Students explore the motivations and experiences of early 20th century and modern (21st century) immigrants through musical theater. Students are encouraged to support their ideas using specific textual evidence in both their writing and exploration of these questions.
In "Ragtime," students encounter historical figures like Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, and Harry Houdini, juxtaposed with the fictional Tateh who immigrated from Latvia in 1906. Students analyze what may have pushed or pulled the characters to immigrate, and what we can learn about immigration through this song (quoting specific lines).
"In The Heights" shows us the life of Latin American immigrants in Washington Heights through the eyes of bodega owner Usnavi. The questions and graphic organizers that accompany this lesson are differentiated by readiness level. See lesson plan for more details.
Finally, students are encouraged to write up their findings in a formalized writing piece, with accompanying grading rubric.
Lots of fun, and fosters higher order thinking skills that transfer across the curriculum! The writing prompt is excellent for test prep. My students fell in love with this unit.