The Life of Immigrants in the United States:

A Lesson about Immigrant Culture (8th Grade)


Immigration has been a hot topic in the United States for a long time, and is something that affects us, our students, and our country. In this unit, my hope is to create an open discussion with my classes about immigration in our country and the lives of immigrants once they get here. Language gives a voice to those who are otherwise voiceless, and in this unit we will focus on the literary works about immigrants and by immigrants in order to look more closely at, and to create rich discussion about, this topic. We will also take a look at past and present immigration laws and participate in project-based learning as we turn our own family history into an immigration story, and turn our own classroom into its own country. We will learn about the immigrant culture in the United States in order to better understand the world and the people in it. As always in my classroom, we will engage in social activism. We will talk about how this issue has affected our own community and what we can do to help better the quality of life of all those in our community, state, and country.


This unit is designed to educate students on the subject of immigration, engage them in our own community, and illicit their use of empathy through rigorous study of literature by and about illegal immigrants, the controversy surrounding this topic in the US, policies and laws pertaining to the topic, and the use of in depth, interrogative discussions in groups and as a class. Students will research on their own as well as read and discuss literature in class. The end of unit learning goals include:

Students will…

-be able to discuss literature by and about other people and think critically about themes that are present and how they relate to the real world

-have a working knowledge, not only of immigration laws and policies, but also of how to research thoroughly a topic so that they remain educated about current events

-become active in the community and the world regarding current events/issues




This (illegal) American Life (documentary)

Slam at Nuyorican

An Immigration problem

BNV 2011 LA- Immigration


This unit is intended to be about 3-4 weeks long. Students will encounter multiple works of literature by and about immigrants in the US, they will examine the US immigration policies and laws, they will think critically about themes and topics present in the literature through discussion and research, and they will engage in project-based learning through community involvement.

Day 1: Students will be presented with the poem “City Lights,” and asked to journal about what they think it means. Afterwards, students will discuss their interpretations with their classmates providing justification for their opinions. This will open up a conversation about immigration in the past. Once conversation has peaked students will be posed another question, “what about immigration today? What do we know about it?” After conversation we will at statistics for immigration in the US today and a few of the laws and policies concerning immigration: more discussion.
Day 2: How do you immigrate legally into the US? Research in groups the requirements of immigration. Afterwards, students will explore and read about different experiences of immigrants that have come into the US both legally and illegally. I will show the students more literature about the living conditions of immigrants of the past and present. We will have a class discussion about push and pull factors as well as why so many people come here illegally.
Day 3-5: Students will be given “immigrant profiles.” For the remainder of the unit they will be that immigrant in our classroom country. They will be split into groups (like many immigrants are today, E.G. little Italy, China town, Greek town, etc.), based on their cultures. Their profiles will include their income and life in their old countries, whether or not they immigrated legally or illegally, and if they brought any family or friends with them. They will be subject to the immigration laws and policies of the classroom (mirrored after immigration laws of the US). Each day they will receive a new piece of their story that tells them the things happening around them at work, home, or school. Students will keep journals of what it’s like being an immigrant and what their immigrant might be thinking or feeling about their situation. We will share a few entries everyday. Throughout the unit the students will be required to bring a short piece of literature by or about immigrants to the class and share it. They will discuss why they chose this piece and what they think of the issues addressed in it.
Week 2 (days 6-10): Students will begin working on their own immigration story based loosely off of where their families are from, and research they do about immigrants from that country. They will present these to the class at the end of the unit along with a visual piece and a poem that depicts their feelings about their old culture and their new culture. During this week I will also invite an immigrant from our community to come and tell their story to the class. A discussion with someone who has lived what we are studying is a powerful learning tool.
Week 3 (days 11-15): The class will brainstorm how immigration and immigration laws and policies have affected our community or the people that we know. We will find a way to volunteer with organizations that support immigrants in the US, whether it is at a language annex speaking English to ELLs, raising money for existing organizations such as IRCO (Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization), or volunteering with other local organizations. Meanwhile, classrooms


I will provide the immigration laws in policy in a format that makes it easier for the students to understand. We will also have a question and answer session about these laws to clarify anything that may be confusing. I will also be offering poetry and short stories at varying levels and allowing students to choose their own pieces to bring to class.


This unit, along with every unit in my classroom will reach out to the community. We will raise awareness, and maybe even funds to help those who have risked everything for a better life. We will help make the American Dream a reality.


Students will submit their final immigration story with one visual and a poem.
They will also all be given responsibilities in the coordination of our community outreach project.