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Education World Resource Roundup: Immigration

Comments from President Donald Trump during his campaign (as well as recently) and a murder case out of “sanctuary city” San Francisco have brought the topic of immigration back into the national spotlight, begging educators to embrace some difficult, yet important discussions within their coursework. This can be a sensitive and emotionally-charged subject to bring to the classroom, and might hit home for many students. However, while immigration is a topic that many students might have strong opinions about, they might not have all the necessary background knowledge around laws, historical context, economics, and culture to logically back up their arguments. This, of course, makes it the perfect subject for an inquiry-based classroom. Use these sources below to develop student understanding of the many perspectives found within this intense national debate.

PBS LearningMedia: Immigration

The beginning of such a difficult, yet exciting inquiry will need to be rooted in some meaningful student and teacher-facilitated essential questions. PBS LearningMedia provides a seemingly endless bounty of video resources, web sites, and news documents to help ignite students' empathic drives and logic centers. These sources not only examine the issues at hand critically, but also in a very personal way – interviewing immigrant workers, researchers, lawyers, and politicians involved directly in the discussion. PBS LearningMedia’s video resources provide a close look at such controversial subjects as Arizona’s 2010 immigration law, how an influx of undocumented child immigrants is affecting school systems, a St. Louis researcher’s analysis of public attitudes toward immigrants and immigration, and immigrant perceptions of the United States.  These links are guaranteed to get your students asking questions and thinking critically about their own additions to this national discussion.

Visit PBS LearningMedia here or click here for their immigration-specific content!

PBS LearningMedia is an excellent resource, if only for their video library and their variety of relevant and timely issues.  Some of the shorter videos could be easily adapted into openers or exit tickets, while the longer pieces could be analyzed and evaluated for content, fairness, language, or use of rhetoric.  Even with a free basic membership, teachers have the ability to search, browse, save, and share content with students.  The custom membership allows access to even more content and classroom analytics and interaction.  All content is CCSS and national standards-aligned.

Library of Congress: Challenges for New Americans

Always a phenomenal source of primary documents, yet sometimes overlooked for its less-than-attractive web design, the Library of Congress has an impressive teacher tool set on immigration, digging into the deep historical context and showing students that this debate is by no means a new one. The Library of Congress provides both teaching materials and professional development for educators seeking a new route to this discussion. Whether you have students analyzing statistics in a study on the impact of illegal immigration and enforcement on border crime rates or doing a close read of a 2004 hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations on immigration policy and bilateral relationships between the United States and Mexico, the Library of Congress allows students to go back in time to revisit the moments that built the present argument.

Click through the Library of Congress’s immigration primary source set here or go through their thematic classroom materials here!

The great thing about the Library of Congress is that it is free, far-reaching, and full of primary documents, just waiting to be used in a DBQ. Of course, most primary documents do provide a particular challenge for struggling readers, due to antiquated language, background knowledge, and content-specific vocabulary. Still, the importance of getting students invested in these original texts is sometimes the closest thing we have to a firsthand experience of history. In the classroom, put emphasis on the fact that when students are accessing primary documents, they get to interpret history for themselves, instead of allowing historians and perhaps politically-or-otherwise-motivated groups and individuals to interpret it for them. The struggle is well worth the time and is important work to be done. Utilize strategies that break up the text for students, like tea parties or jigsaws. This might provide the opportunity for all students to immerse themselves more deeply into the reading.

Teaching Tolerance: Social Justice Lessons

If primary documents are feeling a bit dry for your classroom and you’re interested in really activating students and engaging them in the debate, Teaching Tolerance might be the perfect fit for your unit. Created by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Teaching Tolerance is an organization “dedicated to reducing prejudice, improving intergroup relations and supporting equitable school experiences for our nation's children.” Their site provides an abundance of very specific lesson plans, each tailored to investigate critical current events and many specifically constructed to get students moving about the classroom and talking to each other. Their lessons range from exposing anti-immigration sentiment through photographs, to immigration facts and myths, to a deep look at the differences between assimilation and pluralism and its impact on our communities.

Check out all that Teaching Tolerance has to offer here!

Teaching Tolerance is a great site for introducing students to modern-day activism and social justice issues.  These relevant, real-world discussions can bring any otherwise potentially dry argumentative writing or non-fiction reading unit to life. Although lessons are not specifically aligned to state standards, it’s an easy match for any educator to make, as lessons clearly integrate multiple reading, writing, speaking, and listening skills, and are interdisciplinary in nature.

The New York Times: Interactive Maps of Global Migration

For the visual learner, The New York Times has published a great interactive map of worldwide immigration statistics. It’s easy to understand and allows students the occasion to compare and contrast real data. This map also naturally facilitates a great opportunity for students to come to some of their own conclusions about the state of immigration – conclusions that could then be tried, tested, added to, and revised as they learn more about the complexities of the debate. The map includes data on average numbers of migrants, total share of the world’s migrants, migrants as a percentage of each country’s population, money sent home by migrants, and money sent home by migrants as a percentage of each country’s GDP. Use this resource as a way to kick off, differentiate, or supplement a unit of study.

Access the map here, but also be sure to check out the “Times Topic” Immigration and Emigration collection here!

The New York Times can be a great resource for up-to-date news, videos, and particularly useful links to research sites, but it is not unlimited.  Visitors can enjoy 10 free articles each calendar month. Remember, however, that the reading level of The New York Times content varies by article, so you might want to run any long texts through a Lexile Analyzer before deciding which to use for your specific students.  For history and social studies teachers, it might be useful to know that paid subscribers can have access to archives from 1851, and that there is an education rate for subscribed access.


By Keith Lambert, Education World Contributor

Lambert is a certified English Language Arts teacher and teacher trainer in Connecticut.

Share your GMO teaching resources in the comments below.


By Keith Lambert, Education World Contributor

Lambert is a certified English Language Arts teacher and teacher trainer in Connecticut.

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