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ESOL Worksheets
Identity - a Personal Essay

Having read "Citizenship: A Difficult Choice" (Counterparts, Chp.3) and "Immigrants Suffer From Losing Their Identity" (by Howard Kim), your task now is to write an essay about your own sense of identity. Who are you?

How important is your parents’ language and culture to your identity? How important is the place where you were born? How important is Singapore? Has UWC made any difference to the way you think about your languages, your culture, your identity?


  • The language/s you (or your parents) speak
  • Your culture/religion
  • Places where you have lived
  • Places you visit frequently (e.g. parents’ home country)
  • Your heroes/heroines
  • Your dreams (what do you hope to become in the future, where do you picture yourself in 15 years time, what kind of lifestyle do you aspire to?)


  1. Make notes for your essay. There are various ways of organising an essay like this. Here are a few examples (but you may decide to use a different structure). Whatever structure you opt for, I want to see your plan.
  2. PLAN A: My Childhood à School and Travel à The Future

    PLAN B: My Parents’ Culture/Religion & Language/s à My Feelings about

    Culture & Language à How I see myself in the future

    PLAN C: What is Identity? à My languages and how I feel about them

    à My culture ("world view", customs, dress, food, religion, festivals etc.) and how I feel about it à My views about identity in the modern world (e.g. Should immigrants preserve their languages and cultures? Are people becoming more alike, and is that a good or bad thing?)

  3. Write your essay. As with all essays, you must be prepared to re-read your work and make substantial changes. It will probably help if you get someone else to read the essay and make comments.
    1. Try to have a clear thesis, or at least an interesting "hook" that will grab your readers’ attention. Which of these is more appealing?
      1. "I was born in Japan. I speak Japanese, just like my parents. I learned some English in kindergarten."
      2. "I am a girl with two heads. At home, I wear my Japanese head, in school I wear my English head."

      Here is an example of a similar opening:

      "Although I write in English, my first language was Chinese. Because my parents are from China they praised me, scolded me, told me long bedtime stories and recited poetry to me all in Chinese. No wonder then, that I think of Chinese as the language of my heart. As I grew older, I absorbed Thai from interacting with people in the busy streets and marketplaces and temple fairs of Bangkok. Thai for me is a functional language and I think of it as the language of my hands. Only much later did I learn English from strict teachers in school, and so I think of English as the language of my head. " (Minfong Ho, author)

    2. Make sure you have a clear topic sentence in each paragraph. The rest of the sentences in the paragraph should be relevant to that.
    3. Eliminate clumsy repetition of ideas, words or phrases
    4. Rewrite sentences where the meaning is unclear
    5. Enrich your vocabulary – in other words, change plain words to more accurate or expressive ones
    6. Try to think of a metaphor that expresses the way you feel about your identity (e.g. a patchwork quilt, made from different colours and textures of cloth; or a person pulled painfully in opposite directions by two tug-o-war teams; or a sculpture that is being created by more than one artist)
    7. Close on a memorable note – like the opening "hook"

Frankie Meehan