How to get 5 year olds talking about identity

Hi y’all!
I am so excited to share with you one of my favorite classroom lessons,

Star of the Day!

Today I want to talk about identity and how to get your kinder darlings talking about themselves in positive and thoughtful ways.
I’ve done this activity with my students for the past 10 years. Each year I change something or add something new but at it’s core, it stays the same.
I’m sure many of you do a Star of the Week or Student of the Week activity.  These moments serve as an opportunity for students to discuss what makes them special and gives the class community a peek into their family life.

The interview portion of Star of the Day focuses on a variety of simple questions:

My name is ____.
I am __ years old.
My favorite food is ___.
My favorite color is ___.
I have ___ brothers and ___ sisters.
I love ____.

My questions vary from year to year but more often than not these are the top questions.
Each Star gets to sit in a chair at the front of the class next to me.  Before I begin, I remind students that they need to be respectful participants.  I remind them that part of the excitement of being Star of the Day, is getting to know one another.  We practice whole body listening, and when the Star thinks everyone is ready….we begin.

I ask each question in style similar to Oprah! I really try to act as if I don’t know any answers to the questions, I am intrigued with their answers, and ask additional questions to find out more about our Star.  I try to model inquiry and interview behavior for students.  I really feel that students do not have many opportunities to learn how to effectively present information to a group.  The Star of the Day interview is an opportunity to practice.

My most favorite part of the interview is the very last question.  In my silliest but also very serious voice, I ask my Star…What do the loooooovvvveeeeee, more than anything else in the whole wide world?
And  the answers my kiddos give me.
Oh how they warm my heart.
Sometimes I hear, “I love my family” or “I love my friends”. Sometimes I hear “I love helping people” or “I love learning”! I melt!!

After the interview, I sit and draw a picture of the Star of the Day.  As I get the color crayons I need to make my very best picture, I talk about the color choices I’ve made.  I hold up a purple crayon and say, “Ok, time to draw Bobby’s eyes purple.  That’s my favorite color so it’s ok!”  My kiddos shout, “NO! You need to make the picture look like the person”. It’s an idea I’ve hammered into their heads since the very first interview.  When we talk about each other’s identity we always mention how we need to respect the individual whose portrait we are creating.  Their skin needs to be the right color, their eyes should be they right color, their hair should match what it looks like in real life.  When we talk about portraits and identity we talk how how we look in the mirror is a representation of what the world sees.  And while we are all different (and similar), we all have an identity that is important to us.  We must do our best to represent the identity of our Star in their portrait.

I’m always the first Star of the Day.  This portrait is on point!

Y’all, I know it seems simple- Vera, you’re just having them pick a color that matches their skin tone.

You’re right. I am.  But in that matching process, there is conversation.
“Hey Bob, are you this color brown or lighter?”

In those conversations there is respect.
“Please don’t color my eyes blue. My eyes are brown.  Can you fix it?”

With respect, we learn empathy.
“I have the same eye color as you, but I am different skin color.”
“I also love playing with Legos, do you want to play Legos with me during centers?”

It is that easy…but as the teacher you must facilitate conversation.  You must get your students thinking beyond a crayon color choice…and thinking about the identity of their peers…and the importance of respecting that identity.