When new students arrive in the learning environment,  it is essential that we learn the skills, interests, strengths, and challenges of these learners so that we can help construct a meaningful and relevant learning experience that will allow students to achieve their goals.

The Personal Learning Framework starts this process through the Identity stage. Focusing on identity helps both the learner and instructor to develop a positive relationship that can lead to a dynamic learning experience.


The first step in the Identity stage is to help students create a biography. This paragraph identifies the student, some of their strengths and challenges, and goals they may have for the school year. Many teachers already include this activity or something similar during the first days of the new year. Formalizing this process, and making it a part of the personal learning plan is an easy and effective way for teachers to begin the process of understanding the strengths and challenges of new students in the classroom.

Short biography, written in the third person, for their Person Learning Plan. The biography page should also include an appropriate self-portrait.  

For an extension activity, students can create a short, 30 second introductory video: Three Things You Need To Know About Me.
The Geography of Self

This is an amazing identity project created by Lori Lisai at Lamoille Union Middle School. Check it out by clicking on the adjacent link.
The Geography of Self

Here are some additional resources contributed by Lindsey Halman of the Edge Academy in Essex.


The second element of the Identity page is a self-portrait of the student. Self-portraits serve two primary purposes. First, it helps teachers recognize students and provides context for student interests. Self-portraits can provide insight into how the student perceives themselves, strengths they may bring to the learning environment, skill with technology, and graphic design.


The second segment of the Identity phase moves from the individual to the relationships and community connections of the student. Through a series of exercises and graphic organizers, educators can help students identify networks of support, strong, positive relationships, the positive character traits that make good relationships. 

To do this, educators are encouraged to have students complete an exercise where students create a relationship web. Follow these simple steps to build the relationship web:
  1. Students start the process with a blank sheet of paper. Students place their immediate family members at the center of the page and enclose those family members in a shape of their choice.
  2. Students then brainstorm extended family units. Arrows are drawn from the immediate family to the extended family groups. Students may place the extended family groups according to maternal or paternal lineage or family patterns of their choice.
  3. Students then are encouraged to consider communities to which they belong starting with the classroom, school, and district communities and moving outwards to encompass extracurricular activities, sports, camps, etc.
  4. By the end of the brainstorming session, all students should have a web of relationships and organization to which they can be considered members.


Relationship Web

Student identifies and illustrates the relationships they have in their lives. These might include family, extended family, teams, groups, or any other positive relationships currently being maintained.  Diagram should be created on Google Drawing.  After creating the diagram, students should create a post answering questions about that web.


YouTube Video

The adjacent video is a classroom session that leads students through the building of the relationship web.

Once the relationship web is complete, students can use Google Drawing to create an electronic copy of their relationship web.

Relationship Characteristics

Students need to examine their relationship web and identify positive characteristics of their relationships.  Once students have brainstormed a list of these characteristics, they should identify the three most important. Next, students should categorize the remaining characteristics underneath the primary three.

Positive Characteristics Chart Exemplar
PLP Quickwrite #1
Review your relationship web and the positive characteristics list that you have created.  In a new post on your community page, describe an event, memory, or moment when the characteristics you most appreciate were reflected by one of your relationships.Your entry should be at least a paragraph. 
Quickwrite Exemplar #1

Principles and Values

Once students have provided evidence of their individuality, strengths and challenges, and the positive and supporting relationships that are present in their lives, teachers can help students to identify the principles and values prized by the individual student. Remember that this comes out of your work in the identity phase; students have reflected on themselves, their relationships, and the positive characteristics of those relationships. Now, they should be encouraged to isolate those principles or values that they find most important.

This step is important for a number of reasons. First, by self-identifying their principles and values, students will begin framing their performance, decision-making, and growth through the lenses of those principles and values. True, after a year or more of middle school, during which students and their relationships may experience significant change, these principles and values may change. However, these can provide critical bearings for students navigating the middle level. 

Additionally, these principles and values can be used to examine a wide range of student experience at the middle level. Whether role playing in teacher's advisory, examining character's in literature, or conducting a historical investigation, students can view the world, and analyze their growth through the perspective provided by their principles and values.

Finally, by identifying these principles and values, students can transition into the growth stage where they can begin setting goals based on the principles and values they have identified in the Identity phase of the personal learning plan. 

Principles and Values
 Students will brainstorm the concept of principles and values, engage in small/large group discussion, and spend time defining their personal principles and values. This will then become a part of their PLP plan.
Principles and Values Presentation