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Identity Transformation in Pygmalion

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In this second unit, students continue their investigation into the many facets of identity as they read the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw. They also continue to build skills as close readers as they examine a work of literature set in Victorian England. Students embark on a close case study of the protagonist, Eliza Doolittle, and analyze the changes within her character internally and externally. They conduct several close reads of the text, including decoding dialect and stage directions, as they work to ascertain the ways in which Eliza is transforming her identity, from a flower girl to a “duchess.”

Close reading of the text—with the use of text-dependent questions, Reader’s Dictionaries, Reader’s Notes, and various note-catchers and anchor charts—prepares students for the mid-unit assessment, in which they read a previously unseen passage and answer questions that require them to use evidence from the play to analyze the scene. The unit ends with students writing an argument essay, making a claim about whether Eliza changes on the inside and the outside, and supporting their claim with evidence they have gathered throughout the reading of the play.



Each unit is made up of a sequence of between 5-20 lessons. The “unit at a glance” chart in the curriculum map breaks down each unit into its lessons, to show how the curriculum is organized in terms of standards address, supporting targets, ongoing assessment, and protocols. It also indicates which lessons include the mid-unit and end-of-unit assessments.

Big Ideas & Guiding Questions

  • How can individuals re-create themselves?
  • When people change their external appearance, do they necessarily change on the inside too?
  • Individuals can change who they are perceived to be.
  • Class, gender, and occupation can shape individuals’ identity.

Content Connections

This module is designed to address English Language Arts standards as students read literature and informational texts about identity formation and transformation. However, the module intentionally incorporates Social Studies Practices and Themes to support potential interdisciplinary connections to this compelling content.
These intentional connections are described below.

Big ideas and guiding questions are informed by the New York State Common Core K–8 Social Studies Framework:

Unifying Themes (pages 6–7)

  • Theme 1: Individual Development and Cultural Identity: The role of social, political, and cultural interactions supports the development of identity; personal identity is a function of an individual’s culture, time, place, geography, interaction with groups, influences from institutions, and lived experiences.
  • Theme 5: Development and Transformation of Social Structures: Role of social class, systems of stratification, social groups, and institutions; role of gender, race, ethnicity, education, class, age, and religion in defining social structures within a culture; social and political inequalities.


Texts to buy

Texts that need to be procured. Please refer to Trade Book List for procurement guidance.

Cover Text Quantity ISBNs
by George Bernard Shaw
One per student
ISBN: 978-1580493994, 1580493998

Texts included in the unit

Texts that are included in the lesson materials.

Cover Text Quantity Publisher
Victorian Women: Not What You Might Think
by Gina Zorzi Cline
My Own True Name
by Diane Gonzales Bertrand
“Women and Urban Life in Victorian Britain,”
by Lynda Nead
“Study: Employment Ads Perpetuate Traditional Roles,”
by Duke Today
"Geena Davis, Media Equalizer,”
by New Moon Girls Magazine
“Images of Men in Advertising,”
by Tom Yakanama
“Guys and Dolls No More?”
by Elizabeth Sweet
“Men Are Becoming the Ad Target of the Gender Sneer,”
by Courtney Kane
“‘Cover Girl Culture’ Exposes Media’s Impact on Young Girls,”
by Melanie Deziel
"Truth in Advertising?”
by Stephanie Clifford
“Key Questions to Ask When Analyzing Media Messages,”
by National Association for Media Literacy Education
“Is Money Affecting Your Social Status?”
by Reniqua Allen
Teen Vogue,
“Generation Z Teens Stereotyped As 'Lazy And Unaware”
by Julianne Micoleta
Huffington Post, 2012
“Teen Slang: What's, like, so wrong with like?” BBC News Magazine, September, 2010
by Denise Winterman
BBC News Magazine, 2010
“Why Couldn’t Snow White Be Chinese?”
by Grace Lin,
“The Border," Red: Teenage Girls of America Write on What Fires Up Their Lives Today
by Cindy Morand
Penguin/Plume, 2007
ISBN: 9781101213810 |
Team Players, Monitor, September 2006, Vol 37, No. 8.
by Erika Packard,
Monitor, 2006
Not Much, Just Chillin: The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers
by Linda Perlstein
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003
ISBN: 978-0345475763



ELA G7:M2B:U2:L17

End-of-Unit Assessment

Optional Activities


  • Invite historians or experts on life in Victorian England to come to the classroom and talk about life and times during the setting of Pygmalion.
  • Invite a dramaturge, actor or actress, playwright, or anyone affiliated with a drama company that has staged Pygmalion to discuss what it was like to put on the play or to act out a scene (or scenes) from the play for your students.

Field Work



  • Watch the musical My Fair Lady and compare the film version to the play, particularly paying attention to the different endings.
  • Conduct a more in-depth study of class in England and in America. Use the PBS documentary People Like Us to support your study.

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