Julia M. Biagiarelli
Walt Whitman says in You Whoever You Are, "Each of us here as divinely as any is here." Making the statement that anyone from anywhere has a right to live life and be a part of society. In the United States there are so many, including the children we teach, who can easily trace their ancestry back to other lands along with the stories of struggles and triumphs that brought them here. Keeping these stories alive and teaching them to our children honors those experiences. This unit is designed to do just that by teaching children an overview of the history of immigration in this country and exposing them to literature and art that has been and continues to be an integral contribution to our culture.
This unit will be taught to a Language Arts class of about twenty to twenty five eighth grade students at Betsy Ross Arts Magnet Middle School in New Haven, CT which is co-taught by a certified Regular Education English teacher and a certified Special Education teacher. The students in the class have mixed abilities and experiences because it is a Magnet school. There will be about three to five students who have Special Education IEPs.
About twenty five percent of the students in the school come from surrounding suburban schools where they may have little or no contact with immigrants or immigrant communities. Another twenty five percent live in the surrounding neighborhood which is primarily made up of Latin American communities. The other fifty percent live in other parts of the city of New Haven where contact with people from various immigrant groups is a daily experience.
The eighth grade Language Arts course is based on McDougal Littel's The Language of Literature, a text book containing a combination of short stories, plays, poems and excerpts from novels. The curriculum unit, Modern Literature and the Arts; seen through the Experience of American Immigrants while being taught in the Language Arts class will have parallel lessons with the eighth grade United States History course which has a similar student/teacher make up.