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How the Novel Americanah Explores Immigration, Race, and Love

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Told through a series of flashbacks,  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, captures the stories of two Nigerians, Ifemelu and her childhood friend/first love, Obinze, who enter themselves into self-imposed exiles in America and Great Britain after their options for education are squelched by a military dictatorship back home. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Crossing Borders with Digital Storytelling

In this Common-Core aligned immigration lesson plan, teachers are guided step-by-step through a process for launching a digital storytelling project on immigration in their own classrooms.  Recommended writing prompts, easy to use digital platforms, as well as resources and collaborative planning tools are shared and explained. 

Using digital storytelling to capture immigration stories is a powerful way for teachers to create opportunities for “empathetic moments” among students and shape classroom environments.  Telling stories of family immigration history – no matter how distant or recent – allows for common threads and variations of the immigration experience to be seen, heard, and reflected upon.  Digital storytelling offers the advantage of authentic engagement to reach all learning styles as well as to teach technological skills while exploring connections and understandings to an important issue.

Watch this video for an example of a digital story based on a poem written by a fifth grade student about her grandfather’s immigration from China to the U.S.

Year Released: 2015

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Teaching Freedom, Fairness, and Equality

In this immigration and civic engagement lesson plan, student will wrestle with the essential question: how deep is our commitment to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?  They will learn about five historical examples of restrictive immigration law and policy and also about the value of young people’s voices in movements to secure rights.

In the U.S., our political framework requires citizens be involved, informed and engaged. A ‘government of the people’ cannot function if there are no avenues for civic involvement, no methods for community deliberation, or no opportunities to influence government decisions.  Elections, petitions, and public deliberation are all a form of civic participation. It is the role of the people to exercise these rights to participate, and the responsibility of the government to respond and respect them.  Until the civil rights movement over 50 years ago, youth were traditionally left out of opportunities to engage civically, and one of the first places students get an opportunity to engage civically and think critically is in the classroom. 

In "The Purpose of Education" (1947), Martin Luther King Jr. wrote, "The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education." 

Martin Luther King Jr. activated the power of voice and helped people understand that you don’t have to be a gifted orator to be heard; rather, you have to possess passion and be equipped with knowledge that allows you to make critical, well-informed decisions that improve our society.  With social media and technology at times taking the place of marches and protests and augmenting others, the young activist of the new millennium has the power to bring the issues of their community to be heard and seen globally.Read more...

Year Released: 2015

9-12

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How the Film Spare Parts Presents an Opportunity for Educators

The film, “Spare Parts” is both emotionally uplifting and disheartening, and a film that can resonate with the viewer on both these levels is worth watching.  Based on the true story of four undocumented students and their quest to compete in a national robotics championship against the likes of prestigious, well-funded universities such as MIT, the film recounts a compelling tale of the underdog, which is why it made a successful article when it first appeared in Wired magazine in 2005 and a popular book written by the same author, Joshua Davis.  (A book review by us can be found here).  There is something fundamentally relatable about the pursuit of individual dreams and Hollywood capitalized on this phenomenon, while to its credit, showed that part of this dream remains unfulfilled.  Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Writing A Way In: Multiple Perspectives on Executive Action

The President’s Immigration Accountability Executive Action has been greeted with joy, relief, sadness, and contempt.  How can one decision trigger so many varied responses?  By weaving non-fiction accounts into creative writing, students will be able to write their way into understanding the multiple perspectives that surround this immigration issue. 

For lesson procedures, Common Core standards alignment, please click here.

Year Released: 2015

9-12+

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Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Students, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream

Author: Joshua Davis

Author Joshua Davis tells the true story of four undocumented teenagers from an impoverished section of Phoenix, Arizona who build a ragtag robot nicknamed “Stinky” out of spare parts to compete in a national robotics championship against the likes of MIT among other prestigious, well-funded universities. This brave and unlikely team combats more than their competitors. They also fight the vehemence of anti-immigrant sentiment, laws designed to prevent their advancement in society and a pervasive fear of deportation. Even so, they deal with typical teenage issues of insecurity and fitting into high school culture. They find their way with the support of each other and the backing of two teachers, Fredi Lajvardi and Allan Cameron.    Read more...

Year Released: 2014

"Behind the Mountains" by Edwidge Danticat

Teach students about the values of immigration and increase awareness of the adjustments faced by immigrants by reading Edwidge Danticat’s novel Behind the Mountains.  This gripping story chronicles the experience of Celiane Esperance, a young girl living in Haiti, who is forced to flee political violence to the US with her mother and brother and reunite with her father in Brooklyn, NY.  Along the journey, Celiane captures her thoughts and feelings in a journal she affectionately names her “sweet little book.”  This comprehensive unit plan includes activities for students to: keep a dialectical journal while reading, decipher the meaning of figurative language in Haitian proverbs and art, apply the “push-pull” factors of immigration, understand how a “duality of cultures” and “stages of adaptation” function in the lives of immigrants, as well as write an argumentative essay.

For lesson procedures, Common Core standards alignment, please download the Unit Plan.

Download Handouts:Read more...

Year Released: 2015

9-12

Just What is Executive Action? A Lesson From the Principal’s Desk

Much has been made of the president’s use of executive action in order to carry out the nation’s laws. It is a vague term that puzzles many in the media and raises large questions. Is it legal? Is it an abuse of power? Is it constitutional? Has it been used by Democratic and Republican presidents alike?

As suggested by the title, “Just What is Executive Action? A Lesson from the Principal’s Desk” students will apply inductive reasoning skills about individual school policies that are determined by the principal in order to understand what execution action is and its limitations. Students will apply their knowledge of school policy in order to define executive action in their own words as well as to read the media for accuracy and bias. An extension of this activity is also available for students to closely read a report Executive Grants of Temporary Immigration Relief, 1956-Present published by the Immigration Policy Center.

For lesson procedures, Common Core standards alignment, please click here.

Year Released: 2014

9-12

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The First American Settlers and the First Thanksgiving

Learn and discuss the myths and facts surrounding the first Thanksgiving and the first immigrants by engaging students in a thought-provoking and humorous read-aloud that challenges them to identify dominant and resistant readings of this national holiday.

For lesson procedures, Common Core standards alignment, please click here.

Year Released: 2014

3-5

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Interactive Immigration Timeline

Students will understand key government legislation on immigration in order to explore the historical tensions between welcoming and barring immigrant groups by engaging in an interactive immigration timeline scavenger hunt.

To access the lesson, you will need student computers with Internet capability.

For lesson procedures and standards alignment please click here.

Year Released: 2014

5-7

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