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The Immigrant Experience through Literature and History

Author: Sarah Vieldhouse


Joseph Greenberg Elementary School

Year: 2022

Seminar: Asian Americans in U.S. Schools

Grade Level: 7-12

Keywords: ELA, English, immigration, Literature Circles, Middle School, Research

School Subject(s): Language Arts, Social Studies

Based on research about the experience of immigrants and the history of immigration policies in the US, this unit seeks to meet the needs of students in an urban community by using literature and primary sources to explore the experiences and diverse stories of immigrants in American history.  In doing so, this unit also seeks to dismantle prevailing stereotypes and assumptions about immigrants in order to foster empathy and create a citizen culture that is informed and open-minded to the experiences and views of others. Students will engage in literature circles that feature the diverse, fictional stories of immigrants while also learning about the history of immigration in the United States through research of primary and secondary sources. Through reading, writing and discussion, students will analyze and reflect on topics such as the reasons for migration, assimilation of immigrants, and the diversity of the immigrant narrative.

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Full Unit Text
Unit Content

I teach 8th grade English and Language Arts (ELA) at a K-8 school in northeast Philadelphia. The students at my school come from a diverse array of cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  Based on school district data of ELL students, there are 15 different languages spoken, with Chinese and Malayalam matching for the highest.  About ⅓ of our student population identifies as Asian.  Based on a survey I gave to my 8th grade students this year, nearly 65% of them are first or 1.5 generation immigrants (either they or their parents immigrated to the US).   This showed me that the topic of immigration is not only a hotly debated political topic, it is a salient part of many students’ identities.  Only in my 10th year of teaching in 2020/2021 however, did I teach a novel that explicitly dealt with the experience of an immigrant teen. In the story, a 2nd generation immigrant goes back to his parents’ home country (The Philippines) and deals with cultural differences, family secrets, and identity.  Many of my students found the book (Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay) very engaging and relevant and through various activities expressed a connection to the main character because of his immigrant background and struggles with identity. Generally, the administration and parents of my school community have encouraged the teaching of mostly traditional texts in classes. While there is a push happening in my district to move away from traditional texts that don’t encompass a wide variety of views and experiences, our school has been a bit slower to commit to that movement because of a fear of lost rigor in the curriculum. It is a goal of mine (and a main goal of this unit) to curate texts and activities for my students that are rigorous as well as relevant and reflective of their experiences.

In the same survey, I asked how many times in their 6th-8th grade years they had discussed or read anything related to immigration in any of their classes.  50% of them said “not at all” or “a couple times” and 45% said that they couldn’t remember.  What this tells me is that this extremely relevant topic is not being discussed enough, and if it is, it isn’t being done in a way that feels relevant to students.  My middle schoolers are at an age in which discovering/creating their identity as an individual as well as in the context of their social groups is paramount. I do an independent reading program in my ELA class, and this year I was helping an Asian-American student find a book to read. He had read Everything Sad is Untrue by Daniel Nayeri for his summer reading and loved it. He told me that he really connected with this book because the protagonist was a cultural outsider and he wanted to read more books like that.  I was surprised because from what I could see the student seemed to be confident and outgoing and had a lot of friends. I’m still not sure exactly why he connected with outsider characters, but I did realize that through this and other personal interactions with students that the feeling of being an “outsider” and looking for a sense of belonging is a prevalent one. Reading and discussing the stories (fictional and non-fictional) of people and characters who have gone through similar experiences can help middle schoolers to understand their own experiences and shape their identity in a positive way.

Another issue that this unit seeks to address is that of the “single story” of immigration. Portrayals of immigration in the media, and particularly the conversations around immigration in recent elections, have created a prevailing narrative about immigration.  This narrative focuses on immigrants primarily from Central America as well as Muslim countries, and paints a picture of immigrants as either dangerous and full of malintent, or innocent victims in search of a better life.  While this narrative may have some truth for specific individuals, it by no means encompasses the wide array of immigrant identities, motivations, or experiences. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story,” emphasizes the need for having and reading stories that reflect people’s diverse identities, not only out of respect for the “other,” but to expand our own minds and through this expansion chip away at the stereotypes, generalizations, and judgments that our cultures have taught us (Adichie). For students who may not directly relate to the immigrant experience, being exposed to the varied and intimate stories of immigrants can only help them to be more open-minded and empathetic towards others. Based on this, I believe that a thematic unit about the immigrant experience would benefit all of my students.

TIP Seminar Content

In our seminar, “Asian Americans in U.S. Schools,” we have dealt with questions about what it means to be an immigrant, what is meant by the terms race and ethnicity, how culture shapes behavior and stereotypes, the impact of policy on migration, and how and if assimilation into the mainstream culture should and does occur.  Many of our initial conversations focused on the topic of immigration, as well as related sub-topics.   We learned about the difference between voluntary and involuntary migrants and the various situations that might influence a person to choose to leave their home country or might force them to leave. Some of these circumstances are considered the “push and pull” factors of immigration.  Of course, policies of the home country and the destination country play a significant role in impacting migration.  For example, we discussed the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act passed in the US in 1882, which essentially codified racism against those of Asian origin and impacted migration patterns to the US for generations. It wasn’t until 1965 with the passage of the Immigration and Naturalization Act that Asian immigrants were again able to enter the US. Since then, there has been a surge of Asian immigration for a variety of reasons and from a variety of Asian countries.

This variety of origin countries has spawned many questions about what it means to be “Asian” and who identifies/ is identified as Asian or not. While there may be some ethnic and/or cultural similarities between some groups, there is certainly no Asian monoculture.  The stereotype that has developed about Asians as the “model minority,” is therefore flawed on many levels and can be particularly damaging for young students.  In a study done by Rosenbloom and Way (2004), Asian American students were more likely to suffer from “depression, low self-esteem, and poor friendship quality” (44) than other students from different ethnic groups due to peer discrimination. Because of the model minority myth, Asian American students are more likely to be overlooked if they are struggling.   Conversely, this positive stereotype about Asian academic success has been found to actually strengthen the negative stereotype about the academic abilities of African American and Latino students. (Rosenbloom and Way 2004). It is important to be aware of and address these stereotypes not only for teachers, but for students as well. No student should feel “pigeon-holed” into a certain set of skills or abilities based on their race/ethnicity, but should be encouraged and supported equally by their peers and teachers.

Once immigrants arrive in a new country, there is often an expectation of assimilation. Zhou and Gonzalez (2019) define assimilation as “the extent to which they acquire the habits, attitudes, and modes of life of the host society and their national or ethnic origins become insignificant in determining their outcomes of social mobility.” (Zhou and Gonzalez 2019) The Classical view of assimilation holds that there is a single mainstream culture and that through “competition, conflict, and accommodation,” distinctions among groups will eventually disappear.  Some believe in the “Melting Pot” theory, in which the best of each culture is melded together to create a new culture.  These both contain several assumptions, one of which is that a monoculture is the ideal. On the other hand, the theory of Pluralism “which perceives American society as composed of a collection of ethnic and racial minority groups, as well as the dominant majority group of European Americans” (Zhou 72-73).  This view holds that diverse cultural groups can co-exist together and have equal opportunities and places a much higher value on the unique ethnic identities of immigrants.  One underlying assumption in this theory is that these diverse groups hold a set of shared cultural and civic values that would allow peaceful co-existence. More recently, however, Portes and Zhou (1994) have presented a theory of “segmented assimilation.”  After analyzing the assimilation patterns from various second-generation immigrants, they found that there is not a standard assimilation into a clear-cut American mainstream, but rather three different potential trajectories for assimilation depending on various factors that include financial resources before and after immigrating, the presence of discrimination in the new community, and the existence/quality of an ethnic enclave in the new country. The three trajectories are described as follows:

One of them replicates the time-honored portrayal of growing acculturation and parallel integration into the white middle-class; a second leads straight in the opposite direction to permanent poverty and assimilation to the underclass; still a third combines rapid economic advancement with deliberate preservation of the immigrant community’s values and solidarity. (Portes and Zhou 1994)

In part because of the racial and economic segregation in the US by geographic areas and decreasing economic opportunity for all Americans, Zhou explains that there has been a growing “oppositional culture” that is “anti-intellectual.” (Zhou 1997) Second generation immigrants in particular assimilate into a less successful “subculture” that doesn’t value education as the primary means of social mobility.

In underprivileged neighborhoods, in particular, immigrant children meet in their schools native-born peers with little hope for the future and are thus likely to be pressured by their peers to resist assimilation into the middle class as expected by their parents. (Zhou 70)

Additionally, because of the limited opportunities for advancement in the jobs typically available to immigrants, the rising need for advanced education to attain upwardly mobile jobs, and the rising cost of advanced education, even when education is valued, the 1st generation parents may not have the resources to support their children’s advancement. (Portes and Zhou 1994)

While all of this points to issues much larger than an 8th grade ELA classroom, learning about this has made me aware of the complex issues involved in defining assimilation as well as the process of assimilation for immigrants. While I was learning about the theories of assimilation in class, I was also reading the novel American Street by Ibi Zoboi which tells the story of a Haitian immigrant who lives with extended family in what is considered a “depressed” neighborhood of Chicago.  In the story the main character and her family are caught up in a subculture of drug gangs, racism and physical violence. While they escape this to some extent at the end of the story, the traumatic repercussions of these experiences certainly don’t end there. On the other end of the spectrum, the main character in Patron Saints of Nothing (Randy Ribay) is the child of highly educated and well-employed Filipino immigrant parents, attends a good school in a mostly white middle class neighborhood, and has the resources to attend a good college. Reading these stories at the same time as learning about these issues in class highlighted for me the importance of presenting these different kinds of stories and immigrant experiences to my students.  On a deeper level, it is also important to discuss these broader issues of economic opportunity and debilitating racism that prevent some immigrants and people who are impoverished from being able to advance socially or economically.

Unit Content

Major Unit Objectives

Based on my research and the problems identified and discussed, I have decided to create a thematic unit about the immigrant experience, using a variety of fiction and non-fiction texts to support analysis and understanding. These are the three primary objectives for the unit:

  1. Students will be able to analyze the development of conflict and a main character throughout a fiction text in order to connect the conflict and character’s development with the development of a major theme in the text
    1. Standard: CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.2:  Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.
  2. Students will be able to analyze and summarize primary and secondary non-fiction sources about immigrant experiences in order to write an informative research paper and create a visual presentation synthesizing what they have learned
    1. Standard:  CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.8.2:  Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.
  3. Students will thoughtfully and respectfully engage in discussions based on their readings, developing listening and communication skills, in order to cultivate empathy for the unique stories and experiences of other humans.
    1. Standard:  CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.1:  Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

For the first major unit objective, students will need to identify and analyze the development of the main conflicts in the fiction text they are reading. This requires a basic understanding of types of conflict, the differences between major conflicts and minor conflicts in a story, and plot structure.  The development of characters, conflicts and their resolution (or lack of a resolution) is usually closely connected to major themes in the story.  Similarly, students will also analyze the development of a main character (or characters) in the story.  Doing this requires an understanding of characterization, character types and roles (protagonist, antagonist, foil, etc.), and conflicts (especially internal) in order to make connections between the character’s development (do they change? How? Stay stagnant? Why?) and a major theme in the story. Students also need to be able to define and identify themes in order to clearly communicate how they see those themes develop and support their conclusions with evidence from the text.  Students will engage in a wide variety of activities and formative assessments (see Teaching Strategies) in order to develop these skills and for me to evaluate their progress. As a summative assessment, students will write a text-dependent analysis of a major theme in the story.

While these are the academic skills required to meet this first objective, there are also social-emotional skills embedded in this objective.  In order to understand content and character development, students must be able to recognize and name emotions as well as interpersonal sources of conflict and healing such as the effect of words and actions on relationships. Students will regularly engage in reflective writing and discussions to support this social emotional learning.

The purpose of the second unit objective is to corroborate what students are learning about immigrant experiences in their fiction books with real-life experiences. This gives students the opportunity not only to compare and contrast the experiences of many immigrants, but also to realize that the fictional stories they are reading are based on the true and unique experiences of many very real people. For this objective, students will be reading primary and secondary sources in order to gain information about real immigrant experiences. In order to do this, students need to know how to read these types of non-fiction texts.  This includes identifying and analyzing text features and text structures, as well as analyzing and evaluating various perspectives on the same topic and the use of various media sources (reading a narrative account vs. watching a video documentary vs. interviewing someone firsthand). When conducting an interview, students need skills to develop thoughtful, respectful, yet probing questions.   Students also will need to know how to paraphrase and summarize what they are reading, as well as how to organize their research.  When creating a research paper and presentation, students need to know how to cite their sources and create a bibliography, as well as communicate their research in a logical, informative, and engaging way. This, of course, is the summative assessment for this objective.  Students will create a visual presentation of their research as well as write a research paper.

My last objective is certainly more difficult to measure, but I would argue equally as important as the first two.  Often in an ELA (English and Language Arts) class like mine, we tend to focus on students’ ability to communicate through writing.  While this is very important, it is also an essential part of relationships, work, and basic human experience to be able to communicate verbally and truly listen to others. If it is not modeled for them at home or elsewhere, students need to be taught what respectful, quality discussions look like. They need to learn what it looks like to show you are listening with your body language; they need to learn how to listen carefully and respond to someone else in a way that shows you understood what they said.  They need to learn that thoughtful willingness to change one’s thinking is not a weakness, but an act of strong humility. While discussion strategies such as Socratic Seminar are excellent teaching tools, these skills need to be taught and modeled on a regular basis, formally and informally.  By exposing students to the various stories of real and fictional immigrants (maybe even someone in their own classroom or broader communities), I believe that students will develop empathy and a sense of appreciation for the unique identities and experiences of others. While this is difficult to measure, I will evaluate the quality of students’ contributions in formal discussions such as Socratic Seminar, evaluate written reflective responses throughout the unit, and use a survey at the end of the unit in which students self-evaluate the impact of the unit on their views towards others.

Essential Questions:

-Why do people immigrate to the US?

-In what ways do immigrants assimilate?  What is that process like? In what areas do immigrants choose or prefer not to assimilate? Should immigrants assimilate?  If so, how and in what areas?

-In what ways are the “two worlds” of the immigrant assimilated?  In what ways do they stay separate?  How does this affect the immigrants’ perception of their own identity and sense of belonging?

Teaching Strategies

Below is an overview of specific strategies that I will be using throughout my unit.  The purpose of these strategies is to meet the objectives discussed above, by creating an environment in which students can acquire knowledge and specific skills, collaborate, process, reflect, and demonstrate their learning.

Annotation: Annotation is a tool used regularly in my classroom to show student-thinking and analysis about a text. With this strategy, students must be able to write directly on the text (using sticky notes is also an option).  Using a guide, they make notes about their thoughts, questions, literary devices, text structure, etc.

Exit Ticket:  This often comes in the form of a Quick-Write, but is an excellent way to quickly assess student understanding at the end of class. Give students a question or short task that is related to the day’s objective, then have students respond.  This response is their “ticket” to exit class for that day.

Fishbowl Socratic Discussion: In this format, a small (no more than 8 students) sit in a circle while the rest of the class stands or sits outside of the circle to observe. The inner circle participates in a discussion about a text, having already done a close-read of that text and formulated thoughtful questions and comments.  Students outside the circle complete a listening/evaluation activity in regards to the discussion. After a designated time, the students switch from being on the outside to the inside. I will use this strategy at least twice during my unit.  The discussion questions will be focused on the relationship between conflict, character development, and theme; however, students can also bring in information and ideas from the non-fiction sources we will have studied by this point

Gallery Walk: This is an active activity that can either be collaborative or individual.  Some type of task/text is divided into multiple parts and posted around the classroom.  Students then are divided up into groups (or work as individuals), with each group starting at a different task.  They then rotate around the room, either as they complete the task or after a designated amount of time.

Gradual Release: This is the I do, we do, you do method of instruction. This often begins with the teacher conducting a read aloud and think-aloud, in which the teacher reads a text, talking through how they are thinking about that text and modeling a specific skill.  This direct instruction may also include a new term or specific information that students need to understand for that lesson. This is then followed by shared reading, in which the class (or partners/small groups) read a text together and then apply the newly learned skill/information together.  Lastly, the individual student reads a text and applies the skill/information on their own.

Graphic Organizers: a graphic organizer is an interactive, visual tool that shows the relationships between ideas. Graphic organizers can be found or created in all shapes and forms to suit the needs of the lesson.  Some basic graphic organizers include Venn diagrams, sequence charts, concept maps, and main idea webs.

Jigsaw/Expert Groups: This is a collaborative strategy that also holds the individual student accountable for understanding a concept. In this strategy, different groups of students are assigned different tasks.  They work on the task collaboratively as a group, becoming “experts” on that topic/task.  After a designated amount of time, the students split up into different, pre-assigned groups, in which each member of the new group has worked on a different task.  Each “expert” then shares with their new group what their original group had worked on.

Literature Circles:  This is a collaborative structure in which a group of students (about 4-6) are reading the same text and take on different roles during the reading and discussion of that text. For example, one student may focus on vocabulary, another on significant quotes, another on making connections to other stories, etc. After reading, each student shares what they found and a discussion about the text is led by the group’s discussion leader.

Modeling Writing: This is when a teacher models for students how to organize thoughts, information, choose appropriate words and punctuation in real-time for a specific writing assignment. This also naturally involves a Think-Aloud, in which the teacher is thinking out loud to students their choices about word and idea placement, sentence structure, and organization.  The students see how writing is done and see a model of how they should write their own. I would plan to do this unit half-way through the school year, at which point my students should know how to write a thematic essay, but will be new to writing an informational research paper. I would use this strategy at this point to teach them how to write a research paper.

One-Pagers:  One-pagers are an excellent visual way to capture students’ reflections and analysis of a text.  After reading a text, show students a lot of examples (easily found online) and give a list of things that need to be included.  Some things might be: a border of text or images that represents a theme, a symbolic image from the story surrounded by a related quote, an analysis of the connection between two quotes, etc. See “Kruse” site listed in Works Cited for more details.

Quick-Write:  This is a strategy for processing, in which a question is posed and the student takes a short amount of time (2-5 minutes) to respond in writing. This is often used right before a discussion but can also be used as evidence of student thinking and understanding of a topic.

Stations:  This activity can be used for multiple types of tasks and can be similar to a Gallery Walk, except that Stations tends to have students working at a particular station for an extended period of time on a more involved task.  In this strategy, multiple stations are set up around the room with directions and expectations posted at each station.  Students either rotate in groups after a designated period of time or as they complete the task at the station. I would use this strategy when teaching about immigration at the beginning of my unit.

Think-Pair-Share: This is a collaborative processing/discussion method in which the individual student has time to think about their response to a question (can use a quick-write also), then discusses their thoughts with a partner (Pair), and then the partners have an opportunity to share their thoughts in a whole class discussion.

Written Discussion: For a written discussion, each student in a group of four begins with a different discussion question (see below).  They will write their name on their paper and then have 3 minutes to respond in writing to that question.  They then pass the papers in a circle in their group.  They will have about a minute to read the other student’s question and response, then they have another 3 minutes to write their own response to the question and that student.  They write their initials next to their response. This continues (giving a little more time for reading each time) until each student has responded to each question and they once again have their own papers and can read all of the responses.

Unit Organization

Essentially there are two main components to this unit – the fiction/literature circles in which students will be engaged in order to meet the first and third objectives, and the non-fiction/research portion which is designed to meet the second and third objectives. These two portions will overlap throughout the unit in order to develop and spiral skills over a period of time and to enhance student understanding and discussions of the overarching themes and ideas of the unit. Altogether, I plan for this unit to take about seven weeks to complete. Instead of doing novels for the literature circles, one could also choose to use a set of short stories as well.  This could potentially take less time in class (see annotated bibliography for short story collections about immigrant experiences).

Students will begin by choosing/being placed into groups for literature circles.  Students will select their top three choices from among 5-6 books and then, based on student selections and my own evaluation of groups and book appropriateness (based on content and level), will put students in equally numbered groups of about 5-6. Each book will focus on a character/group of characters who are immigrants and the collection of books should highlight the diverse experiences of immigrants.  This includes their reasons for leaving their country and going to a different country, as well as their unique experiences adjusting to life in a different culture. These books should also be engaging for students and be at a variety of accessible reading levels appropriate for the class (see “Teaching for Social Justice” in annotated bibliography for a resource for age-appropriate books).

Students will conduct a thematic study of the novel, focusing on how character development and conflict develop a theme.   During the literature study, students will engage in close-read analysis, Socratic seminar discussions, and analytical and reflective writing.  Students in the group will be given a deadline by which to read their book, and will plan out an appropriate reading schedule.  Depending on availability of books (school purchased vs. student purchased), students will read together in groups 3-4 days per week and also independently. When reading in their literature circle groups, students will have roles such as Summarizer (summarizes what they read that day), Discussion Director (generates discussion questions and leads a discussion about the text), Connector (makes connections with real experiences and other texts), Illustrator (creates some kind of picture/graph/image representing what they read that day), Word Wizard (chooses, defines, and explains the significance of key vocabulary from the text), and Literary Luminary (chooses and explains significance of significant quotes in the text). In order to develop skills, students will rotate these roles each time they meet as a group (Literature Circles).

Students will regularly engage in discussions with their own literature circles about the book they are reading. Some of these should be focused discussions at the end of the novel specifically about the relationship of character and conflict development to a theme in the story.  However, they will also semi-regularly form jigsaw groups in which one student from each literature circle joins students from other literature circles to discuss a topic and make connections/share about the books they are reading. Students will also participate in 2 whole groups (divided into two groups for the Fishbowl strategy) Socratic Seminars.  Two suggested discussion questions are 1. Based on the texts you have read, what do the authors present as the most significant challenge for immigrants? And 2. Does the author seem to think “belonging” is important? What do you think the author believes it means to “belong”? These types of questions allow students to share thoughts and reflections from their different texts while delving deeply into meaning. At the end of the unit, students will complete either a one-pager assignment (Kruse) or a thematic essay.

For the non-fiction/research portion of the unit, students need a foundational understanding of what immigration is, why people immigrate, and historical/current immigration policies, statistics, and issues in the United States. Students will engage in research/exploratory activities about the immigrant experience and a history of immigration in the US.  This includes engaging students in conversations about voluntary and involuntary migration, culture and stereotypes, as well as debates over assimilation. This will require some direct instruction using various non-fiction resources and strategies such as expert groups, stations, and discussions. This introductory teaching about the background of immigration will span about the first 2-3 weeks of the unit.  Throughout the unit, students will be engaged in literature circles 2-4 days per week and in the non-fiction portion 2-3 days per week.

Students will then be given a choice of topics related to immigration from which to choose for their research. This choice list will include any of the immigration policies discussed early in the unit, as well as broader topics such as immigration and sports, music, food, music, science, technology, etc. The purpose of this research project is for students not only to develop their research skills, but to learn more about the experiences, controversies, and contributions of immigrants in the US.   In order to cultivate digital citizenship, students will need explicit instruction on how to choose, evaluate, organize, and take notes on sources. Students doing the same topics should meet together occasionally to share ideas and sources.  This research portion should also be scaffolded to support the needs of various students.  Some students may require more structure and support through curated resources and graphic organizers in order to meet the standard, while others should be challenged to develop their organizational and research skills more independently. After two weeks of research, students will create a visual representation of their research (this can be a digital presentation or poster) and write a research paper.  If this is new for students, they will need explicit instruction and modeled writing to learn how to organize and format their research paper as well as how to cite sources and write a bibliography.

Classroom Activities

Lesson Plan One

Title: Introduction to Immigration

Time: 90 minutes

Objectives: SWBAT define immigrant, migration, refugee, voluntary migration, and compulsory migration IOT brainstorm and discuss the push and pull factors that influence a person leaving one place for another

Standards:  CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.


Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Essential Questions:  What is immigration?  Why do people immigrate?

Overview:  In this lesson, students will explore the meaning of the term “immigrant” and the reasons why someone may leave their home to live elsewhere.

Lesson Activities:

Key -Formative assessments are underlined, Summative assessments are in bold, Collaborative activities are italicized
Order of Activities:

 Individual Hook Activity: Word association – what words do you associate with the word “immigration”? What images come to mind?  What have you heard?  Are there specific people/kinds of people you think of?

  1. Discuss student responses, then ask where and how students are exposed to these ideas/associations with immigration (they may say things like social media, tv, personal experiences, etc.)
  2. Show a collage of images from news, art, etc. that students may be familiar with.  Explain that we are going to be looking deeply into what it means to be an immigrant and working to understand the varied experiences of immigrants.
  3. As a group, have students come up with a definition for “immigration.”  Share and discuss their definitions
  4. Word Focus: Teach students about the Latin root of immigration (migr) and look at related words and their meanings (migrate, emigrate, migratory, etc.)  Discuss where students have heard these words before
  5. Next, have groups brainstorm a list of reasons why someone might leave one place to live in another.
  6. Discuss the difference between “push” and “pull” factors and have groups label their list/color code to identify push and pull factors
  7. Then, discuss and define “voluntary” vs. “compulsory” migration.  Brainstorm causes/types of compulsory migration and add to list.
  8. Then, watch this video about what it means to be a “refugee” from TED-Ed:  What does it mean to be a refugee? – Benedetta Berti and Evelien Borgman
  9. After watching, review the umbrella of terms included in what it can mean to be an immigrant, and emphasize the variety of stories and circumstances that exist to cause someone to leave their home.
  10. Journal question:  Do you identify as an immigrant?  Why or why not?  Does anyone else in your family?  Has your understanding of this term changed since the beginning of class?  How?
  11. Explain that they will be assigned to interview someone they know who has migrated from one place to another in order to find out the reasons for migration
Materials Needed  Video:  What does it mean to be a refugee? – Benedetta Berti and Evelien Borgman

Interview Assignment Handout (see appendices)

Lesson Plan Two

Title: History of Immigrant policies in the US

Time: Two 90 minute periods

Objectives: SWBAT identify specific immigration policies in the US and explain how they affected immigration to the US



Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).


Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.


Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.


Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.

Essential Questions: How have US immigration policies changed over time and how do those policies reflect the values/attitudes of US citizens towards immigrants?

Overview:  In this lesson,

Lesson Activities:

Key -Formative assessments are underlined, Summative assessments are in bold, Collaborative activities are italicized
Order of Activities:

  1. Explain to students that today they will be doing a timeline station activity of US Immigration policy.  Introduce students to the KWL chart about Immigration policies in US history.  Have them take about 2-5 minutes to complete the “K” (What do I already know?) section of the organizer.  When they are finished, have them write down 3-5 questions in the “W” (What do I want to know?) section of the organizer.
  2. Briefly explain that students will use their timeline handout to take notes at each station.  Depending on class size, they will be divided into groups of 2-3.  Each group will start at a different station and then they will rotate every 4 minutes in time order around the room.
  3. After completing all of the stations and taking notes on the provided handout, students will write down 3-5 things in the “L” section (What I learned) of their KWL chart.  Then, they will discuss the following questions with their groups.  For each group, students should rotate who is the discussion leader for each question.  One person will be chosen to share-out to the class.
    1. What two policies stuck out to you the most?  Why?  Did any of them surprise you?
    2. What trends or patterns do you notice in the timeline of policies?
    3. Choose three different policies that you learned about.  How do these reflect the events going on in the world at that time?  How do they reflect the values of the American government and American people?
  4. Class discussion: Have the designated members of each group share out the summary of their group’s discussion.
  5. Assessment:  Students will then use the information they learned and their group discussions to write an essay that is part informational, part analytical, and part reflective. 
    1. Prompt:  Using what you’ve learned, write an essay analyzing the changes in immigration policy through US history. Include your analysis and reflections on how these policies reflect world events as well as American values/views towards immigrants.


  1. The Naturalization Act of 1790
  2. Slavery and the Ban on immigration of Free-Blacks:  How slavery flourished in the United States in charts and maps
  3. Irish Immigration and the Know-Nothing Party:  Why America Loves/Hated the Irish | History
  4. Chinese Exclusion Act and Scott Act of 1882:  The dark history of the Chinese Exclusion Act – Robert Chang
  5. Immigration Act of 1891, Ellis Island opens, and graph analysis of immigration to the US:  and Map of the Foreign-Born Population of the United States, 1900 | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History
  6. Gentleman’s Agreement and the Immigration Act of 1917
  7. Immigration Act of 1924 and the establishment of US Border Patrol
  8. The Establishment of the Bracero program (1942):  The Bracero Program
  9. Magnuson Act(1942), War Brides Act (1945), Displaced Persons Act(1948), Immigration and Nationality Act (1952), and Refugee Relief Act of 1953 (graph analysis)
  10. Immigration Act of 1965  (graph analysis) Facts on U.S. immigrants, 2018 , U.S. Immigration Since 1965 | History
  11. Simpson-Mazzoli Act (1986), Dreamers (2001), and DACA (2012)
  12. 1994 Proposition 187, 2002 Creation of Homeland Security, Secure Fence Act(2006), and the Muslim Travel Ban of 2017
Materials Needed  KWL graphic organizer (Class Materials)

Timeline Notes Handout (see appendices)

Station Materials

 Lesson Plan Three

Title: Immigrant Assimilation

Time: Two 90 minute periods

Objectives: SWBAT define assimilation and pluralism and summarize ways/ aspects of life that could be assimilated in order to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of assimilation into a mainstream culture through a written discussion with classmates.



Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.


Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.


Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.

Essential Questions:  In what ways do immigrants assimilate?  What is that process like? In what areas do immigrants choose or prefer not to assimilate? Should immigrants assimilate?  If so, how and in what areas?

Overview:  In this lesson, students will learn about the terms “assimilation” and “acculturation” as well as a brief history of forced assimilation in the United States and current controversies about aspects of immigrant life that some believe should be assimilated into mainstream culture. Students will evaluate the “salad bowl” vs. the “melting pot” metaphors of assimilation and through a written discussion with their peers, consider the benefits and drawbacks of assimilation.

Lesson Activities:

Key -Formative assessments are underlined, Summative assessments are in bold , Collaborative activities are italicized
Note Before implementing this lesson, have a discussion about aspects of culture and have students complete “The Elements of Culture” graphic organizer (available for free on TeachersPayTeachers).  Students should also read Jason Kim’s “Hello, My Name is___” (found on
Order of Activities:

 Have students review “The Elements of Culture” organizer that they previously completed. Review the difference between social culture and political culture and make sure students have both on their chart.

  1. Journal Prompt: What parts of your culture make you proud?  Imagine that you immigrate to a new country with a very different mainstream culture than your own.  Which parts of your own culture would you most want to hold on to? Which parts would you be willing to give up if it potentially meant an easier life in your new community?
  2. Discuss student responses as a class.
  3. Word study: Explain that this process is called “assimilation.”  Define this term and discuss the Latin roots.
  4. Have students read an abridged version of the New York Times Magazine article “What Does it Take to Assimilate” in America?” with a partner. As they read, students will be prompted to annotate for key ideas and terms.
  5. Review the ideas of the “Salad Bowl” (Pluralism) metaphor vs. the “Melting Pot” metaphor from the article.  Discuss:  What are some of the different ideas presented by the author about what it means to “assimilate”?
  6. Direct Instruction: Explain that the term “assimilation” has some negative connotations and the “salad bowl” metaphor is more closely associated with the term “Pluralism.” Define this new term and explain the similarities/differences with “assimilation.”  Provide a brief history of forced assimilation in the US.  Do a Think-Pair-Share, asking students to think of ways today that immigrants are pressured to assimilate (language, religious practices, clothing, etc.) and discuss responses, showing examples from the news.
  7. Written Discussion: Explain that students will be doing a written discussion about these ideas. This is a way for students to express their own ideas about these issues and also “listen” to the ideas/views of their classmates in a respectful way. Emphasize that students should always work to be honest but also respectful of the identities and experiences of others.
    1. If this activity is new for students and/or they have been taught how to respond in a discussion, it would be helpful for students to show an example of a thoughtful response and provide sentence starters for responding.
    2. Questions for discussion:
      1. Which metaphor of assimilation do you think is better – the salad bowl or the melting pot?
      2. Which aspects of American culture should immigrants adopt in order to be “good citizens”?
      3. Which aspects of their home culture should immigrants be allowed/encouraged to hold on to?
      4. Give an example from a story you’ve read of someone who has chosen to assimilate to mainstream culture in some way. Why did they do this? Was it beneficial for them?  Why or why not? (At this point students should have all read Jason Kim’s “My Name is…” as well as a few other novels/short stories/poems from which they could draw examples)
  8. Conclude for the day with an exit ticket in which students reflect on their experience with the written discussion.
    1. Did they feel comfortable sharing their thoughts?
    2. Did reading other students’ responses change their thinking about any of the questions?
    3. Which question felt the most important to them and why?
  9. At the beginning of class the next day, show students the eagle side of a quarter and ask them what they see.  After students share responses, discuss what “E pluribus unum” means in Latin and tell them that this is going to be their text for the day’s Socratic discussion.
  10. Give students about 10 minutes to write down thoughts and ideas on their organizers.  Encourage them to use ideas and information from what we have learned so far in the unit, in particular from yesterday’s lesson and activity on assimilation.
  11. Organize students into two groups and conduct a Socratic seminar (Fishbowl) on the text “E pluribus unum.”   Question:  What do you think is the intended meaning of this phrase?  How is this phrase connected to the idea of assimilation?
    1. Encourage students to use examples from their readings, and what we have learned so far.
  12. Afterwards, have students complete the Socratic seminar reflection
Materials Needed  NYT article “What does it take to Assimilate in America?” (see appendices)

Socratic Seminar Organizer and Reflection Sheet (see appendices)


Works Cited

Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi. “The Danger of a Single Story.” TED, TED Conferences , 2009,

Chou, Rosalind S., and Joe R. Feagin. 2015. Myth of the Model Minority: Asian Americans Facing Racism. New York: Routledge.

Espiritu, Yen Le, and Michael Omi. 2000. “Who Are You Calling Asian?”: Shifting Identity Claims, Racial Classifications, and the Census.” The State of Asian Pacific America: Transforming Race Relations 5 (2000): 43-101.

Kivisto, Peter. 2017. “Robert E. Park’s Theory of Assimilation and Beyond.” The Anthem Companion to Robert Park. London: Anthem:131-157.

Kruse, Melissa, and Melissa Kruse An avid reader and writer. “How to Use One Pagers with Literature and Informational Texts.” Reading and Writing Haven, 29 Sept. 2019,

Lee, Erika. 2007. “The ““Yellow Peril”” and Asian Exclusion in the Americas.” Pacific Historical Review 76(4): 537-562.

Lee, Stacey J., Eujin Park, and Jia-Hui Stefanie Wong. 2017. “Racialization, Schooling, and Becoming American: Asian American Experiences.” Educational Studies 53(5): 492-510.

“Literature Circles Resource Center.” Literature Circles Resource Center,

Okamoto, Dina G. 2014. Redefining Race: Asian American Panethnicity and Shifting Ethnic Boundaries. New York: Russell Sage Foundation. Chapters 1 and 2.

Paik, Susan, Stacy Kula, L. Erika Saito, Zaynah Rahman, and Matthew Witenstein. 2014. “Historical Perspectives on Diverse Asian American Communities: Immigration, Incorporation, and Education.” Teachers College Record 116(8): 1-45.

Portes, Alejandro, and Min Zhou. “Should Immigrants Assimilate?” Public Interest, no. 116, 1994, p. 18. Gale Academic OneFile, Accessed 20 June 2022.

Rosenbloom, Susan Rakosi, and Niobe Way. “Experiences of Discrimination among African American, Asian American, and Latino Adolescents in an Urban High School.” Youth & Society, vol. 35, no. 4, 2004, pp. 420–451.,×03261479.

Zhou, Min, and Roberto G. Gonzales. “Divergent Destinies: Children of Immigrants Growing up in the United States.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 45, no. 1, 2019, pp. 383–399.,

Zhou, Min. “Growing up American: The Challenge Confronting Immigrant Children and Children of Immigrants.” Annual Review of Sociology, vol. 23, no. 1, 1997, pp. 63–95.,

Annotated Bibliography/Resources for Teachers

Alsaid, Adi, editor. Come on in: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home. Inkyard Press, 2021.

In place of, or in addition to doing novels, there are lots of resources for short stories about the immigrant experience as well.  This is one compilation of fictional stories written by rising and well-known YA authors. Stories come from immigrants traveling from Argentina, India, Mexico, Ecuador, Kashmir, and others. Appropriate for ages 13+

Bui, Thi. The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir. Abrams ComicArts, 2018.

This graphic novel tells the story of its author, Thi Bui, whose family fled Viet Nam as refugees during the Vietnam war. This is an intimate portrait of a struggling family with complex relationships with each other as well as their past.  This story highlights the unique stories of refugees and the effects of the trauma often experienced by refugees. Appropriate for readers ages 13+

Farish, Terry. The Good Braider. Skyscape, 2014.

This beautifully written novel in verse is told from the perspective of Viola, a young girl who grows up in war-torn Sudan.  After a brutal encounter with a soldier and other increasing dangers, she, her brother, and mother flee their village in an attempt to get to America as refugees. It is a long journey to get to Portland, Maine, and one there, Viola and her mother must deal with the trauma of the past as well as the conflicts presented by assimilation into a new culture. Appropriate for readers ages 13+

Gratz, Alan. Refugee. Thorndike Press, a Part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2020.

This engaging book follows the stories of three different refugees from three different eras whose lives end up crossing unexpectedly.  Josef is a Jewish refugee trying to escape Nazi Germany, Isabel from Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba, and Mahmoud from war-torn Syria.  All three face immense challenges and hardships but never lose hope. This emotional and inspiring story expertly highlights the humanity of refugees across time and place. Appropriate for ages 10+

Halpern, Jake, and Michael Sloan. Welcome to the New World: A Graphic Novel. Metropolitan Books, 2020.

This non-fiction graphic novel follows the story of a Syrian refugee family who are resettled in Connecticut in 2016. Because of the “Muslim Ban” that soon followed, the rest of their family is unable to join them.  This graphic novel shows the many struggles of a family trying to adjust to a new world – from language barriers to schooling to finding a job and making friends and staying connected with family to facing discrimination and prejudice. Appropriate for ages 13+

Kim, Jason. “Hello, My Name is____.” 2017. Commonlit, Accessed May 13th, 2022.

This is not only a great example of a personal narrative, but also humorously and succinctly shows the struggles of Jason, a 1st generation immigrant from Korea to the US.  Jason feels conflicted about what he sees as his two identities – American and as Korean.  At times he rejects his Korean heritage (including his name), but by the end of the narrative (and as he has grown up) learns the value of owning his unique heritage and being an inspiration for other Asian Americans. On Commonlit this is listed as an 8th grade level (Lexile 1060) but could certainly be used from ages 12+

Kubic, Mike.  “America’s Shifting Views on Immigration.”  2017.  Commonlit,  Accessed 14 June 2022.

This is an excellent non-fiction article that summarizes the history of immigration to the US and Americans’ shifting attitudes towards immigration over the years.  This could be used in place of the stations activity in Lesson Two.  Commonlit has this listed at an 11th grade reading level (Lexile 1330) but with assistance and vocabulary support could be used with lower level readers.

Lahiri, Jhumpa. Interpreter of Maladies. HarperCollins Publishers India, 2017.

While generally more appropriate for older readers (much like her excellent novel The Namesake), Lahiri’s stories beautifully and intricately paint pictures of the complexities of emotions and identities through various journeys and homes. The title story in this collection, “Interpreter of Maladies,” is probably most appropriate for readers a little younger, ages 14+.

Nayeri, Daniel. Everything Sad Is Untrue: (a True Story). Thorndike Press, a Part of Gale, a Cengage Company Gale, 2021.

At times laugh-out-loud funny and at times serious and thought-provoking, this narrative memoir is a series of stories told by a young Iranian refugee, Daniel.  Through this series of stories he tells about the rich history of his family in Iran, woven in with stories of his new life as a misfit in Oklahoma.  Told through the eyes of a child, many of the stories contain layers of unprocessed emotion as Daniel deals with the loss of his dad (who is still back in Iran), his culture, and the bullying he faces in his new community. Appropriate for ages 12+

Perkins, Mitali. You Bring the Distant Near. Square Fish, 2019.

This book follows the story of a Bengali Indian family who has immigrated to New York via London and Nigeria. Their diverse experiences and cultural differences from their new community make fitting in a challenge for each family member but in different ways.  The book follows the family through time as they deal with tragedy and change and must learn to accept one another for who they are and who they have become in this new world. Appropriate for ages 13+

Ribay, Randy. Patron Saints of Nothing. Thorndike Press, a Part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2020.

This engaging book is different from the others in that the main character, Jay, is the child of successful Filipino immigrants in the US.  The book starts with Jay in his senior year of high school, struggling with what to do next when he learns that his Filipino cousin, Jun, has mysteriously died.  Guilt, questions about his own Filipino identity, and a need for answers leads Jay to go back to the Philippines.  In his journey to find answers he confronts hard truths about himself and his family but grows in his own understanding of who he is and where he is from. Appropriate for ages 14+

Rodriguez, Jonathan. “Two Names, Two Worlds.” Race and US History, Facing History and Ourselves, 2022,

This is an excellent poem to pair with any of the other readings/discussion from this unit.  In the poem, the speaker struggles with the two identities he feels he has and attempts to navigate these different worlds that he feels a part of.  This source is from Facing History and Ourselves, an excellent resource in general for discussions of history and culture.

Sanchez, Torres Jenny. We Are Not from Here. Penguin Books, 2021.

Three teens from Guatemala, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña are trapped in a terrible situation involving a gang and must leave.  As many before them, they decide to make the arduous journey to the United States. The journey, however, is full of dangers and it is only their hope and perseverance that keep them going.  This intense story is based on the many true stories of people just like them – with some making it and some who don’t, but all with unique stories and journeys and hope for a better life. Appropriate for ages 14+

Shukla, Nikesh, and Chimene Suleyman, editors. The Good Immigrant. Unbound, 2021.

This is a collection of essays written by first- and second-generation immigrants about their experiences and struggles making home in a new place.  Their struggles with identity and belonging are at times, funny, serious, and reflective.  Many of these essays might be more appropriate for older readers, but some would be an excellent text to study closely and pair with the fictional stories that students are reading.

“Teaching about Immigration.” Social Justice Books, 16 June 2022,

This website provides an excellent list of books about immigrant experiences appropriate from kindergarten all the way through high school.  There are even a few guides for teachers included at the end as well as links to other resources about teaching about immigration.

Zoboi, Ibi Aanu. American Street. Thorndike Press, a Part of Gale, a Cengage Company, 2020.

On the journey from Haiti to live with their family in Chicago, teen Fabiola’s mother is detained and sent back to Haiti, while Fabiola moves in with her American cousins and must find her way on her own.  She struggles to fit into this new world, and must find a balance between the values she grew up with, her loyalty to family, and the new subculture she finds herself a part of. Appropriate for ages 14+

Class Materials  

Berti, Benedetta, and Evelien Borgman. What Does It Mean to Be a Refugee?. YouTube, Ted-Ed, 16 June 2016, Accessed 21 June 2022.

“The Bracero Program.” YouTube, NBC News Learn, 1 May 2020, Accessed 21 June 2022.

Budiman, Abby, et al. “Facts on U.S. Immigrants, 2018.” Pew Research Center’s Hispanic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 1 Oct. 2020,

Chang, Robert. The Dark History of the Chinese Exclusion Act. YouTube, Ted-Ed, 1 July 2021, Accessed 21 June 2022. Editors. “U.S. Immigration Timeline.”, A&E Television Networks, 21 Dec. 2018,

“Immigration History Timeline.” Immigration History, Immigration History, 22 June 2020,

Lalami, Laila. “What Does It Take to ‘Assimilate’ in America?” The New York Times, The New York Times, 1 Aug. 2017,

“Population and Immigration 1800-1910.” Mapping History: Population and Immigration 1800-1910 – Graph of Immigration, University of Oregon,

ReadWriteThink. “KWL Chart.” NCTE/International Reading Association, 2002.

A Spotlight on a Primary Source by Henry Gannett. “The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.” Map of the Foreign-Born Population of the United States, 1900 | Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History,

Strochlic, Nina. “How Slavery Flourished in the United States in Charts and Maps.” Culture, National Geographic, 3 May 2021,

“U.S. Immigration Since 1965.” YouTube,, 4 Aug. 2017, Accessed 21 June 2022.

“Why America Loves/Hated the Irish.” YouTube,, 16 Oct. 2018, Accessed 21 June 2022.


Content Standards

Below is a descriptive list of the English and Language Arts Common Core Standards that are addressed throughout this unit.

Reading Literature 


Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.


Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.


Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.


Compare and contrast the structure of two or more texts and analyze how the differing structure of each text contributes to its meaning and style.

Reading Informational Text


Determine a central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to supporting ideas; provide an objective summary of the text.


Analyze how a text makes connections among and distinctions between individuals, ideas, or events (e.g., through comparisons, analogies, or categories).


Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including figurative, connotative, and technical meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including analogies or allusions to other texts.


Determine an author’s point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.



Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas, concepts, and information through the selection, organization, and analysis of relevant content.


Conduct short research projects to answer a question (including a self-generated question), drawing on several sources and generating additional related, focused questions that allow for multiple avenues of exploration.


Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, using search terms effectively; assess the credibility and accuracy of each source; and quote or paraphrase the data and conclusions of others while avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.


Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of discipline-specific tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Speaking and Listening


Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.


Come to discussions prepared, having read or researched material under study; explicitly draw on that preparation by referring to evidence on the topic, text, or issue to probe and reflect on ideas under discussion.


Present claims and findings, emphasizing salient points in a focused, coherent manner with relevant evidence, sound valid reasoning, and well-chosen details; use appropriate eye contact, adequate volume, and clear pronunciation.

Interview Assignment Handout (re-formatted into a table for this document)

Interview Assignment

 Directions:  Choose someone you know that has migrated a significant distance from where they were born. Keep in mind that the purpose of this unit is to explore the experience of immigrants, so choose someone who might fit into that category. You may even interview a parent about why your grandparents immigrated, etc.  Record their responses in the spaces below.

Question 1:  Where were you born?

Question 2:  How old were you when you/your family migrated and where did they go?

Question 3:  What are some of the reasons that your family left the place you were born?

Question 4:  What were some of the reasons that they chose to go where they did?  What drew them to that place specifically?

Question 5:  Describe 2 of the most significant challenges in migrating to a new place.

Timeline Notes (re-formatted into a table for this document)

The Naturalization Act of 1790







The Irish Immigration Wave (1820 -1910)and the Know-Nothing Party(1849)









Immigration Act of 1891/Ellis Island









Immigration Act of 1924/US Border Patrol












Post WW2 Immigration Acts (1942-1953)













Simpson-Mazzoli Act (1986)







Dreamers (2001)








DACA (2012)



Slavery and the Ban on Immigration of Free Blacks (1803)










Chinese Exclusion Act (1882)









Gentleman’s Agreement and the Immigration Act of 1917









The Bracero Program (1942)












Immigration Act of 1965










Proposition 187 (1994)







Creation of Homeland Security (2002), Secure Fence Act (2006)









Muslim Travel Ban (2017)


Abridged Version of NYT Article “What it Takes to Assimilate in the US” (re-formatted into a table for this document)


What Does It Take to ‘Assimilate’ in America?

By Laila Lalami, Aug. 1, 2017

‘‘The problem is,’’ my seatmate said, ‘‘they don’t assimilate.’’ We were about 30,000 feet in the air, nearly an hour from our destination, and I was beginning to regret the turn our conversation had taken. It started out as small talk. He told me he owned a butcher shop in Gardena, about 15 miles south of Los Angeles, but was contemplating retirement. I knew the area well, having lived nearby when I was in graduate school, though I hadn’t been there in years. ‘‘Oh, it’s changed a lot,’’ he told me. ‘‘We have all those Koreans now.’’ Ordinarily, my instinct would have been to return to the novel I was reading, but this was just two months after the election, and I was still trying to parse for myself what was happening in the country. ‘‘They have their own schools,’’ he said. ‘‘They send their kids there on Sundays so they can learn Korean.’’

What does the fellow passenger on the plane mean by “They don’t assimilate”? Highlight the specific lines and then put it into your own words.


What does assimilation mean these days? The word has its roots in the Latin ‘‘simulare,’’ meaning to make similar. Immigrants are expected, over an undefined period, to become like other Americans, a process metaphorically described as a melting pot. But what this means, in practice, remains unsettled. After all, Americans have always been a heterogeneous population — racially, religiously, regionally. By what criteria is an outsider judged to fit into such a diverse nation? For some, assimilation is based on pragmatic considerations, like achieving some fluency in the dominant language, some educational or economic success, some familiarity with the country’s history and culture. For others, it runs deeper and involves relinquishing all ties, even linguistic ones, to the old country. For yet others, the whole idea of assimilation is wrongheaded, and integration — a dynamic process that retains the connotation of individuality — is seen as the better model. Think salad bowl, rather than melting pot: Each ingredient keeps its flavor, even as it mixes with others.





Heterogeneous –


Pragmatic –


*Highlight the lines where the author lists what some people mean by “assimilation.”


Explain the difference between a “salad bowl” and a “melting pot” version of assimilation below.







Whichever model they prefer, Americans pride themselves on being a nation of immigrants. Starting in 1903, people arriving at Ellis Island were greeted by a copper statue whose pedestal bore the words, ‘‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.’’ One of this country’s most cherished myths is the idea that, no matter where you come from, if you work hard, you can be successful. But these ideals have always been combined with a deep suspicion of newcomers.


In 1890, this newspaper ran an article explaining that while ‘‘the red and black assimilate’’ in New York, ‘‘not so the Chinaman.’’ Cartoons of the era depicted Irish refugees as drunken apes and Chinese immigrants as cannibals swallowing Uncle Sam. At different times, the United States barred or curtailed the arrival of Chinese, Italian, Irish, Jewish and, most recently, Muslim immigrants. During the Great Depression, as many as one million Mexicans and Mexican-Americans were deported under the pretext that they were to blame for the economic downturn…


Immigrants contribute to America in a million different ways, from growing the food on our tables to creating the technologies we use every day. They commit far fewer crimes than native-born citizens. But hardly a week goes by when poor assimilation isn’t blamed for offnses involving immigrants — and the entire project of immigration called into question…


*Underline the evidence given in the previous paragraphs that supports the point that Americans have not always been welcoming to newcomers.


One reason immigration is continuously debated in America is that there is no consensus on whether assimilation should be about national principles or national identity. Those who believe that assimilation is a matter of principle emphasize a belief in the Constitution and the rule of law; in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; and in a strong work ethic and equality. Where necessary, they support policy changes to further deter any cultural customs that defy those values…

*Highlight the “national principles” given as examples above.

But for those who believe that assimilation is a matter of identity — as many on the far right do — nothing short of the abandonment of all traces of your heritage will do. The alt-right pundit Milo Yiannopoulos, an immigrant himself, told a campus group in January that ‘‘the hijab is not something that should ever be seen on American women.’’ The perception that visible signs of religious identity are indicators of deep and sinister splits in society can lead to rabid fears of wholly imaginary threats. Several states have passed anti-Shariah measures, in fear that Muslims will seek to impose their own religious laws on unsuspecting Americans. The fact that Muslims make up 1 percent of the U.S. population and that such an agenda is both a statistical and a Constitutional impossibility has done nothing to temper this fear. It is no longer a fringe belief: The white nationalist Richard Spencer told a reporter that he once bonded with Stephen Miller, now a senior White House adviser, over concerns that immigrants from non-European countries were not assimilating.

Debates about assimilation are different from debates about undocumented immigration, even though they are often mixed together. Concerns about undocumented immigration typically center on competition for jobs or the use of public resources, but complaints about assimilation are mostly about identity — a nebulous mix of race, religion and language…My seatmate on that airplane was a small-business owner, yet he did not seem worried about Korean-Americans taking business away from him; he seemed more aggrieved that their children studied two languages, or that his community featured store signs and church marquees in an alphabet he could not read. Others might object to their neighbors’ wearing skullcaps, or eating fermented duck eggs, or listening to Tejano music — and call these concerns about assimilation, too…

Give an example below  of what the author means by assimilating “identity.”






America is different from Europe in one significant way: It has a long and successful history of integrating its immigrants, even if each new generation thinks that the challenges it faces are unique and unprecedented. It is a nation in which people will wear green on St. Patrick’s Day without thinking much about the periods during which the Irish were accused of contaminating the nation with their foreign habits. Because there is no objective measure of assimilation, many people end up throwing up their hands and saying, ‘‘I know it when I see it.’’ The question is: Who is doing the judging here?




Why do you think the author ends with this question?  What do they mean by it?








Socratic Seminar Prep Work, Evaluation, and Reflection (re-formatted into a table for this document)


Socratic Seminar Prep Work

Text:  E pluribus unum (out of many, one)
Question:    What do you think is the intended meaning of this phrase?  How is this phrase connected to the idea of assimilation?







Socratic Seminar Evaluation

Groups 1 and 2

Student Name Observing closely and describing what’s there  Building explanations and interpretations Reasoning with evidence Making connections Considering different viewpoints and perspectives Wondering and asking questions Comments
(Group 1 student/group 2 student)


Mastery Goals:

●      Being Prepared with prep work

●      Using and explaining textual evidence appropriately and seamlessly in conversation to support ideas

●      Asking high level questions

●      Contributing insightful comments that are on-task, text-focused, and analytical

●      Using target, grade appropriate vocabulary (literary terms, etc.)

●      Reading the group: kindly drawing in quiet peers using names and questions, appropriate balance of speaking and listening in conversation



Socratic Seminar Reflection


 Socratic Seminar Reflection

  1. What was the best part about the seminar?
  2. What part of the seminar did you like the least?
  3. What was one thing you said that you liked?
  4. Is there anything you would have liked to say/ask that you didn’t?
  5. What was the most interesting idea to come from someone else?
  6. Which mastery goal will you work on for next time?