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immigrant adults and children walking across land a landscape of the American flag.

Text Set: Immigration

We hope this text set fosters understanding, empathy, and a high level of engagement for your students as they explore the complexities of the immigrant experience through varying perspectives.

 

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When teachers make the transition from textbook only classrooms to multi-text classrooms, the focus of study becomes concepts rather than the content of one particular book. Students gain both a broad perspective and an in-depth sense of the subject matter from reading many texts on the same topic. —Dr. Gail Ivey

Why Use a Text Set?

One of the great quandaries of secondary instruction is how we give students more voice and choice in their learning while still covering standards, deepening students’ understanding, and sharpening their critical analysis skills. Taking a text set approach for your English literature or content area classes may be the solution you have been looking for. 

A text set utilizes a collection of texts and other materials on a particular topic or theme that allows students to access the same standards-based curricula from varying reading levels and perspectives, while also building a shared understanding of a topic or theme. Typically students select from multiple texts then read, discuss and confirm their thinking within book clubs or literature circles. Opportunities to share in a whole class setting are interspersed throughout the thematic or topical study as well as interactions with other materials within the text set to deepen students’ understanding.

There is no one way to use a text set. Our hope is that you will explore the variety of texts and materials provided and choose those that will best engage your students in discussions and critical thinking.  

Overview

The immigrant experience is rich, diverse, and an inherent part of the American dream. Understanding why people leave their native lands and the journeys they take to come to the United States is as much a lesson in empathy, as an historical one.

As each new wave of immigration has reached America it has been faced with problems, not only the problems that come with making new homes and new jobs, but, more important, the problems of getting along with people of different backgrounds and habits. Somehow, the difficult adjustments are made and people get down to the tasks of earning a living, raising a family, living with their neighbors, and, in the process, building a nation. — John F. Kennedy

Conversation Starters

Below are questions that can be used with your whole class or within small groups of students to get them thinking about what they know, sharing their personal experiences, and listening to other perspectives. Since these questions may elicit positive and negative emotions, as well as very personal stories, you should first establish parameters for discussions and sharing within your class community.  

  1. Why might you choose to leave your native land?
  2. What does it mean to be an immigrant?
  3. How are the refugee and immigrant experience connected concepts?
  4. How has society’s perception of immigrants changed over time?
  5. What are the benefits of a diverse society?

Quotes to Prompt Discussions & Writing

Quotes are a great way to let students make personal connections between their lives and the world around them. Asking students to agree or disagree with a quote and explain their reasoning is a powerful and easy way for students to evaluate what they know and think about a topic. Quotes can be the basis for whole-class and small-group conversations as well as writing prompts. 

Music & Videos

Stevie Wonder once said, “Music is a world within itself, with a language we all understand.” Music and videos have the power to connect with students’ deep emotions and transform their ideas. Students can listen and watch, then respond to written prompts or share their ideas in small groups.

Choose from the following songs and discuss the plight of immigrants from first-hand accounts, family stories, and outside observations. Each song is linked to www.songfacts.com where you can learn more about the artists and development of the song as well as listen to song clips and read the song lyrics.

Can’t Have by Pitbull   As a son of Cuban-American parents, Pitbull sings about his rise to fame from humble beginnings.

Immigrants: We Get the Job Done by K’Naan   This is a track from The Hamilton Mixtape, a collection of remixes, demos, and covers derived from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton

Paper Planes by M.I.A.   M.I.A. was inspired by her experience trying to enter America on a visa.

Matamoros Banks by Bruce Springsteen   Springsteen sings about the hardships immigrants from Mexico to the US face as they cross the border. 

Anchor Texts

Historically secondary students have often been asked to read one anchor text or class novel. We encourage you to consider letting students choose between multiple texts that are connected thematically. Students can discuss their chosen texts in literature circles or book clubs while also building a shared understanding of larger themes and ideas across texts through whole-class share-outs and discussions. 

Refugee book cover

Refugee

Alan Gratz
Age Level:
Middle Grade
Genre:
Historical Fiction
Published:
2017
When Stars Are Scattered

When Stars Are Scattered

Victoria Jamieson, Omar Mohamed
Age Level:
Middle Grade
Genre:
Autobiography and Memoir
Published:
2020
Enrique's Journey
Other Words for Home

Other Words for Home

Jasmine Warga
Age Level:
Middle Grade
Genre:
Fiction
Published:
2019
We Are Not from Here

We Are Not From Here

Jenny Torres Sanchez
Age Level:
YA
Genre:
Fiction
Published:
2020
Legs of two boys playing soccer

Outcasts United: The Story of a Refugee Soccer Team That Changed a Town (Young Readers Edition)

Warren St. John
Age Level:
Middle Grade
Genre:
Nonfiction
Published:
2012
Four Hispanic youth's headshots drawn on top of one another

Come On In: 15 Stories about Immigration and Finding Home

Adi Alsaid
Age Level:
Middle Grade, YA
Genre:
Short Stories
Published:
2021
Immigrants in a boat crossing a large body of water at night

Illegal: A Graphic Novel

Eoin Colfer, Andrew Donkin
Age Level:
Middle Grade
Published:
2018
Woman walking between two mountains

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition

Reyna Grande
Age Level:
Middle Grade
Genre:
Autobiography and Memoir
Published:
2017

Additional Texts & Resources

Deepen and extend your students’ understanding of the immigrant experience through their engagement with additional texts and multimedia resources. They can be powerful anchors for small group or paired discussions.

Podcasts

Coming To America: Our Best Student Podcasts About Immigration

Stories From the Stage Podcast: Coming to America

Speeches

Transcript: Obama’s Immigration Speech   Washington Post

Undocumented, Yet Hopeful: Dreamer Sandy Rivera’s Speech At The Indianapolis Women’s March   National Immigrant Justice Center

Online Resources

I’m Your Neighbor Books

Strive to build a stronger America, one where immigrants are welcomed and where first-through-third-generation Americans truly belong.

What Every American Should Know About the Immigrant Experience

Their blog is part of a series featuring perspectives from Chicago young people, interrogating and exploring key terms identified by Chicago Public School Participate Civics students.

Picture Books That Adolescents Will Love…

A Hispanic mother and child walk with clouds and flowers behind them

Dreamers

Yuyi Morales
Genre:
Autobiography and Memoir
A father and son fishing by a pond at night

A Different Pond

Bao Phi
Published:
2017
Drawn vignettes of a family moving

The Journey

Francesca Sanna
Published:
2016

Articles & Poetry

Selected Non-Fiction

Six pictures of various immigrants

Their Great Gift

John Coy
Genre:
Nonfiction
Published:
2016
Statue of Liberty in the background with title of book written across

This Land is Our Land: A History of American Migration

Linda Barrett Osborne
Genre:
Nonfiction
Published:
2016
Statue of Liberty in the background with title of book within the number six

Supports for Recording & Developing Students' Ideas

Rolling journal headers

Comprehension

Rolling Knowledge Journal

Students can use the Rolling Knowledge Journal to record their connections and reflections to multiple texts and resources.

Inquiry Chart blank

Comprehension Writing

Inquiry Charts (I-Charts)

Learn about how Inquiry Charts can support your students’ learning and see our *NEW* fillable .pdf to download and use.

Writing Prompts & Wrap-ups

Below are questions that can be used with your whole class or within small groups of students to have them make larger connections between the resources you utilized. Students should use two or more resources when developing their responses.

  1. Compare and contrast two opinions you read about immigration/immigration experiences you read. How were they similar or different? 
  2. How did two or more resources challenge or change your ideas on immigration?
  3. On the Statue of Liberty a plaque reads, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” What is the significance of placing the quote on the statue and how does this quote relate to the immigrants’ experiences you’ve read about?  
  4. Consider what you have learned about immigration, how can societies do a better job of supporting newcomers and help them develop a sense of belonging?
  5. What surprised or confused you about immigration, and what are you still wondering about?