My Identity Iceberg
• Identify the visible and invisible aspects of their own identity by completing an identity iceberg, then share their identity iceberg with a partner
• Reflect on the importance of getting to know people rather than making assumptions about them
A culturally responsive pedagogy encourages educators to celebrate students’ cultural differences through opportunities for them to self-reflect and share about their own multidimensional identities, while building an understanding and appreciation for backgrounds and perspectives different from their own. During this activity, educators should guide students to practice self-awareness to reflect on aspects of their own identity, perspective taking as they consider how others might see them (e.g., their “visible” identity), and reflect on their own assumptions about others’ identity, and inclusivity as they demonstrate curiosity and humility in learning about each other’s identities.
To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.
1. Introduce the activity to students by explaining: “Think about your identity as a big iceberg floating in the water. Some parts of the iceberg rise above the water, while other parts stay hidden below the surface. Similarly, our identity can be “visible” or “invisible”. People might see the visible parts of our identity, like our appearance, behavior, and age. But, our identity also holds hidden parts that aren't as easy to see. These are the things that truly make you “you”, like your dreams, your experiences, and what you believe in.”
2. Ask students to use the handout below to reflect on their identity. Students should:
- Add visible parts of their identity to the top portion of the iceberg (above the water). For example, they might include their appearance, hobbies, interests, behaviors, or skills.
- Add invisible parts of their identity to the bottom portion of the iceberg (below the water). For example, they might include their feelings, beliefs, values, cultural background, dreams, or past experiences.
Students can use words, drawings, symbols, images from magazines, or personal photos to represent the different aspects of their identity. Encourage them to be creative, and to use both words and visuals to express themselves.
3. After students have completed their identity iceberg, invite them to share their artwork with someone else in the classroom (preferably someone who they don’t know very well). Students should explain some of the elements that they included in their iceberg, especially if there are any elements that might be surprising to others.
Remind them of the importance of respect, listening, and kindness during this exercise, as everyone’s identity is unique and should be treated with care.
4. Finally, guide students to reflect on their experience by asking the following questions:
- Did you find it easy or challenging to decide what to include in the visible and invisible parts of your iceberg? Why?
- How did sharing your identity iceberg with your partner make you feel?
- What did you learn about your partner’s identity? Did you notice any interesting similarities or differences between your icebergs?
- What would happen if we only focused on the visible part of someone's iceberg? What important things might we miss learning about?
- What are some ways to be curious and open-minded when meeting someone new, instead of making assumptions about them?
- Is it ever possible to truly understand or know everything about another person? Why or why not?