Students reflect on how they identify similarities and differences between people and how the process of focusing on similarities may impact our attitudes and actions.


Students will be able to:

  1. Identify similarities between themselves and a person previously perceived as very different
  2. Practice the exercise of “shared identity” to build empathy, respect, and understanding
  3. Apply the idea of “shared identity” to classroom contexts or video examples (optional)


Paper or student journals and pen, video/projector (optional)


Time Activity Notes
1 min
  • Explain that this lesson is designed to build respect for someone we previously have viewed as very different from ourselves.
Optional: Start with a shared identity Bingo Game Card that has students mingle around the room to find things that they have in common/similarities. For example: I have younger siblings. I like Thai food. etc.
10 mins
  • Spend 3 minutes journaling about the following prompt: Think of a person in your life who seems to be very different from you. They might have different interests, different religious or political beliefs, or different life experiences. They may even be someone with whom you have had a personal conflict, or who belongs to a group that has been in conflict with a group to which you belong.
  • Next, make a list of all of the things that you most likely share in common with this person. Perhaps you both joined the same sport or club or go to the same school. Maybe you both have older siblings, or a significant other. Maybe you have both had your heart broken at one point or another, or have lost a loved one. At the broadest level, you both belong to the human species, which means that you share 99.9% of your DNA.
  • Review this list of commonalities. How do they make you see this person in a new light? Instead of simply seeing this person as someone unfamiliar to you, or as “different”, now try to see this person as an individual, one whose tastes and experiences might overlap with yours in certain ways.
  • Repeat this exercise whenever you meet someone who initially seems different from you, with whom you have a conflict, or who makes you feel uncomfortable.
Steps in this process and the activity idea are adapted from a lesson from Greater Good in Action (find the original lesson, research, and ideas here).

If students are finding this exercise difficult or are not listing thorough enough similarities, you can break halfway through the silent writing and reflecting and allow them to talk through their differences and identify similarities with a neighbor, then go back to writing.


“I wrote about a girl who is incredibly competitive and only cares if we win on our soccer team. She is so different from me because I think that it is more important that we play well as a team and improve than win all of the time.

Difference: She’s competitive, I’m not.
Similarity: We both love soccer.”

10 mins

Teachers can choose one of the three options below:

  • Repeat the process above and find a second person who seems to be very different from you and find similarities.
  • Alternate Activity #1: Instead of doing 2 rounds of the “shared identity”, show the following video(s)
    • “More Alike than Different” (showing “regular” activities of those with Down syndrome)
    • “Love has no Labels” (youtube video showing various people who love each other behind an x-ray screen before revealing their differences of race, religion, gender identity, age, ability, etc.)
  • Alternate Activity #2: Create a “similarity search” to build a shared identity within the class. Create categories on a bingo sheet and have students highlight or otherwise mark the categories which apply to them.
  • Then, give students 6-8 minutes to get up and move around the room and find as many students who also share those traits as they can and have those students write their names in the highlighted boxes of their peers.
  • Categories such as “middle child” or “only child”, “was born outside of the U.S.”, “can play an instrument”, “enjoys playing sports”, etc, should be created to respond to the identities and traits common to your students.
10 mins

Give students time to discuss their experiences with this activity. The questions below can be used as a guide:

  • What makes it difficult to find similarities with others?
  • What makes it easy to find similarities with others?
  • Why is it particularly difficult to find similarities with people with whom we are in conflict?
  • What are the benefits to finding similarities with others? How does this process change our attitudes and actions?
10 mins

Give students time to respond to the “formative assessment” questions below.

Criteria for Success/Formative Assessment

Formative Assessment Reflection Questions:

  • How can the process of finding a shared identity help you to be more respectful and to value others more?
  • What is difficult about the process of finding a shared identity? How can you overcome those difficulties?
  • What is one new understanding of “shared identity” that you found through today’s exercises?
This activity adapted from Greater Good in Action, a resource produced by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley.