Teaching Strategy

Window or Mirror?

Close and Critical Reading
Grade Level


This task helps students consider if the text is a window or a mirror through practicing literacy skills and using technology. Students will decide if author, speaker, characters or content in a text reflect students’ lived experiences (mirror) or provide a window into the lived experiences of people whose identities differ from the students’. 


During and after reading


The world looks different depending on who and where you are, and students need practice understanding multiple points of view. The study of texts that reflect their own identities, experiences and motivations (mirrors) and also provide insight into the identities, experiences and motivations of others (windows) can move students toward more nuanced perceptions of the world around them.


Before you begin

  1. Read Rudine Sims Bishop's essay “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.”
  2. Sign up for a free account on polleverywhere.com. (With the free account, polls process up to 25 responses.)
  3. Create a poll asking, “Is this text a window or a mirror for you?” Provide two answer choices: window and mirror. Note: polleverywhere can receive responses via text message or through a tablet or computer.
  4. Choose a text to use with your students. Read the text and highlight sections that could be a window or a mirror for your students.

With students

  1. Introduce students to the theory of windows and mirrors.  
  2. Share the text. Read the author and title. If necessary, have students conduct research about the identities of the author(s) and the background of the text. Alternately, provide that information for students.
  3. Have students compare the author’s identity groups to their own identity groups (e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, immigration status, class, ability, religion). What identities are shared? What identities are not shared?
  4. Read the full text. Re-read the text if necessary.
  5. Assess students’ understanding of the text. Require students to cite textual evidence in order to demonstrate their understanding of the text’s central message.
  6. Ask students to take out their cellphone or device to participate in the real-time poll.
  7. Display polleverywhere question with directions for voting. If possible, project the poll for the whole class to see. If projection is not an option, write the directions on the board.
  8. Read one of the preselected excerpts of the text aloud to students.
  9. Ask students to consider if the text excerpt offers a window or a mirror for them, make their selection and vote.
  10. Announce the poll results to the class. Display them if possible.
  11. Use the following questions to discuss poll results. 
    • Why was this a mirror for you? Use text-based evidence to explain.
    • Why was this a window for you? Use text-based evidence to explain.
  12. Conclude by having students discuss how the text-based evidence relates to the text as a whole.

English language learners

Excerpting the text will help English language learners isolate a smaller portion of the text and increase their comprehension. Highlight the excerpted section of the text ahead of time for ELL students. Chunking the text in this way can aid their understanding and increase their participation.

Connection to anti-bias education

Text as Window and Mirror incorporates identity and diversity domains of Learning for Justice’s Anti-bias Framework. Seeing their identities mirrored in texts can foster positive social identity development in students by increasing their pride, confidence and healthy self-esteem, and recognizing traits of the dominant culture, their home culture and other cultures (Identity). Viewing a text as a window allows students to explore the lived experiences of others, building empathy and understanding while examining diversity in social, cultural, political and historical contexts (Diversity).