This unit was created by Mary Aiken, a 5th and 6th grade gifted English Language Arts and Social Studies teacher at Elkin Park School in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania as part of the 2022-2023 Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellowship program. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 6 weeks. For more units created by Pulitzer Center Teacher Fellows in this cohort, click here.


Students will: 

  • Use close reading strategies to analyze texts
  • Identify key members of their family to interview
  • Compose open ended questions to ask their interview subjects
  • Analyze underreported stories to learn interview strategies
  • Learn basic filming and editing skills

Unit Overview:

How did my family and I get here? 

Why did their family member migrate?

How did migration affect the extended family?

This unit will focus on students’ families and how they migrated either domestically or internationally to get to their current location. As a final project students will create a documentary that will chronicle their family’s journey and their lives now. 

Students will analyze a range of first person narratives about immigrants and migrants from various sources in order to understand how and why people move from place to place. The class will analyze society’s treatment of refugees, undocumented immigrants, and documented immigrants.  

Students will write personal narratives about their family’s lives, using information that already know and capturing things that they like to do as a family. Students should preferably write about a specific activity or tradition that their family observes participates in. As they are writing, students should start to think about a family member who has a compelling migration story to tell. Using that information, students will reach out to the family members who can tell that story.

Finally, students will craft a  5–7 minute documentary capturing one migration story from their family. Incorporating interviews from at least four unique family members, students will leverage the following questions to explore the legacy of migration in their family:

  • Why did their family member migrate?
  • How did migration affect the extended family?

Performance Task:

Performance Task 1: Short Narrative

Students will write a short narrative about their family history. Using prompts such as: 

  • Where is your family originally from?
  • Why did your family move to this area?

Educator note: Feel free to use more specific prompts if you know more about your students' immigration/migration status.

Performance Task 2: Documentary

Students will make a 5 - 7 minute documentary about their family. The focus will be on migration from one place to their current city/neighborhood. The documentary will feature:

  • Student voice over
  • Background music 
  • At least one compelling subject to interview 
  • Good use of transitions and a well organized layout

Educator note: Feel free to choose just one of these performance tasks if your schedule doesn’t allow for both. I also recommend leveraging accessible experts in filmmaking to support teaching documentary filmmaking skills

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teal halftone illustration of a family carrying luggage and walking


Migration and Refugees

Migration and Refugees