The experiences of Sikh people in the United States are largely understudied in U.S. schools. When Sikh experience does enter the classroom, it’s often through presentations by family or community members. In Vishavjit Singh’s “(In)Visible Identity,” he offers a list of resources for sharing more about Sikh history and experience. This toolkit supplements those resources, offering recommendations for talking about the importance of representation by using texts that engage Sikh experience for students in elementary, middle and high school classrooms.
- What advantages or disadvantages do I notice because of identity groups?
- How can I describe and compare my group identities with those of other people?
- How does representation affect our understanding of our identities?
K-4: Meet Sikh Captain America
Author and cartoonist Vishavjit Singh is the creator of Sikh Captain America. Share his story with your students and encourage them to create their own superheroes modeled after themselves. Read about how third-grade teacher Alicia Hsu did just that in Small Stories With Superpowers.
Grades 5-8: Passing the Baton
Some of the resources Singh suggests in (In)Visible Identity are the Digital Stories from the Iowa Sikh Association. Created by teens in 2013, these short videos are the product of a digital storytelling workshop. For students in the middle grades, we particularly recommend Baldeep Singh’s video “Confession of an Athletic Mind.” We’ve included discussion questions and two activities to pair with the video below.
- What are some of the ways Baldeep identifies himself in the video? (e.g., high school student, athlete, teen, turbaned Sikh)
- Baldeep mentions two athletes he admires—Usain Bolt and Leo Messi—before telling us about the Sikh runners he learned about. If Baldeep already has role models, why do you think he is so excited to learn about Milkha Singh and Fauja Singh?
- In the end of the video, Baldeep says, “I hope I don’t drop the baton as it’s passed on to me.” What do you think he means by this?
Activity: Mapping Identity
Begin by asking students to make a list of three people they admire (these could be famous people or people they know). Ask them to put these lists aside—you’ll return to them. Next, give students a few minutes to create an identity map, listing their multiple identities (e.g., student, sister, Christian, Latina). You might make your own to share as a model.
After they’ve completed their identity maps, ask students to return to their lists and take five minutes for a quick write. They should consider the following questions:
Do the people they’ve admired share identities with them? If so, which ones?
Which of their identities aren’t represented in these people?
What are some reasons why that might be the case?
Finally, bring the class back together to discuss their thoughts, with the goal of answering a key question: “Why does representation matter?”
Activity: Tell Your Own Story
Using Baldeep’s video as a model, have students create an informative video or presentation for their classmates. The goal should be for students to identify and introduce a role model, explain why they believe this person is important and explain what about their own identities led them to admire this person.
Grades 9-12: Exploring Sikh Representation through Cartoons
Among the texts available in the TT text library are cartoons by Vishavjit Singh. TT’s learning plan builder can help you incorporate these texts into a plan that explores Sikh representation, or you can use this one!