Common Core Standards:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.6-8.7: Integrate visual information (e.g., in charts, graphs, photographs, videos, or maps) with other information in print and digital texts.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.2: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of how key events or ideas develop over the course of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.9-10.7: Integrate quantitative or technical analysis (e.g., charts, research data) with qualitative analysis in print or digital text.
Choose one or more of the following activities:
1. Students research the role of refugees in history.
Divide students into groups. Each group will research a different aspect of the history of refugees. Topics may include: the Jews and Moors in 15th century Spain, the Huguenots in France, the Puritans and Quakers in England; the Native Americans; the Armenians in 1915-1917; the Russians in 1917; Hindus and Muslims in India at the time of independence; the Holocaust. Students should consider persecution, challenges, and opportunities that these refugees faced.
Ask students to share their reports with the class. Discuss what the refugees in the class presentations have in common with Suad, Illham, Nour, Yousef, and Taimaa in "Finding Home," the article by Aryn Baker listed under Resources. "For Yousef, like most of the refugees, it is the uncertainty that has been the hardest to take," Baker writes. Discuss.
2. Students report on refugee and immigrant communities in their area and create a newspaper.
Choose two volunteers to be managing editors and two to be creative directors. Divide other students into teams of two (writer/photographer) to report on refugees and immigrants in your area. Reporters may interview relatives, friends, neighbors, or shopkeepers. Suggest students visit restaurants or grocery stores that specialize in regional cuisines such as Ethiopian, Salvadoran, Korean, Afghan, Thai, Indian, Nepalese, or Chinese. Students may also want to interview students at ESL classes sponsored by community centers, schools, or churches.
Provide students with interview tips: the importance of preparing questions ahead of time, starting with a question that makes the subject comfortable, taking good notes and recording the interview if possible, remembering to thank the interviewee and follow up if appropriate. Photographers should be reminded to ask permission before taking photos. (It's also a good idea to spend time with the subject before picking up the camera.)
Ask reporters to focus on the refugee and immigrant experiences, the challenges they faced, and the opportunities and difficulties they found upon arrival. Encourage students to use direct quotes in their writing.
The managing editors will be responsible for making sure the reporters meet their deadlines. They will also edit and proofread the stories. The creative directors will edit photo captions, check photo credits, and prepare the design.
Print copies of the paper can be produced or the newspaper can be distributed digitally.
3. Students create a paper quilt from photographs that show the richness and diversity of immigrant communities.
Supplies needed: print photographs, construction paper, butcher block paper the size of the finished quilt, double-sided tape.
Each student provides one print that will become part of the class quilt. (Alternatively, photos are collected on a USB flash drive so that the teacher or student volunteer can make print copies.)
Choose a standard size such as 8x10, 8.5x11, or 11x14.
Students use construction paper to create a paper frame for their prints so that the entire image and part of the frame will show when the quilt is pieced together.
The class quilt may include individual portraits or group portraits, photos of neighborhoods, homes, special objects or mementoes. If you wish to create a quilt that will be made up of individual portraits of refugees or immigrants, the images should be vertical. Otherwise, it is best for students to contribute horizontal images.
Once you have gathered all the photographs in their paper frames, arrange them on a large piece of butcher block paper on the floor or a large tabletop.
If your quilt is comprised of portraits only, experiment with different lay-outs before deciding on your final lay-out.
If your quilt includes people, places and things, it will probably look best to mix them up. (In other words, don't put all the people together. Place a portrait shot next to a landscape. Also vary the placement of the close-ups and the long shots.)
Once you have determined the lay-out, use double-sided tape to attach the images to the paper. Leave "a frame" on the outer edges of the quilt. Once you have attached all the images, you can leave the frame "as is" or paint.
Display the quilt on a classroom wall or in the hall.
[Students may also write about their image selection explaining why they chose their particular image.]
4. Students research foods popular with different immigrant groups and organize an international potluck meal.
Assign students to research foods popular with different immigrant groups. Students may wish to visit ethnic grocery stores, markets, and restaurants.
As a follow-up activity, ask your class to plan a potluck lunch or dinner featuring foods from different countries. Teachers and families could also be invited.
And, if your school does not already sponsor an international night, your class may decide to organize the first of many!
5. Students research different organizations that assist refugees and participate in a community service activity.
Ask students to research international and national organizations that assist refugees, such as the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). In addition, look for local organizations in their community. Examples can be found at the end of the Pulitzer Center e-book: Flight from Syria: Refugees Stories, listed under Resources.
Other reading suggestions include the articles by Robin Shulman (also listed under Resources): "While Other Countries Turn Syrian Refugees Away, Canadians Are Taking Them Home" and "The First Syrian Refugees in Iowa."
Discuss options with students and ask that they consider volunteering to work with refugees or recently arrived immigrants as a community service activity.
This lesson can be used in conjunction with "Seeking Asylum: Women and Children Migrating Across Borders." It provides suggestions for student research, reporting, arts activities, and community service.