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Growing Up in Urban America

LaShante A. James

Contents of Curriculum Unit 13.02.05:

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There isn't anything traditional about the type of student that is sitting in my class. Riverside Education Academy is formerly a transitional school that serviced at-risk students, who require a small structured environment to experience success. Although my school is now a magnet school, it is a program that is designed to strengthen the basic skills of the students attending our school, and provide opportunities from them to make significant gains. We offer a small flexible environment; which allows us to design a program that would be most beneficial to each student.

Some students enter as freshmen reading below reading level. Challenges relating to truancy and behavior issues have contributed to the reading struggles students have experienced. Poverty is a reality to some, and they live in a city where violence is running rampant in their neighborhoods. For many, school happens to be their only consistent and safe place. With the conditions in their neighborhoods, school has often taken a back seat for these students, and their reading skills suffered as a result. Due to reading struggles, many students find schoolwork difficult, and experience high levels of frustration. I currently teach ninth grade students, but will move with these students throughout their high school career. In other words, these students will have me as an English Teacher for all four years of high school. This allows me to build on the foundation that I have established the prior year, and challenge students further in their education. Therefore, it is my professional goal to not only strengthen their basic skills, but expose them to learning experiences that will allow them to compete and survive in society.

In this unit, students will analyze literary texts, photographs and film that document the adolescent immigrant/migrant experiences during early nineteenth to late twentieth century and the change of the immigrant experience over time. By the end of the unit, students should be able to analyze historical text, examine the immigrant/migrant experience, develop meaningful connections as an adolescent growing up in urban America, and finally, document how the urban experience has shifted over time. Reading and supplemental material are organized and grouped based on historical events. By the material being broken down into time periods, this allows for students to form connections beyond race or ethnic groups, because it is important for them to see that there were shared experiences that were economical as well. The experience of the immigrant/migrant should be the focus, as well as, how those experiences were shaped by the time period and presented comparative or contrasting experiences. As the unit progresses, students will independently journal their own urban experience; which will culminate into a final project documenting their personal experience as the final chapter of the Growing Up in Urban America. Ultimately, students will be able to determine how environment impacts one's life in a way that crosses racial and ethnic barriers.

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Being only one year removed from middle school, these students are extremely self-centered. Developmentally, they haven't internalized the concepts of community and/or citizenship, so they are constantly concerned with how they are benefited by the learning process and material being presented in the classroom. These students favor applied learning and practical subjects. Therefore, determining and evaluating how their environment (school, home/family, neighborhood or city) has shaped them into the individual they are hasn't been considered, as well as, how the history of immigration and migration to America's urban cities has evolved and shaped their current circumstances. This is what my unit would allow these students to do, as well as providing them an opportunity to determine their place in this ever evolving culture and global society.

In this unit, students analyze literary texts that focus on immigration and migration during the periods of early nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries explores changes in urban development attributed to immigration and migration and evaluates how individuals are impacted by their environment. Although this unit begins with covering pieces that analyze the experience of early nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries, it will graduate to include some readings and film that reflect the experience of groups in Urban America during 21st century. I am in a unique position; which allows me to assess what these students need to become better citizens and neighbors. In order to begin to understand people, where people's values and belief systems comes from, as well as themselves, students will develop the ability to understand characters, conflict, and development to as it relates to theme. Not only are students trying to figure out who they are, but they are also trying to determine where their place will be in our growing global community. With the newly adopted Common Core Standards, this unit would provide the nonfiction and informational texts that students need to become familiar with, as well as an opportunity for developing meaningful connections and application to their own experience. These students will be able to see that they do not live this experience alone; however, they share it with immigrants and migrants in history, as well as each other. In addition, this curriculum is designed to be one that addresses the needs of the students, while also providing the challenge that is required.

As struggling readers, students often make superficial connections to a character. They see characters in literature as means of understanding themselves and people in general. By analyzing the lives of immigrants and migrants, students will naturally develop connections. For students, it's important to think about how their own values and ideas are questioned or affirmed. By examining their surroundings, in school, home/family, and/or neighborhood, this can be accomplished; allowing students to make sense of the world around them. Thinking about ways that people are impacted, shaped and affected by their environment may allow students to see the world around them differently. This change may be encouraged by a greater awareness of the beliefs and values of immigrants and migrants during the late nineteenth to the late twentieth centuries and how their own beliefs and values align with these stories, as well as the opportunity to see the world differently. This will also clarify differences and/or similarities between various immigrant and migrant groups, and with the student as well. This process of study will include an examination of immigrants and migrants and their emphasis on: values, social interactions, as well as challenges and changes to their own identity. Students will also have the opportunity to reflect on the same factors intrinsically. Additionally, students will compare their ideas about urban America to characters in the text and find points of connection, as well as points of conflict.

Although these students come from the 'inner-city" of New Haven, they come from various neighborhoods in the city. Just like the groupings in the classrooms and the cafeteria, their neighborhood population is usually comprised of people who look like them, have a common background or speak the same language as them. When they enter my classroom, they are forced to interact, communicate, respect and empathize with people they may not associate with outside of school. This is a huge challenge for them.

The reading material in this curriculum will show that many Americans living in cities often attributed their reason for migrating or immigrating to urban areas to a desire for economic and educational opportunities. However, the "cost" or challenges associated with relocating to major cities are not considered too often, and I would like my students to identify those challenges. Many of them are living those challenges on a daily basis. The idea of the American Dream has been a motivator that transcends all racial, religious and cultural boundaries. The reading material presented will show a commonality between Irish, Chinese, Mexican, and Japanese immigrants and African American and Puerto Rican migrants that crosses racial categories into economic groupings. The idea of working hard for a happy and prosperous life has been a unifying factor amongst those who've migrated or immigrated to urban areas. Students will be able to determine that there should be a mutual respect across cultural and racial lines, because they all share a vision and a hope. Living in an urban environment provides students with a firsthand account of how living in an American city has shaped who they are today. This unit will explore whether growing up in America's cities has remained true to its promise of providing opportunities to individuals who are hard working, and these students will determine whether the sacrifice their ancestors made was a worthwhile one.

During 10th grade year, the curriculum includes a cultural analysis unit. In the past, this discussion was unfruitful, because conflict between students would surface, due to lack of prior knowledge, and an inability to form connections that cross racial, cultural and religious boundaries. With each culture, there are varying practices, beliefs and expectations. Cities such as New York provide a "melting pot"; meaning some children of these migrants or immigrants may find themselves leaving their differences behind, as they become a part of the urban community. What were the challenges present for various groups in terms of housing, education and jobs? How did challenges differ amongst varying groups? Was this outcome considered by their parents/grandparents when the decision to migrate or immigrate was made? Has the city provided opportunities for their American Dream to come true? Is the life in the American city better than where they originated from? Therefore, the title of my unit would be "Growing up in Urban America", with a possible essential question of "How am I a product of my environment?"

After completing the readings for this unit, students will be able to engage in meaningful discussions about how individuals, in spite of their various backgrounds, are shaped by the environment in which they live. More specifically, what does survival in Urban America look like? With these ideas, I would also like to see students identify new boundaries or groupings that form due while assimilating to Urban culture.

Many of the students I teach are reluctant learners. They have had numerous failures and challenges in the classroom. Introducing material in multiple forms such as poems, songs and film will provide a more inviting and inclusive learning experience. In addition, by reading fiction and nonfiction texts that explore diverse stories of different racial, religious and cultural groups throughout history and the reason for considering America's cities as hubs of opportunity, students will be able develop an understanding of why their families relocated, and how that decision has shaped them as individuals. Students will need to consider whether they are maintaining the practices, beliefs or expectations of their parents or grandparents, or have they taken on some of the practices of people in their urban community.

Students will have the opportunity to develop stronger relationships with family members by delving into the motivation behind their family's decision to choose New Haven as their home. Especially with families of color, New Haven is not their place of origin. Students will become inspired by the stories of these immigrants and migrants and initiate and engage with people in their family who are most knowledgeable about the migration or immigration of the family to an American city. With varying levels in every class, differentiation is required of every unit. Presenting the information through varying primary sources will bring this subject and experience to life for the students. I envision this unit being laid out in increments, categorized by topic or groups, so that students aren't overwhelmed. A film or song would accompany each week to offer an alternative text for students who need reinforcement or struggle with reading. While exploring the texts during class, each student would journal how that text shows itself in their own urban environment and their own lives independently. Erin Gruwell's Freedom Writer's Diaries has been included in the reading list to offer a model of journaling to students. As a summative assessment, a visual interpretation (collage), a writing assignment (a creative poem, prose or song), a PowerPoint presentation (12th grade) or a student directed film on DVD (12th grade) would be required to display how the students' lives have been shaped while "Growing Up in Urban America".

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Unit Objectives

Essential Question: How am I a product of my environment?

As a result of this unit, students will write about their own lives, and how their community (school, family or home and neighborhood) has impacted them while growing up. The focus of this unit is to teach my students how to analyze fictional and non-fictional texts in order to develop connections with immigrant and migrant children and adolescents' experiences, while developing their own testimonial documenting their perception of growing or coming of age in an urban America. I want my student to apply active reading strategies to drive their understanding of complex texts that they may find challenging linguistically. To adequately assess student learning and mastery of skills, objective are specifically listed.

In order to achieve a long-term goal that students will evaluate how their environment (home/family, school, religion and neighborhood) has molded them into the individual they are presently, here are specific objectives that will be included in the daily lesson plans:

1. Read, understand, interpret, analyze, evaluate and discuss various texts about 19th, 20th and 21st century immigrant and/or migrant or children of immigrants and/or migrants.

2. Analyze, discuss and write how setting or point of view (narrative perspective) reveals meaning.

3. Write a close analysis, interpretation and evaluation of written documents.

4. Discuss a close analysis, interpretation and evaluation of written documents.

5. Identify the motivation for immigration or migration.

6. Identify the values and beliefs of specific immigrant and migrant groups.

7. Compare and contrast various texts and draw the appropriate conclusions.

8. Compare and contrast immigrant or migrant experiences.

9. Compose a narrative essay.

10. Create a visual text, compose a written piece or direct and produce a digital media piece that depicts a personal story of Growing Up in Urban America.

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Teaching Strategies

The basis for this unit is that texts, both complete and excerpts, will act as a model for student reflection and writing, as well as a starting point for discussion around interpretation and analysis of the pieces.

Below I have included a list of books that illustrate the experience of immigrant and migrant children and adolescents growing up in American cities. I have selected these texts for one major reason; they document or illustrate what it was like growing up during that particular time period. The themes of many of these texts mirror experiences the students reading have encountered and may offer some clarity on why they have had that experience (i.e. poverty, family issues, neighborhood violence, failure, finding themselves). Almost every single text has a child or adolescent as the main focus, and we are seeing the world through their eyes. Ultimately, we would like our students to connect to these experiences, and develop their own illustration of how they view their world. In addition, I have provided the ratings of movies in the event that parental permission is required prior to viewing:

So that students can begin to build background knowledge and explore immigration and migration on many levels, pre-, during and after reading activities, discussions and writing activities will take place. The list of various texts above will provide a much needed foundation in the subject of immigration and migration. Ultimately, the expected outcome is a student-centered product (visual display, written piece or digital media product) that depicts their personal experience of growing up on Urban America. This unit would be best implemented in a classroom with a reading/seminar setting. Teacher would conduct mini-lessons before allowing students to participate in a student-centered discussion about the subject of the texts.

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Classroom Activities

The following is a list of classroom activities that would accomplish the unit objectives.


Although the final product of the unit will be in the form of writing or visual representation of student learning, the process will help build student's reading as well. Teachers have been encouraged to aid students in forming connections between themselves and the text. This unit takes it a step further by encouraging students to form connections between texts and across immigrant and migrant groups. In order to propel students into forming connections, the following strategies are useful:

Expectation Outline: Students skim through assigned readings and write down questions they expect to answer or outline statements that correspond to the selected reading. Students should turn return to the outline during the reading to either answer, fill-in or correct what they have written. At the beginning of each week, offer students a list of readings that are to be covered. Allow them to brainstorm questions and expectations for that week's readings. For example, Maggie: Girl of the Streets is a very thought provoking title. Students may have a specific definition of what "girl of the streets" means from their own experience, and it would be beneficial to tap into that.

KWHL Chart: This organizer is similar to the KWL chart with an added column labeled "How I will find out…" Students write everything they know about the topic of immigration and migration under the K column, everything they want to know under the W column, and strategies for how they will find out the answers to their W questions under the H column. Leave the third column, the L column blank for students to return after the unit to write what they've learned.

I recommend using this KWHL chart at the very beginning of each time period being covered. Students can explore what they know about the condition that groups were living under during that time period, how the war affected immigrant/migrant groups and what they know about specific groups being covered.

Prompts: To help students develop connections between themselves and their own lives, pre-reading activities in the form of prompts can function as an introduction. For example, if we are reading a short story from Bread Givers where the protagonist is conflicted by her father's religious belief, and trying to assimilate into American society, I would ask students to write about a time when something they were taught at home kept them from being accepted by the larger community (friends, school or neighborhood).

I recommend writing prompts as a daily exercised. It's a great way to get the class warmed up for what you are going to cover, as well as a classroom management tool. Students can start prompts as soon as they walk in the door of the classroom, and allow everyone to settle in.

Wordsplash: Prior reading a new text, assemble a collection of words; specifically words that you know are necessary to grasp the meaning of the text and that are unfamiliar to students. For example, prior to reading texts such as Riis' How the Other Half Lives, Nasaw's Children of the City and Yezierska's Bread Givers, I would list words such as Torah, tenement, ragpickers, and boarders, because students wouldn't have encountered these words before. Arrange the words on a piece of paper or projector in a random way. The random arrangement of words makes the collection a wordsplash. Have students make predictions about what they will be reading based on the wordsplash.

During Reading

The majority of the reading will take place in the classroom, because many students struggle with reading, have difficulty reading outside of school due to home environment or family obligations or an outright refusal to read independently. However, providing a reading experience for all levels is important; therefore, I must make the experience beneficial to all, while challenging the eager reader. To insure comprehension and facilitate interpretation and analysis, students will complete during reading strategies in the form of graphic organizers.

For short excerpts, poems or music lyrics, read alouds will allows students to access the material and discuss it upon hearing it. The read alouds should be proactive an invite discussion. Five Points, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Children of the City, How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series

Guided Reading works best in my classroom, because the class size is generally small, ten students or less. I am able to sit with the class and help them thorough understanding a text. Guided reading is especially useful for students who are struggling readers. Texts: Land of Hope, Becoming a Mexican American, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents

Book Clubs, also referred to as Literature Circles, would be useful for differentiation in the classroom. Students who are independent readers can and guide each other through the reading, while comparing multiple texts on the same topic. Each group would be assigned a different text, linked by the same topic, and present and discuss their findings to the rest of the class. Texts: Maggie: Girl of the Streets, Bread Givers, Niesi Daughter, Fifth Chinese Daughter, Brown Girl, Brownstones, Coming of Age in Mississippi, Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory City, House on Mango Street

The dialectical journal can be thought of as a series of conversations with texts that students read. The process is meant to help them develop a better understanding of the texts being read and to utilize higher level thinking skills, as well as to process what they're reading, prepare for group discussion, and gather textual evidence for assignments. As students read, they would choose passages that stand out and record them on the left-side of the page (ALWAYS include page numbers). On the right-side page, students should write a response to the text (ideas/insights, questions, reflections, and comments on each passage). A paraphrase should not be accepted.

These passages that are identified, reflected on and analyzed by students are tools in the summative assessment process. Students can include this textual evidence in any form of final project that they select.

The Venn diagram is a graphic organizer made up of two or three overlapping circles. When reading, Venn diagrams can also used to compare and contrast the characteristics of items, like groups of people, individual people, books, characters, etc.

The Venn diagram is useful comparing texts or comparing groups with in a text. For example, Maggie from Maggie: Girl of the Streets and Sara from Bread Givers both grow up in tenements in the Lower East Side of New York. These are two characters whose experiences can be analyzed using the Venn diagram.


This unit focuses on forming text to text connections, as well as self to text connections. In addition, I would like to provide students with the skills to discuss sensitive topics such as race and culture, while minimizing conflict.

One of the required activities of the New Haven Public Schools English Language Arts Curriculum is Socratic Seminar. Its structure allows for students to focus solely on the text once the ground rules are in place. The discussion is based on a text and a series text related of questions, so the student takes self out of it. Longer readings should be assigned or covered ahead of time, so that students can come to class prepared for the discussion.

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Final Project

In order to provide a purposeful classroom experience, I have chosen a TEVAL purposeful classroom practices goal: C3; which offers students multiple methods to approach material and to demonstrate learning. Therefore, students are provided with a list of options; which allows them to demonstrate that they have not only learned the material, but was able to establish meaningful connections with what was taught.

Below are choices for student projects as a final assessment. In each summative, students must incorporate the findings from their journaling in which project they have selected, as well as material from the migrant or immigrant experience:

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Essay Assignment: A cultural analysis is required for the 10th grade curriculum. As a variation of this assignment, students would analyze their own personal culture, and how it was shaped by their home/family, school and neighborhood. With the implementation of the Common Core Standards, the terminology would change to a narrative. Students will develop real experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

In order to bridge the connections between text and self, a central question or essential question would be helpful. How am I a product of my environment- home/family, school, and neighborhood? This question allows students to draw upon personal experiences, while referring back to the texts and citing comparisons with characters from the texts. The comparisons should include what aspects of the city experience during that time period relate their own experience. Through characters in the literary texts, students will have the opportunity to reflect on their own experiences in Urban America and to form connections with significant events in history. For example, Moody's Coming of Age in Mississippi is a text written from first person perspective. The author reflects on her family dynamics, the impact of racial segregation in the South and explains how she overcame the challenges of being black through education. This text would allow students to form connections with family relations, the challenges of growing up with financial challenges and how they view education in their lives.

Poetry: Although poetry appears to be a more freer form of writing, with fewer rules, my students have reservations about whether they can achieve the beauty of poetry. I would like to challenge them to write about their feelings and thoughts through poetry.

For struggling readers, I would differentiate by having them compose a paragraph about an emotion or moment. This emotion or personal memory should be connected with their urban experience, possibly stemming from a journal entry. Students should expand on this idea by reflecting on the experience of a specific time period that was covered in class. Once the paragraph is written, the students would change the prose into poetry by breaking converting the paragraph into lines, resembling a poem. This poem should progress chronology, first documenting an immigrants' view of urban America, and then their own.

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For students who are gifted in other areas, various forms of media are being offered as a choice for summative assessment. Again, students must tie in the readings from the unit, and display of how American city life changes over time. They can focus on housing, schools, jobs, or people, but it there must be an inclusion of the material along with their personal experience from the journal.

Lyrics: Music is a large part of everyday life for my students, as well as their families. It's the preservationist of culture. People often stay connected to who they are through music. Every student has music downloaded on their phone or iPod, and argues that it helps them concentrate better during class time.

I would provide students with a model set of lyrics, showing the structure of verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge and chorus. In addition, I would ask students to choose a popular artist who writes about their struggle or experience. The students will be able to creatively express how they have become a product of their environment, and how they have been impacted by their experiences.

I would like to see the song begin with the immigrant/migrant experience based on time period, not race. Each verse should move the reader through history, with the chorus as the unifying piece, the message.

Video: With access to cellular phones, students have a video camera at their finger tips. The students today have an obsession with taping negative events, such as fighting or bullying, and posting it online. This assignment will allow students to apply this skill of video taping and editing, and produce an amateur film depicting their environment and how it has shaped them. While filming, student should offer a verbal commentary about how what they depicting is similar or different from the immigrant/ migrant experience they have learned about, a comparative analysis. They should be very clear about what time period they will focus on.

The film would then be emailed to the teacher for a final project. I would only allow 12th graders this option, because I believe it requires a maturity level that 10th graders haven't developed just yet.

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Visual Display

Collage: Although my students often struggle in reading, many of them find a passion for the visual arts. Using magazines and photos, students will compile a collage that represents how Growing up in Urban America has shifted over time. Captions are required under each photo that is represented to explain why it was chosen. Images would directly connect to elements of their environment, and how they view their surroundings. In addition, to finding pictures that they view as representative of the immigrant experience of a particular time period.

Slide Show: The PowerPoint presentation would be another option for the 12th grade students. This form of summative assessment would be beneficial for 12th graders, because PowerPoints are not only used as an assessment on a college level, but it also used during instruction. Becoming familiar with the using this program would be a win-win situation for these students.

The slide show will allow students to include pictures and graphics that represent the urban experience of an immigrant group from a specific time period, and the factors of that experience, and shift to who they are, where they come from and their most influential environments (home/family, school and neighborhood). Creating this slide show would be useful in teaching students organizational skills when presenting information.

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Sample Lesson Plans

I have included three lesson plans that demonstrate how to facilitate the development of meaningful connections to texts, as well as analyzing the immigrant or migrant experience. Through these lessons, students should focus on the theme of Growing Up in Urban America, and look to answer the question: "How am I a product of my environment?"

Examining the Immigrant Experience: Comparing Riis, Nasaw and Yezierska

These three texts all explore life at the turn of 19th century New York City slums. Each provide vivid images through text and photo of the immigrant experience, and provide the students an opportunity to formulate comparison across texts, and to themselves. These works force students to reflect on how these conditions were created, and how these conditions compare to today's urban environment.

Objective: Students will be able to analyze the immigrant experience by examining photographs, work in cooperative groups to analyze immigrant experiences by scrutinizing photographs, and establish personal connections with readings and photos.


- Selected photos from Riis' How the Other Half Lives

- Excerpt Chapter I of Yezierska's Bread Givers

- Excerpt Chapter II of Nasaw's Children of the City

- Photo Analysis Questions

- Extended Reader Response Questions


1. Using a method of your preference, divide students into working groups. Explain the students that they will work together to answer the questions about the photos they will receive.

2. Each group should receive a different photograph from Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives and the Photo Analysis Questions: 1.What can you tell about the living conditions of this time period from the photograph? 2. Identify the mood that is represented in the photograph. 3. What evidence in the photograph supports your above identifications?

3. Allow students at least 10-15 minutes to answer the questions, before recollecting the group. Each group should share their findings.

4. In the same groups, explain to that they will participate in a book club about to chapter from two different texts, Children of the City and Bread Givers.

5. Instruct students to pay attention to the living conditions of these characters, and personal connections when reading as a group. Explain that it is appropriate for students to discuss the text as they read with their peers.

6. As a closing activity, groups should share out their findings with the rest of the class. Instruct students to make note of anything they may have missed.


Using the findings from the readings and the photo analysis, students should choose a prompt and develop an extended reader response: 1. How does the lack of space affect the activities of the children in the photos and readings while growing up in an Urban environment? How can you connect to the activities of these children? 2. How was the urban experience (living conditions, rules and expectations) during the readings and photographs compare (similar) to your experience of growing up in the city? 3. What are common themes and issues that connect Riis' How the Other Half Lives, Yezierska's Bread Givers and Nasaw's Children of the City?

This assessment could be a follow-up assignment for the next class, or it could act as a homework assignment to assess what students learned that day.

The Impact of the Great Migration: Experiencing Chicago from Multiple Perspectives

This lesson explores how the Great Migration affected various groups in the city of Chicago (i.e. African Americans, European Immigrants and Young Migrants). Similar lessons can be recreated by using any text on the list, and pairing it with one of the visual texts listed above.

Objectives: Students will be able to develop predictions about the Great Migration based on Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series, compare and contrast immigrant and migrant experiences in Chicago during the early 20th century using David Grossman's Land of Hope, and determine how the living conditions affected the youth of Chicago during the early 20th century.


- Computer access for Migration Series (http://www.phillipscollection.org/migration_series/flash/series.cfm)

- Graphic organizer

- Land of Hope, Chapters Five and Six


1. Have the Migration Series loaded for student viewing.

2. As a class warm-up, have student select a single piece and describe what they believe Jacob Lawrence is trying to depict, and use the title and details from the painting to explain their thinking.

3. After students share their initial responses to the Lawrence Migration Series, introduce Grossman's Land of Hope. Provide excerpts from Chapter Five and Six.

4. Advise students that as they read that they should closely read looking for the following categories:

a. Housing

b. Transportation

c. Jobs

d. Education

5. I recommend a guided reading for this text, because of his complex language for struggling readers. If students are more advanced, Book Clubs may also be helpful.

6. At the end of the class, student should compose a reflection on the accuracy of the predictions made at the beginning of class about the Migration Series.


In order to compare and contrast the experience of the African American migrant to the European Immigrant in Chicago during the period of the Great Migration, student should first complete a graphic organizer that allows them to list the categories identified above. A T-chart or Venn diagram may prove to be useful for this assessment.

There may not be information for every single group, but student may be able to draw inferences based on one group's experience as opposed to the other. Once the chart is completed, students should compose a page response explaining their findings from the readings.

In Search of Promise: Comparing the pull of immigration and migration

Although these two texts do not focus solely on the adolescent view of immigration/migration, they both allow the reader to see a common force compelling people to pick and move from all they know to an uncertain and a unfamiliar place. Both texts document the changing industries in the United States in need of employees, and how two different labor groups, African American sharecroppers and Mexican farmers moved toward American cities.

Prior to introducing this text, the historical contextual foundation must me provided for students. As a collaborative activity, enlist the history teacher to provide a lesson on economic benefits of the Midwest and west during the early 20th century. It would be helpful if the types of jobs and skills are highlighted for each group, and how that region was appealing to their needs.

Objectives: Students will be able to identify the motivation for immigration or migration, compare and contrast multiple texts and draw appropriate conclusions.


- Land of Hope excerpt Chapter Three

- Becoming a Mexican American excerpt Chapter Two

- Comparative Chart


1. Have student think about what are some of the conveniences of remaining home or near people they know, and allow them to discuss.

2. Draw connections to the fact that many immigrant/migrant groups left those conveniences and the readings today will explore the pull of two American cities.

3. Distribute reading materials and charts.

4. Instruct students to complete the chart while reading, paying close attention to why people decided to move in large numbers.

5. Allow students to compare notes at the end of class; which allows students to ask questions for clarification, defend their ideas and clarify their initial thinking.


After having the evidence organized on a comparative charts, chart should be differentiated based on your class level, and students should compose a comparative response to the readings.

The first paragraph should cover the similarities of the motivation behind the movement of African Americans and Mexicans during the early 20th century. The second paragraph should explain the differences in the movement experience (i.e. jobs, housing and acceptance).

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Resources for Teachers

Blackmar, Elizabeth and Rosenzweig, Roy, The Park and the People. Ithica: Cornell University, 1992.

Blackmar and Rosenzweig provide a full scale history of Central Park and Central Park's people. Through this text, teachers have better understanding of New York's history and issues about the meaning of "public" in this democratic society.

Harris, Leslie, In the Shadow of Slavery. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 2003.

The experience of African Americans living in the South during the antebellum period is well documented. Harris' text offers documentation of African American presence in New York City over the course of two centuries.

Homberger, Eric, The Historical Atlas of New York City. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2005.

This is a reference piece includes maps, drawings, photographs and text to document the five boroughs and how they change over time due to the arrival of various groups in New York City. The atlas can be useful in illustrating city's develop and adapt as diverse groups of people begin to settle there.

Kasson, John, Amusing the Millions. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1978.

Kasson provides a great insight to early pop culture. In addition, literature during this time period often references Coney Island a means of entertainment; therefore, this text useful in building background knowledge.

Piess, Kathy, Cheap Amusements. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1986.

Through the lens of public leisure spaces and activities,Peiss examines working class youth culture in turn-of-the-century New York. This text documents the new forms ofcommercialized public leisure that became part of a larger working class culture. This text is helpful in terms of understanding how young people of the early 20th century amused themselves.

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Selected Sources for Student Reading

Alverez, Julia. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 1991.

This text is unique in the way that Alvarez decided to write it, because it is written is reverse chronological order and perspectives that shift. It deals with the numerous challenges of immigration, painting a realistic picture of the struggle to assimilate, the feeling of displacement, and the confusion of identity suffered by the Garcia family, as forced to begin a new life in New York City. This text can be presented in excerpts or as a whole, as long as the focus remains on how the four daughters viewed growing up in New York City.

Anbinder, Tyler. Five Points: The Nineteenth-Century New York City Neighborhood That Invented Tap Dance, Stole Elections and Became the World's Most Notorious Slum. New York: The Free Press, 2001.

Anbinder documents a neighborhood that housed the most impoverished immigrants, as well as African Americans. Five Points was home to more riots, prostitution, scams and drunkenness. By reading an excerpt of Anbinder's Five Points, students are able to get a complete picture of the immigrant experience in one of America's most notorious neighborhoods. This text would work well alongside Jacobs' Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, because they are documenting the same time period in New York City.

Angelou, Maya. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1969.

In this autobiography and coming of age story, Angelou documents how one can overcome racism and trauma. Subjects such as racism, identity, rape, and literacy are explored. It is very difficult to read this text in it's entirety with in a short period of time; therefore, I recommend using excerpt that highlight her experience as a migrant to urban American cities.

Cisneros, Sandra. The House on Mango Street. New York: Vintage Books, 1984.

Cisneros write a coming of age story of a young Latina girl growing up in the Latino section of Chicago. She is trying to find a way to fit in her neighborhood, as well as her finding place in the world. This novel is beneficial because it speaks to a young girl's hopes of achieving a better life than the one she has in this urban setting.

Crane, Stephen. Maggie: Girl of the Streets. New York: Random House, 1984.

Crane writes about a young girl from the Bowery, who is driven to unfortunate circumstances due to poverty and solitude. Maggie was written during a time when an influx of immigrants contributed to a population boom, many of whom lived in extreme poverty. This text is useful because it documents the immigrant experience in New York's Lower East Side. Each character and their situation can be applied to the immigrant experience during this time period.

Grossman, James. Land of Hope: Chicago, Black Southerners and the Great Migration. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Grossman analyzes the Black migration to Chicago during World War I, also known as the Great Migration. This is a text that would be most useful as an excerpt, looking closely at why Blacks decided to migrate, and what they encountered once they arrived in Chicago. Also, this text would work well as a compare and contrast to the Mexican American experience in George Sanchez's Becoming a Mexican American. In addition, Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series is a great visual representation of the points that Grossman touches on in text.

Gruwell, Erin. The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them. New York: Random House, 1999.

The Freedom Writers Diary is comprised of journals that Erin Gruwell told her students to write in about the troubles of their past, present and future. The students are from Long Beach, CA and come from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, but share a common experience because of where they are from. This is the most modern text on the list. It should be read independently by students, as a model for how they should document their experience of growing up in an urban environment, as well as how their environment has affected them.

Hareven, Tamara. Amoskeag: Life and Work in an American Factory City. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978.

This book captures life for adolescents working in a New England factory city during the early 20th century. First hand accounts of immigrants becoming American citizens are featured, as they work machines that were becoming a booming industry in America. This text has a wealth of information; however, excerpting the chapter entitled, "First Generation" would be most beneficial, because it functions as a primary source. Immigrants account their experience as new Americans and workers, many of them teenagers. These accounts give direct insight as to why these young immigrants migrated to America.

Jacobs, Harriet. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. Boston: 1861.

Best used as an excerpt, Jacobs give a first hand account of a young girl's desperation to escape from slavery and the promise of the North. Upon arriving in the North, the reality of"bondage" is still present as she fights for her children and a better life. This text offers insight to how the North was viewed by Black slaves, and what they encountered once they arrived.

Lawrence, Jacob. Experience- Jacob Lawrence Migration Series. The Phillips Collection, 2013. Web. 20 Jun. 2013.

As a visual interpretation of the Great Migration., this series by Jacob Lawrence brings James Grossman's Land of Hope to Life. Students should be allowed to select pieces from the series that connects with the Grossman reading.

Marshall, Paule, Brown Girl, Brownstones. New York: The Feminist Press, 1981.

Appearing to be somewhat autobiographical, Marshall describes the life of Barbadian immigrants in Brooklyn during the Great Depression and World War II. The parents suffer racism and extreme poverty, but the focus is on the growth and development of the main character. To offer a challenge to students, I would pair this book with either Sone's Nisei Daughter or Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter. Students will be forced to find commonalities and differences that reach beyond race and ethnic groupings.

Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. New York: Laurel Books, 1976.

In this memoir, Moody writes about growing up in ruralin the mid-20th century as an woman. The text covers her life beginning from childhood until her late twenties, including her involvement in the. This is a story of struggles both against, from white people andfrom her fellow civil rights activists. Reading this text is a great way to contrast the experience of a southern African American adolescent to that of immigrant Dominican growing up in the North by using Alverez's How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents.

Nasaw, David. Children of the City: At Work and At Play. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Page and Company, 1985.

Best used as an excerpt, Nasaw portrays the stories of children and their families. Chapter two describes how children growing up in the city have to adjust to overcrowded conditions and create room for play where there isn't any. This excerpt would well with Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives and Bread Givers.

Riis, Jacob. How the Other Half Lives. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1971.

Through photo essays, Riis is able to breathe life into the immigrant/migrant experience of late 19th century New York City slums. He not only brings the living conditions of the people in his photos to life for the students today, but he made it hard for the middle and upper class of the late 19th century to ignore. This text is useful when paired with any text listed above in the same time period of Riis' work. His photos provide visual representations of what the living conditions of that time period are described as. Excerpts of pictures can be selected depending on the text chosen for pairing.

Snow Wong, Jade. Fifth Chinese Daughter. New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1945.

This text is one of two autobiographical volumes written by Snow Wong. In this text, she describes her struggles with balancing her identity as an Asian American woman with Chinese traditions. This book offers an opportunity for comparison and contrast when coupled with Sone's Nisei Daughter, because these are two Asian American young women, growing up in West Coast cities, and around World War II.

Sone, Monica. Nisei Daughter. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1953.

Sone tells the story, in the form of a memoir, ofa Japanese immigrant family's life in the United States before and during the war. Sone's parents are from Japan, first generation (Issei), and their children are born in the States, making them second generation(, as in the title). This text explores the cultural differences the family faced before World War II, both in the States and on a visit to Japan, the impact of World War II on the treatment of the family and the experiencing of the.This text should be read along side Jade Snow Wong's Fifth Chinese Daughter, not because they both document Asian American experiences, but because they offer an opportunity to compare immigrant experiences from the same time period.

Sanchez, George. Becoming a Mexican American: Ethnicity, Culture, and Identity in Chicano Los Angeles, 1900-1945. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Sanchez examines the relationship between ethnicity and identity to the city of Los Angeles. He explores how newly arrived Mexican immigrants "Americanized" themselves, as well as the process by which temporary travelers visitors changed their path to that of permanent residents. Excerpting chapter two from this text would work well with Grossman's Land of Hope.

Yezierska, Anzia. Bread Givers. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Page and Company, 1925.

Yezierska tells the story of a young Polish girl growing with immigrant parents. This text is useful in exploring a family's financial struggles and dynamic, and the struggle between Sara, who yearns for American ideals and independence, and her father, who clings obsessively to traditional Jewish culture.

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Appendix A: Implementing District Standards

Common Core Standards addressed in this unit:

Reading Literature

RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.

RL.9-10.6Analyze a particular point of view or cultural experience reflected in a work of literature from outside the United States, drawing on a wide reading of world literature.

Reading Informational Texts

RI.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text..

RI.9-10.7Analyze various accounts of a subject told in different mediums (e.g., a person's life story in both print and multimedia), determining which details are emphasized in each account.


W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

W.9-10.3Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

W.9-10.8Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the usefulness of each source in answering the research question; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and following a standard format for citation.

Speech and Language

SL.9-10.1Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

SL.9-10.4Present information, findings, and supporting evidence clearly, concisely, and logically such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, substance, and style are appropriate to purpose, audience, and task.

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