Julia M. Biagiarelli
In preparation for the study of immigrant literature students will do individual research on a variety of immigrant related topics such as: The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, U.S./Cuba relations in the 1960s, Puerto Rico as a U.S. Territory, Ellis Island, and political refugees from Haiti.
The unit will begin with short stories, memoirs and poems, from the McDougal Littel text, written by authors who immigrated to the United States. Born Worker by Gary Soto, The Great Rat Hunt by Lawrence Yep, Rules of the Game by Amy Tan, Something to Declare by Julia Alvarez and The Other Pioneers by Roberto Felix Salazar. After reading each selection students will write reflection essays. Assignments will be scaffolded, beginning with an essay showing reader/text connections, progressing next to text/text connections, compare and contrast and finally to synthesis.
Another section of the unit will be called Your Name. Several immigrant writers such as Julia Alvarez, Sandra Cisneros and Tony Johnston write about how they felt when their names were Americanized when they came to the United States or how Americans had difficulty pronouncing them. To practice making reader/text connections (CMT Strand A) students will write and illustrate pieces about their own names leading students to feel a connection with the author and the situation in which the story takes place. By realizing this connection, students are able to open to their own creativity in their written responses to text and in their original compositions and poetry.
To align this Language Arts unit to the 8
grade students' study of United States History the next series of lessons will be a student research project. Students will work in groups to research specific immigrant groups who came to the United States in the past one hundred and fifty years. Those groups will include Chinese, Irish, Italian, Latin Americans, and Eastern European. Lessons will also include a section that will focus on immigrants in major U.S. cities and the communities and neighborhoods where immigrants settled such as Little Italy and Chinatown in New York City.
Lesson Title: Neighborhoods
Books, Newspaper and Magazine articles, Internet articles.
Students will be divided into groups of two or three.
As a class students will brainstorm, with hints as needed from the teacher, to come up with ethnic groups to research.
Each group will be given an ethnic group in a given city or cities. Groups to include, but not limited to, are: Italian, Chinese, Hasidic Jews, Polish, Russian, Arab, Vietnamese, Sikhs, African American, Latino, etc.
Student groups will begin researching the following questions:
In your assigned neighborhood: What are some common foods? Do the people dress differently? What religion do they follow? What do the people from that neighborhood do to earn a living? What do they do for fun? Do they have any special holidays?
Lesson concludes with presentation of research results by each group using oral presentation backed up by a visual presentation such as: computer slide show, dramatic enactment, posters, original songs or dances performed for the class etc.
Students will be able to use information gained through research during writing assignments that reflect assigned written text.
Lesson Title: Names
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros pages 10&11; My Name (photocopy for each student, if possible, for highlighting and note taking).
Names/Nombres by Julia Alvarez (found in MacDougal Littel's The Language of Literature grade 7).
Any Small Goodness by Tony Johnston.
Writing materials: paper, pencils, pens.
Presentation equipment: overhead projector or chalkboard or chart paper and easel
Day one: Class begins with a ten minute writing prompt. Students respond to these or similar questions presented to class: What does your name mean to you? Where did your name come from? Do you like your name? How do other people respond when they hear your name? Is your name common or unusual?
For the next ten minutes students will share as a whole class directed by the teacher or in small groups independently depending on the experience, abilities and behavior dynamics of the class.
Next, the teacher will read aloud to the class pages five to twelve, American Names, from Any Small Goodness. Then, students will read aloud as a class Names/Nombres. A brief class discussion will follow if time allows. Students will be assigned My Name from The House on Mango Street for homework.
Day two: Class begins with a ten minute writing prompt. Students write a reflection of their thoughts and feelings surrounding the three readings, including the homework assignment from the previous night.
Students will share briefly, about five to seven minutes, as a class before beginning the next lesson.
My Name is first read aloud by the teacher, then it is read by students using "jump in" reading. Next students will reread the passage silently highlighting phrases and/or words that appeal to them, (this is not a main idea exercise but a reflection of what stands out for them in the passage). Depending on the maturity of the class, they can participate in "jump in" reading of their highlighted words and phrases. It is up to the teacher to find an end point to this as it could potentially go on into eternity. Usually it finds an ending point when those who shared in the "jump in" reading have read what they wanted to share.
The last assignment of the lesson will have students writing their own passage about their own names imitating the style of Cisneros, with The House on Mango Street being used as a "mentor text."
Lesson concludes with sharing of student writing, then, students will have the opportunity to edit, revise and be given the option of publishing their work in various school wide venues. Student work can also be stored in individual or class portfolios.