Encountering/Representing the Self

Produced by

Aránzazu Borrachero, Valeria Belmonti, and Katherine Entigar


Students will work independently and with their peers from both institutions (C1 and C2) to:

  1. introduce themselves to their classmates and the students at C2 by means of self-representations
  2. reflect about individual and intercultural differences or similarities as shown in their peers’ self-representations and their own
  3. reflect on and develop critical awareness of the power of visual information


  1. Self Portrait Collections (photography and painting):
  2. Collage:
  1. Readings:

Note: The articles are loosely organized by theme, but they touch upon intersecting topics. The instructor can select particular reading(s) for his/her particular class, and create an additional readings list for anything that is not included.

Citation: TEDx Talks (2015, Aug. 25) Dime qué idioma hablas y te diré quién eres | Ivana Sánchez | TEDxYouth@BosquesDeLasLomas (16:13) https://youtu.be/LYzGyDaeSLw

Technology Resources/Requirements

  1. Class website
  2. Video conferencing platform such as Zoom, Skype or Facetime [to be used with Mac/Apple users]

The purpose of this activity is for students to get to know their classmates and their partner university peers by introducing themselves with a written self-description, and to draw conclusions about the similarities and differences between students in their school (C1) and the students in the partner school (C2).

Course Overview

Introduce course overview, routines and expectations to the class, particularly the protocol of working with peers from another school. Present the class website to students and demonstrate its use.

Explain how students will publish blog posts and comment on their classmates’ work and the work of the students at C2. Practice using the website as needed.

Preparation for Exchange/Commentary with Students at C2: Self-Introductions, Blog

Have students write a short blog post on the class website in which they introduce themselves to the students at C2. The post should offer autobiographical details in as natural a style as possible, using Spanish, English, or a combination of both languages.

Task: Reviewing/Analyzing Student Self-Introductions at C2

Have students read two self-introductions that the students at C2 have written and take notes for class discussion. Some questions they can use to review and analyze these self-introductions may include:

  1. What information is included in the self-introduction?
  2. What language(s) did they write their self-introduction in?
  3. What kind of person do you think this student is, given the small amount of information you have about them? Why do you think this way?
  4. What do you think you have in common with this person? What makes you different?
  5. What questions might you like to ask this person about their experiences in their town/city and in their college?

Post-Exchange Class Debrief

Have a class conversation about observations of the students at C2. Some guiding questions may include:

  1. What are your impressions of the self-introductions you read? What was it like to write your own?
  2. Are there commonalities and/or differences in your self-introduction compared to the self-introductions of other students in your class? What about the students at C2?
  3. Are there any general themes/ideas that emerge about C1’s educational, political, geographical, and/or sociocultural context? What about the context of C2? What comparisons/contrasts can you draw?
  4. Do you think that comparing individual self-introductions by students from two different educational contexts can reveal larger truths about the places where they study? Why or why not? What limitations might there be in such an exercise?

Preparation for Videoconference: Exploring Forms of Self-Representation

Review and discuss with students a variety of artistic self-representations (see sample links under Materials). Instructors may choose collections that focus on Latinx identity (1-5 under Materials) and ask students to compare them to collections that are not specifically Latinx (6 and 7 under Materials). Sample questions for the discussion:

  1. What are the elements, objects and ideas that the artists use to express identity?
  2. What identities are being explored in the portraits? What elements do artists use to express or reflect on these identities?
  3. Choose your favorite self-representation from the different collections and explain why you find it compelling in terms of its message and its aesthetic qualities.
  4. In what social and political context was this self-representation probably made? What features of the self-representation indicate this?
  5. Present to students some of the terms that will appear in class discussions: “identity” (cultural, gender-based, race/ethnicity, immigration experience, etc.), “syncretism,” “portraiture,” “self-representation,” “aesthetics,” etc.

Preparation for Videoconference: Class Readings (at home)

Assign some of the readings from the list to the class. Alternatively, ask students what readings they would be interested in (take a class vote, etc.). Have students complete the readings at home, and prepare to discuss them in class.

Preparation for Videoconference: In-Class Discussion of Readings

Discuss the selected readings in class. Here are some starting suggestions for questions that instructors can use as a guide for class discussion:

  1. Immigration and Identity
    • (“Esculpir identidades”) For many immigrants, crossing the border means gaining access to the opportunity to forge a new, dynamic identity in a new culture. However, the difficult conditions of the journey across the border causes others to lose their lives along with their identities. Analyze how art contributes to their visibility. Do you have any creative ideas about what could be done with these sculpted faces beyond using them to help families identify their loved ones?
    • (“Niños nacidos en República Dominicana…”) Compare the identity issues of the Haitian children in “Niños nacidos en República Dominicana…” to the situation of Dreamers in the US.
    • (“A conversation with Latinos on race.”) Discuss the possible meanings of “identity” for immigrants based on your personal experience, the readings, and the testimonies that you saw in “A conversation with Latinos on race.”
  2. Race/Ethnicity and Identity
    • (“Los hispanos explican…”) Discuss the ways in which racial and ethnic identity come about and/or are chosen in the article. What is the relationship between racial and ethnic identity and being “American”? How do you think about your own racial/ethnic identity?
    • (“Afrolatinos…”) Discuss the ways in which the relationship between being “Black” and being Latinx are explored in the article. What social and political ideas are discussed about living as someone who identifies as Afro-Latinx?
  3. Gender and Identity
    • (“Redefiniendo…”) Discuss gender identity in the story of Micah. Would Micah be able to identify him/herself with any of the poetic self-portraits you have read?
    • (“Género e identidad sexual…”) Discuss the various ways in which the article explores gender identity and gender itself. What role can fiction play in creating possibilities for new ways of looking at and thinking about gender? Draw upon examples from the article to support your perspective (even if you disagree with the example(s) you use).
  4. Language and Identity
    • (“Ser latino…”) Discuss the relationship between language and identity as presented in “Ser latino en Estados Unidos…” How are language and identity related? Does your identity change depending on the language you use? Does identity change depending on where you are, or who you are with? Does identity change over time?
    • (“Género e identidad sexual…”) Discuss the evolution of Spanish language use and learning in the United States as presented in the article. What predictions can you make about where this trend might be headed?
  5. Poetic Self-Portraits
    • Why would a writer choose a poem rather than an essay to speak about identity or self-identity?
    • (Parra) What is the profession or occupation of the speaker in the poem? How do you know?
    • Whom is the speaker addressing? What type of self-image is the speaker transmitting? Find instances in which the speaker uses humor for self-deprecation. What do you think is the effect of this self-deprecating voice on different readers (e.g., you vs. his students, etc.)?
    • (Varela) What is the attitude of the speaker in describing her/his CV (positive, self-critical, etc.)? What is the meaning of “carrera” in the poem? Who or what is the “sombra”? What definition of “victory” does the poem provide? (Castellanos) What is the attitude of the speaker in describing herself (positive, self-critical, etc.)? How does the speaker appear to feel about social conventions (the use of the term “señora,” high culture, definitions of femininity and beauty, how suffering is expressed, etc.)? What about life cycles (motherhood, aging, etc.)? Find instances of the use of irony in the poem. Why do you think the writer made this choice?
    • (Sor Juana) Whom is the speaker addressing? What is the “engaño” and why is it a lie? What does the final verse progression suggest (“cadáver,” “polvo,” “sombra,” “nada”)?
    • (Pérez Firmat) What tensions and contradictions can you find in these poems? How are these tensions and contradictions expressed (in the creative use of language, in imagery, in other ways)? What does it mean that the poet’s voice does not “belong in English” and “does not belong anywhere else” at the same time?
    • (Parra, Pérez Firmat) Compare the use of humor in Pérez Firmat’s “Soy un ajiaco de contradicciones” and in Parra’s “Autorretrato.” What or whom are the authors mocking with the use of humor and irony in these poems?
    • Discuss how gender identity is played out in these poetic portraits. What words, ideas, emotions, and images appear in the poems to express and/or challenge gender identity?
  6. Identity in the Era of Selfies, New Digital Spaces, New Forms of Self-Representation
    • How has the art of self-representation changed in the age of selfies?
      • What are the consequences of these changes in how we understand art and identity? Are we “artists” or “creators” of our own identity in an era of instantaneous, publicly visible profiles and social media spaces? Explain.
      • How are these changes contributing to blurring the differences between high art (the one we see in museums, for instance) and popular art?
      • What are the consequences of these changes in how ordinary people express their identities?

Preparation for Videoconference: In-Class Brainstorm for Creation of Self-Representation

Ask students to start planning the self-representation they would like to create. Have them jot down a short (100 word maximum) written self-representation in class, which can include poetic words and/or phrases as well as longer stretches of text. Instruct students to use any language (Spanish, English, or a combination of both languages) that they think would be meaningful. Once students are finished, have them discuss their work in small groups (3-4 students), and then debrief as a class. Suggested questions for class discussion:

  1. What new ideas do you have about the aspects of identity that we have discussed, and how do these ideas relate to you? What aspects of yourself do you want to share? What aspects do you want to keep to yourself?
  2. What elements would you include to represent yourself (objects, people, places) and why? What do you want to say about yourself with these elements?
  3. What language choices are you making in creating this self-representation? If you don’t use any language, is there a reason for that?
  4. Do these places, activities, objects/images, and words/phrases that you have chosen identify you as Latinx, American, a combination, or something else?
  5. If someone that doesn’t know you sees your object/image, place or activity, would that person guess your age, nationality, gender, occupation, language practices?
  6. How does the city or town in which you live figure, if at all, in your self-representation? How does your identification with this locality influence the way you see yourself, if at all?

Preparation for Videoconference: Creation/Upload of Self-Representations to Class Website (at home)

Ask students if they have any final questions or thoughts before they create their self-representations. Review vocabulary, ideas, and other topics they may need to clarify. For homework, have students create their own self-representations using personal photographs, digital images, text, or a combination of different materials. Have students create a digital version of their self-representations (if they are not already in a digital form) to be uploaded to the class website. Ask students to upload their self-representations to the class website when they are finished, along with a short explanation of why that image represents them (150-300 words).

Preparation for Videoconference: Commentary on Self-representations by Students at C1 and C2

In preparation for the videochat, have students reflect on the self-representations their classmates have uploaded to the class website, as well as the self-representations done by members of their telecollaboration group. Ask students to post a comment on one C1 student’s and one C2 student’s self-representation. Some questions to ask students to consider include:

  1. What elements, ideas, and themes emerged in your classmates’ self-representations? What choices did they make that were similar to yours? What was different? What about the self-representations of the students at C2?
  2. How did you, your classmates, and the students at C2 use language in self-representation? What does this say about how you identify with and experience language?
  3. What themes stand out in our collective work that may represent shared ideas about community, city and regional life, and how habits of self-representation change across generations?

Task: Videoconference

Ask students to form small groups (3-4 students). Inform students that they will work together to discuss their work and the work of their peers at C2. Have these small groups discuss students’ self-representations via the videoconference platform selected for this class. Guiding questions for the telecollaborative discussion may be generated by the whole class.

For the telecollaboration with students at C2, instruct students to take note of ideas discussed with their peers that they find interesting. Some themes they can keep in mind include: self-representation, identity, culture, gender, immigration, race/ethnicity, language, technology, syncretism, regionality, community. Provide students with a graphic organizer to support note-taking (see sample at the end of this document) if needed.

Post-Videoconference Step: Debrief, Creation of Group Summary

After finishing the telecollaboration with students at C2 bring the class back together to discuss this experience in small groups. The questions below can be used as guidance for the chat, but additional questions for discussion may be generated by the whole class.

  1. When you saw the self-representations of your colleagues from C1 and C2, what did you think? What are your general observations?
  2. Is there an image or text (besides yours) that has particularly struck you? Explain. (It can be from C1 or C2).
  3. Discuss three ideas that appear in various C1 texts and images. [Discuss major themes that emerged from the C1 texts and images in terms of regionality, language practices, individual and shared identity, community, etc. What did the C1 students find important to share? What did this say about them?]
  4. Discuss three ideas that appear in various texts and images of C2. [Discuss major themes that emerged from the C2 texts and images in terms of regionality, language practices, individual and shared identity, community, etc. What did the C2 students find important to share? What did this say about them?]
  5. Compare images and texts looking for patterns of similarities and differences. [Compare these themes and make deductions about the similarities and differences of C1 and C2 students, their respective schools, their communities, and their respective regions/cities.]

Using student responses to the questions above, work with the group to create a group summary (1-3 paragraphs) of their telecollaboration experience. Inform students that this summary will be shared with the students at C2 as a class post. Post this summary to the class website and invite students from C2 to comment.

Post-Videoconference Step: Written Reflection

Debrief with students about the telecollaboration. What was the experience like? What did they learn about their peers at C2? What did they discover about their own work, about themselves, and about C2 through this experience?

Prepare students to reflect on this experience in a written response.

  1. Prior to assigning the written reflection, discuss the reflection rubric with students.
  2. Inform students that they will write a reflection, which is a 2-3 page essay (sample provided at the end of the document) about what they learned in relation to self-representation. Remind students to write in narrative form rather than responding to questions point by point. Invite them to incorporate the following themes, discussing what particularly interested them for each theme:
    • Creating my self-representation. What elements did you choose for your self-representation? How did they work together to generate the final product?
    • The telecollaboration experience. What ideas emerged in the discussion of self-representations, including the cross-comparison of images and texts? What did you learn about sharing self-representations with the students at C2? (For example, what new ideas do you have about individual and shared identity, region/city, language practices, and community?) What other observations did you make during the videochat experience?
    • New ideas, new directions. After observing all the self-representations, would you change yours? If so, how? What new ideas do you have about the process of creating a self-representation? How did this experience help you explore and understand your ways of expressing your identity?

Post-Videoconference Step: Commentary on Work by Students at C2

Have students post their reflections on the class website. Ask them to comment substantively on and/or ask questions about two other reflections either by their classmates at C1 and/or the students at C2. For example, they can state that they like the self-representation, but they should also think critically about what this self-representation said, why the creator did what s/he did, etc., and comment on this. Have students respond to one comment that they received about their own reflection.


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