According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Office of Immigration Statistics, more than 757,400 foreign nationals age 18 years or over became naturalized citizens, and more than 1.03 million people born outside the United States became legal permanent residents in 2012.
This significant population of residents whose native language isn't English, combined with the untold number of other non-natives who are living in the United States, offers an opportunity for educators.
To function effectively in today's interconnected world, students need to understand how people of different backgrounds think, live and react to situations in their daily life. Without developing true connections with people from other cultures, students will struggle to appreciate the differences that make every person unique. This project pushes them to take an analytical look at immigrants, who often live on the periphery of society, isolated because of cultural differences.
Begin by having students diagram what comes to mind when they think of the word "immigrant." Encourage them to examine stereotypes that they may believe about immigrants and the sources of those misconceptions. One tool that can inspire creativity as they work is draw.io, a free online diagramming application designed around Google Drive.
Next, have students think about the local immigrant population by answering questions posted on a class Facebook page or on Twitter, such as: How many people in our city are first-generation immigrants? From where did they emigrate? How easily are they assimilating into American culture?
Following this reflection, have students interview local immigrants who were old enough when they left their home country to remember their life there. Students should film the interview using a digital video camera or recording app on their smartphone or tablet.
To prepare, students should develop 20 questions to ask pertaining to their interview subject's immigration and assimilation experiences. Students also should research their interview subject's home country and create a virtual corkboard of notes using Padlet or a similar tool. The details they gather here will be included in their final presentation.
Each student should then produce a short movie using Windows Movie Maker or other video editing software. Each video should include the student's musings about immigration prior to and following his or her interview; portions of that interview; details from his or her virtual corkboard; background music; and closing remarks.
Conclude the project with a class screening of all of the students' movies and a discussion of the lessons students learned from the experience.
This project was developed for high school Spanish students in level 3 or higher, but it could be applied to many disciplines.
Students' grades should be based on the quality of their preparation and whether the content and format of their movies meet all required criteria and captivate their audience.
- Students may be nervous about finding someone to interview for this project. Encourage them to network through family members, friends and neighbors.
- Encourage student creativity by making each movie's "wow factor" part of the grading rubric.
- Set clear deadlines at the outset for each step of the project to discourage procrastination.