Want your students to feel more empathy for people whose lives are not like their own?
Even though they might know that opening the “golden door” for those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” is a foundational value of this country, many students don’t have first-hand experience with immigration. Seeing the stories in the news or knowing some facts and figures won’t help them relate to the human beings who are working so hard to make it here and won’t challenge them to care about what happens to those who come to our country hoping to make better lives for themselves and their families.
When I think about my highest goal as a teacher, it is to help create responsible citizens who take care of each other and their world. And the best way that I can help form human beings who do good is to teach them empathy.
This unit won’t change government policy or organize a protest at the border, but the contemporary real-life stories, struggles, and triumphs will inspire students who will soon be out in the world on their own and voting for the ideas that matter most to them.
The variety of materials, real-life connections, and innovative approaches to the information will keep students engaged and excited about learning. Additionally, the concrete text-based questions and unique sources discourage cheating and encourage students to answer for themselves.
- When your classes discuss the many and varied sources in this unit, they will get an idea for both the complexity of the immigrant experience and the humanity of those behind the headlines.
- When students read essays written by undocumented high school students who are speaking out against injustice and risking their own lives in the process, they will realize the importance of hearing the voices of the most marginalized.
- When students write an original poem to convey the experiences that they have studied in class, they’ll strengthen their empathy when they spend some time walking in another’s footsteps.
- When you classes discuss the complicated issues and emotions in these sources, they will gain a better understanding of how the struggles of our nation affect real people.
- When students see the similarities between their own struggles and those of people who weren’t born in the same place or look like them, they will learn how our humanity joins us all together and makes us responsible for one another.
This engaging unit will challenge students to analyze multiple artistic mediums. They will start out by looking at a photographic essay and reading and analyzing two poems about the immigrant experience. For homework, students will work independently through excerpts from Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club. After that, students will spend two days working through two essays, a speech, a radio story, and three radio interviews to further explore themes of contemporary immigration. The next few days will be spent further exploring poetry, including getting students to experiment with writing some poetry of their own.
No-prep handouts with complete answer keys are provided for each text. The texts themselves are not included because of copyright.
Finally, students will work through the assessment portion of the unit including a student-led graded discussion, a quiz on the novel excerpts, an in-class essay, and a creative poetry writing assignment. Guides, answer keys, and rubrics are provided for every assessment option.
All of the texts studied in this unit deal with the problems of immigrants today. I have spent hours finding the most engaging writing on the topic so that your students will care about lives that are probably very different than their own.
Included in this resource are the following lesson plans, all at a significant discount when you buy them bundled:
Poetry Lesson on Immigration: Emma Lazarus "The New Colossus" & Adrienne Rich (normally priced at $3.97) In these two poems, Emma Lazarus and Adrienne Rich present parallel views of the immigrant experience. Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” has the well-known quote that is associated with the Statue of Liberty: "“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” In fact, a plaque engraved with this poem has been placed inside the famous statue. Rich’s modern poem “Prospective Immigrants Please Note” is more ambivalent in its portrayal of the immigrant experience. You can view the full-priced resource by clicking here.
Poetry Lesson on "Let America Be America Again," Langston Hughes (normally priced at $2.97) This poem expresses disillusionment as well as hope. While Hughes points out all the problems, all the ways that less powerful groups suffer in the United States, he also has hope that the people will one day rise up and make the country great, fulfilling its potential in a way that they have not done yet. You can view the full-priced resource by clicking here.
Pat Mora: Immigration & The American Dream | Poetry Lesson | Questions (normally priced at $1.97) These two poems by Pat Mora are seemingly simple and easy to read, but they also bring up bigger issues of language, power, relationships, immigration, and the American Dream. They are great choices for students who are reluctant to read poetry, and they are great choices to add to a bigger discussions of themes of American Literature as they offer perspectives not often seen in other texts. You can view the full-priced resource by clicking here.
Naomi Shihab Nye, Claude McKay, Richard Blanco: Immigration Poetry Lesson (normally priced at $3.97) The pain of missing home is a universal experience, but for immigrants, that feeling is especially powerful. Additionally, defining home when you no longer live where you were born or where you grow up can be tricky. By examining the four poems, students will gain perspective and empathy for people whose lives are likely very different from their own. You can view the full-priced resource by clicking here.
The goal of this unit is not for students to memorize facts or details of the texts that they read—rather, it is for them to begin to think about tough questions and how they might play a role in finding some answers.
Texts covered in this resource:
fiction, excerpts from The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan
poem, “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
poem, “Prospective Immigrants Please Note” by Adrienne Rich
speech, “Undocumented and Unafraid” by Gustavo Madrigal-Piña
radio story, “Breaking the Ice” from This American Life
essay, by Carolina Sosa
interview, with writer Junot Diaz
interview, with writer Jhumpa Lahiri
interview, with writer Joseph O’Neill
poem, “Let America Be America” by Langston Hughes
poem, “La Migra” by Pat Mora
poem, “Elena” by Pat Mora
poem, “The Tropics of New York” by Claude McKay
poem, “Postcard from Kashmir” by Agha Shahid Ali
poem, “My Uncle’s Favorite Coffee Shop” by Naomi Shihab Nye
poem, “The Island Within” by Richard Bianco
essay, “Two Ways To Belong in America” by Bharati Mukherje