Identity Transformation in Pygmalion | EL Education Curriculum

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ELA 2012 G7:M2B:U2

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.

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.


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.

Texts and Resources to Buy

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

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


Optional: Community, Experts, Fieldwork, Service, and Extensions


  • 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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