English Language Arts, Composition and Rhetoric
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • Characters
  • Genre
  • Grade 11 ELA
  • Identity
  • Persona
  • Writing
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial

    Identity and Persona Across Genres

    Identity and Persona Across Genres


    In this lesson, you will explore how writers address issues of identity and persona across genres. You will read a famous poem “We Wear the Mask,” and consider how it relates to your other readings.

    In this lesson, students will explore how writers address issues of identity and persona across genres. They will read a famous poem “We Wear the Mask,” and consider how it relates to other readings.


    • Read the lesson and student content.
    • Anticipate student difficulties and identify the differentiation options you will choose for working with your students.
    • Decide how you will have students complete their research for homework. If feasible, they could do an online search, or they could work in the school library.

    We Wear the Mask

    • Encourage students to make notes and markings in the text itself for easy reference later.
    • If necessary, introduce metaphor andrepetition as literary terms.
      • ELL: Review these terms, and invite students to recall any examples from short stories that they have read as part of this lesson.
    • Give students a chance to annotate the poem independently.
    • Consider reading the poem aloud more than once or asking for a few volunteers to take turns. You could also look for a recording online and share it with your students.
    • After students have worked alone, have them discuss their annotations in small groups or with the whole class.


    • First, read “We Wear the Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar silently a few times. Mark words or phrases you don’t understand to better assist you in understanding the “plain sense” of the poem.
    • Then listen as the poem is read aloud. This time, look for poetic devices such as metaphor and repetition.

    When you finish, share your ideas with your classmates.

    We Wear the Mask Written Response

    • After students finish writing their responses, put them in pairs to discuss their insights.

    Work Time

    Dunbar was a contemporary of Charles W. Chesnutt, and he, like Chesnutt, was African American.

    Respond in writing to the following questions.

    • How does this information affect your understanding of the poem?
    • Is Dunbar’s “mask” a specifically American mask?
    • Is the type of mask Dunbar presents specific to African Americans? Why?
    • In “The Wife of His Youth,” why does Mr. Ryder introduce Liza Jane to his guests?
      • In what ways could taking off this “mask” be beneficial to Mr. Ryder?
      • In what ways could it be detrimental?

    Open Notebook

    When you finish, share your insights with your partner.

    Mr. Ryder's Mask

    • Circulate around the room checking for students' understanding.
    • Encourage students to continue compiling notes in the text itself for easier reference later.
    • Students can use colors to differentiate the passages.
      • SWD: Students who have difficulties with note taking may benefit from working with a partner for this task.

    Work Time

    • Revisit the story and mark passages in the text that show Mr. Ryder wearing a “mask” and passages in which he removes that mask.

    Masks Reflection

    • Encourage students to reflect on their own life experiences as well as the texts presented here.
    • Share some of your own life experience with the issues in the text, to model appropriate responses and build rapport.
      • ELL: Often, having to live in another language can be a bit like wearing a mask. If students are inclined to share, this can be a good opportunity to discuss what it feels like learning to live in another language or culture.


    • Write down some final thoughts about how and why people wear “masks.”

    Open Notebook

    Article Research and Response

    • Tell students how you want them to find articles: online, in the library, or some other way.
    • A sample article you could share with your students is “Ellis Doesn't Want to Revisit His Own Past” found at .
    • Let students know how to share their work with you.


    • Find a news article about a person who pretended to be someone he/she was not.
    • Write a short response to the article. Be sure to include the name and title of the article in your response.

    Open Notebook

    Submit your work to your teacher.