An activity that connects identities, beliefs, and values to how we shape our decisions and behaviors.


  1. On a piece of paper, create a web of circles with one circle in the middle and other circles surrounding that circle and connected to it.
  2. In the middle circle, have participants write down their name. In the surrounding circles, have participants write down a word or phrase that captures some element of their identity. These words or phrases should be descriptors that have helped shape who this person is and how they interact in the world. These words could also include words or phrases that other people use to identify them. Some examples of words may be “woman,” “black,” “grew up in Deep South,” etc.
  3. Have participants form 2 concentric circles. People in the outer circle should face inward while people in the inner circle should face outward so that people are facing each other.
  4. Once individuals have formed the two circles, the facilitator will ask a series of questions that participants will think about and respond to. Before asking the questions, share the following set of instructions to participants:                                 
    1. Everyone will have 1 minute to think about their response after the question is asked. This is so that each person is able to prepare their response in advance so that they are not trying to formulate their response while their partner is talking.                                                                                                   
    2. At the end of the 1 minute, the facilitator will announce the beginning of dialogue. Each person will have 2 minutes of uninterrupted time to respond to the question. If the speaker takes less than 2 minutes, the full time should be allowed, being comfortable with the silence. After the first person shares, the second person will share following the same procedures.                                                                                                                                                 
    3. At the end of the second partner’s time, the facilitator will ask the participants to thank their current partner and say goodbye. The inner or outer circle will be asked to shift to the left or right (Groups can shift 1-3 persons to mix the partners more quickly). Participants should take a moment to greet their new partner. Start from the first step and repeat until all questions are asked.
  5. Debrief the process. This could take the form of having participants write what they saw, heard, and felt during this process. After this quick-write, do a round robin sharing of what each participant observed. These shareouts should be “just the facts,” not inferences, interpretations, or judgements. Some other prompts for debrief could include:               
    1. What will you differently as a result of engaging in this dialogue?                                                                               
    2. How will you process the emotions that surfaced for you as a result of this dialogue?                                    
    3. How might you adapt and use this activity?


Suggested Questions or Prompts for Step 4

  • With which descriptors do you identify most strongly? Why is that?
  • With which descriptors do others identify you most strongly? How do you feel about that?
  • Describe a time when one of the elements of your identity definitely worked to your advantage, either in your educational experience or in other areas of your life.
  • Describe a time when one of the elements of your identity appeared to hold you back, either in your educational experience or in other areas of your life.
  • Talk about a time when your perceptions of a student’s identity caused you to do something that held them back.
  • Talk about a time when your perceptions of a student’s identity caused you to do something that moved them forward.
  • Talk about a time your identity heightened your awareness of an inequity.
  • Talk about a time your identity diminished, lessened, or obscured your awareness of an inequity.

Time Required

Around an Hour

Required Materials

Preconditions for Success

This activity requires an even number of people, since people will pair up.

When asking your questions, pay attention to the order. It’s a good idea to vary the depth of the questioning and never start with the deepest possible questions.

Participants should not pass.

Decide if you want to include an instructions regarding the demeanor of the listener. This could mean whether or not clarifying questions are okay; whether or not the listener should provide affirmative sounds, body language, and other cues, or should listen without reactions.

Be aware of the emotional and physical energy level of the group. Most groups cannot go beyond 6-7 questions. Some people may need a stationed chair in the circle that does not move.

Decide the number of rotation you will use. Depending on the purpose, you may want to have people stay with the same partner for a pair of questions. Sometimes, it makes sense to move more than one person to the left, or to move both the inner and outer circle at the same time, in different directions.

Connection to Equity

This activity helps facilitates conversation about personal identity and its relationship to individuals’ experiences, which is key in doing equity work.


Preferred Citation

School Reform Initiative