Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Spotlight on the Teach Immigration Classroom: An Inspiring Teacher, a Motivated Attorney, and 26 Engaged Middle School Students

Every so often we hear back from educators who are interested in teaching about immigration but are unsure how to integrate it into their curriculum. Is it too controversial? Will it align to the Common Core? How will students respond? Will they be absorbed and want to learn more? How can I support student understanding of current immigration issues?

While we provide critical resources and guidance, we know that real learning takes place in the classroom. 

Ms. April Francis is a Social Studies teacher at Lawrence Road Middle School in Uniondale, NY and is one of the educators selected to be a part of our Teach Immigration Project on Long Island. The project is an educational initiative designed to increase and improve teaching and learning about U.S. immigration law and policy at schools on Long Island. Paired with immigration attorney, Ms. Rachel Baskin, they have team-taught two lessons. What follows is a description provided by Ms. Francis of her seventh grade class’s experience using our lesson plan, “Freedom, Fairness, & Equality.”

A Teacher’s Account of Teaching Freedom, Fairness, & Equality

Submitted by Ms. April Francis
On Friday, Feb. 12th, Ms. Francis and Mrs. Baskin combined their love of history, policy, and law together to teach an astounding group of seventh graders. We began the lesson by presenting the inquiry questions via a Prezi presentation: (1) How deep is our commitment to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, and (2) How can young people enact change?

Seventh-grade students introduced to the lesson's essential questions by Ms. Francis.

After students were introduced to these questions via the lesson’s Prezi, Ms. Baskin discussed current immigration issues, the preamble of the Declaration of Independence, and the 5th amendment, drawing on students’ prior knowledge. She highlighted that all people, regardless of immigration status, were protected under the 5th amendment.

After the overview, Ms. Francis connected the idea of "pursuit of happiness" to MLK Jr.'s actions during the Civil Rights Movement. Students participated in a robust discussion of MLK Jr.'s quote "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Using their class set of iPads, students shared their opinions of this famous quote on the virtual blackboard tool, Padlet. Students were informed that MLK Jr. and other civil rights activists were largely successful due to the support of school-aged students, like them!

A student uses Padlet to respond to MLK Jr.’s quote "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Next, students were placed into cooperative learning groups to analyze a specific U.S. immigration policy that excluded certain groups. They had a reading on the policy, and utilized their iPads for further research. Ms. Baskin and Ms. Francis each worked with various teams to assist them with the task. After this activity, each team reported out, while the other teams jotted notes down. Many were shocked to see that various groups had been excluded by U.S. Immigration policy at different time periods in history. They questioned whether our nation upheld the idea of "all" being allowed to pursue happiness.
Students research historical examples of U.S. immigration law and policy on iPads.

Ms. Baskin assists students and reviews their work.

Finally, primary source readings of present day immigrant struggles were read and students were asked to answer a series of critical thinking questions. The lesson concluded with the inquiry question from the beginning "How can young people enact change?" Some responses included "by educating others about immigration policy and helping them be a voice for their community." This was a fun, interactive, and engaging lesson!

Providing Classroom Supports

The lesson plan, presentations, Padlet, and primary source readings can all be found online. What it takes to implement, however, is a teacher who holds students to high expectations and provides the necessary supportive framework.  We think this work is invaluable and we would love to hear back from you on how we can continue to support you in the classroom. Please let us know by emailing us or by filling out this short feedback form. 

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