  • If you were a book, what book or type of book would you be?
  • If you were a character in a story or a movie, who would you be?
  • If you were a piece of clothing, what would you be?
  • If you were an animal, what would you be?
  • If you were food, what would you be?
  • If you were one of the four elements—earth, wind, water, or fire—which one would you be?

2. Students share their answers.

Choose a group of students who are similar in some way (e.g., all boys in the room wearing black shoes, all girls with blue eyes, all students with birthdays in September, all students in the back row). Invite this group of students to read their answers to the first question. Encourage them to explain their choices. Express interest in and appreciation for all responses. If a student is reluctant to explain, accept this and move on.

As students respond, observe reactions from the rest of the class. Make notes about their reactions for use in forming class guidelines during Part III of Lesson 3.

Choose a different group of students, and invite them to share their responses to the second question. Continue in this manner until each student in the room has had a chance to respond and all questions have been answered.

3. Students receive affirmation and inspiration.

Praise students for their participation. Restate that the goal of this course is for students to learn things about themselves and each other. Tell students that they will all have opportunities to discuss issues that are important to them, share opinions, and participate in discussions and activities.

Say, “How much or how little you learn in this course depends on each of you. I promise that if you are active and participate, you will learn something. You will also improve your chances for success in school, in work, and in everything you choose to do!”

Part III: Untying the Knot (10 minutes)

Purpose: Students play a group interaction game that breaks down personal space boundaries and helps them develop teamwork skills.

1. Students form small groups.

Set up some open space in your classroom or take the class outside. Ask students to form groups of eight or nine, with boys and girls represented equally in each group. Try to form groups of students who don’t seem to know each other well.

2. Students listen to directions and then play the game. 

Have each group stand in a circle. If space is limited, have only one or two groups working at the same time. Tell students to listen closely to these directions before following them:

  • First, reach your right hand into the center of the circle.
  • Join your right hand with another person who is not standing next to you.
  • Now, reach your left hand into the center of the circle.
  • Join your left hand with a different person who is not standing next to you.
  • Without letting go of one another’s hands, untangle yourselves and form a circle again. When you want someone to move or take some sort of action, you must address that person by name.

As students work, encourage their efforts. Make observations about the relative success of each group for use in the next step.

3. Students reflect on their experiences.

Comment on the outcome of the game. Ask questions such as the following:

  • I noticed that a few groups seemed to work especially well together. How did you manage to untangle yourselves?
  • Was this activity easy or difficult?
  • I noticed that some groups fell apart right away. What happened?
  • What would you do differently if you had to do this activity again?
  • What was the most difficult part of this activity?

Ask students if they are able to remember most of their classmates’ names. If necessary, go around the room again and have students say their names.

Conclusion (2 minutes)

Ask students to explain why personal involvement in this class is important. Ask students to name some people in the class whom they didn’t know before and what they have learned about those people. Elicit from students the following key points that were taught in this lesson:

  • Each student is an important member of this class.
  • It’s important that everyone in this class make an effort to get to know everyone else and work together. The success of the class as a whole depends on this.
  • Each student needs to take an active role in the class. Individual success depends on this.

Student Assessment

  1. Why is it important to get to know everyone in this class?
  2. If you could be like someone else in your family, whom would you be like? List three characteristics you admire in this person.
  3. List three things you can do to take an active part in learning in this class.

Extensions for Lesson 1: Who Are You?

Using Quotations

“Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.” —St. Augustine

Have students write what’s wonderful about themselves on strips of paper. Have them share their work with classmates. Suggest that they tape their papers where they’ll see them every day.

Addressing Multiple Learning Styles

Have students design cereal boxes with themselves as the hero on the front and include “nourishing facts” about themselves, such as their proudest moments, hobbies, etc. Have them add a coupon redeemable for help with something at which they’re skilled. Have them share their boxes in small groups.

Writing in Your Journal

Have students choose a word to complete the following sentence: “People always say I’m…” Have them write a paragraph explaining why they agree or disagree with this statement. Ask volunteers to share their work with the class.

Using Technology

Have each student find a website devoted to their favorite hobby. Have each student write a one-paragraph review of the site they found. Have students discuss the sites they found in small groups.


Have students interview friends and family to find out what others think are each student’s own best qualities. Have students discuss their reactions to what others think are their best qualities.

Additional Resources

Have students read the poem “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon, available at www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html. Have each student write a poem reflecting their heritage and family. They should begin each stanza with “I am from…” Combine the poems to create a class book.

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