Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Three Classroom Resources to Engage Students this President’s Day

President’s Day will be celebrated on Monday, February 15th. Usually when President’s Day is addressed in the classroom, it takes place in the primary grades with activities centered around some of the nation’s most revered presidents. But what if this year, observing this national holiday in the classroom was different? What if President’s Day was used as a springboard for engaging students in exploratory learning where they connect the study of our presidents and the power of the executive branch to the topic of immigration?

Here are three engaging resources, two of which are created using HSTRY, a digital learning platform, to help you plan an exciting lesson to teach about immigration. We encourage you to set-up a free teacher account on HSTRY in order to adapt the lessons and share with students.

1) American By Belief: A Family Story - Unless you are 100% Native American your family came to the United States from someplace else. People come for a variety of reasons — to work, reunite with family, get an education or sometimes in search of safety and freedom. This brief lesson is a perfect way to initiate a classroom discussion on why people migrate. You can also extend the activity with our Crossing Borders with Digital Storytelling lesson plan, as well as with the President Lincoln Cottage’s lesson plan for their American By Belief exhibit. The brochure of their educational programs includes a map to “Tell Your Immigration Story.” You can also email them for a free hard copy which makes for a larger classroom display.

An immigrant writes on note on the wall of the "American by Belief" exhibit at President Lincoln's Cottage explaining how she named her son after the President. Credit: http://lincolnscottage.tumblr.com/ 
Engage your students using this lesson we co-created with HSTRY. After you set-up a teacher account, click “copy the timeline,” then sort images and text (using a drag and drop function) into the six identified push/pull factors of immigration. Designed for primary learners (grades 3 and up), this lesson can easily be modified for older students. Students can copy the timeline and add more text and images to fill the categories. Debrief as a class and use the student handbook on HSTRY to properly cite online sources.


Click here to access the American By Belief: A Family Story lesson.


2) Lincoln and Immigrant Contributions to the Civil WarThis lesson is almost guaranteed to deepen understanding of our nation’s 16th president! In this lesson, students will evaluate the impact and reception of immigrants and their contributions to the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War and explore how immigrants view Lincoln.

Examining three essential questions about immigrant contributions in the Civil War, students sort the text and images to best answer the questions using the HSTRY platform. They add more resources through recommended sites such as the Library of Congress’s Civil War collection. This lesson is designed for high school students, who can then use sentence stems provided to write and discuss how immigrants contributed to the Union victory. Additionally, this lesson could not have been developed without the scholarship of Professor Jason Silverman, author of Lincoln and the Immigrant, and Patrick Young, Esq.


Click here to access the Lincoln and Immigrant Contributions to the Civil War lesson plan.


3) Two Timely Lessons to Teach about Executive Action: The President’s executive action on immigration has been greeted with joy, relief, sadness, and contempt. Just what is an executive action and how can students examine the multiple responses to it are the focus areas of our two popular lesson plans. It is a rich opportunity in the high school classroom to: extend critical discussions on the separation of powers, examine the effects of policy on individuals, and analyze the arguments made by both sides to help students become civically engaged and informed.


Click here to read our blog post about our lessons and access both of the lesson plans.



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