Honoring Our Families’ Immigrant Narratives

As we navigate a political landscape that is too often hostile toward immigrants, it’s a good time to remember that the vast majority of us are here as American immigrants.

The Power of Storytelling
Recent anti-immigrant rhetoric in the news is disheartening and infuriating, and it urgently pushed us to address these issues in our high-school classrooms. As educators, we felt it was our responsibility to provide students with an outlet and counter-narrative to the dehumanization of immigrants and, recently, refugees. With this context, we wanted to create an experience in which the power of storytelling could be used as a vehicle for empathy, community, and great writing.

We are ninth-grade English and history teachers at a small California charter school that serves many first-generation students. As teachers of color and immigrants, we felt that we had a responsibility to bring these issues into our classrooms and engage in personal reflection and analysis. We jumped at an opportunity to collaborate with Elliot Margolies, founder and director of Made Into America, a project of the non-profit organization Midpen Media Center. The project’s goal is to highlight and archive immigrant stories. In our two-week humanities project, students investigated and wrote the immigration story of one of their family members to be published on the Made Into America online archive. The inherently authentic nature of the task lent itself to strong student investment and writing products.

More notably, the task privileged students whose families are recent immigrants or who had personally emigrated here themselves. Additionally, it gave students an opportunity to utilize their native languages in their writing and view that as an asset rather than a deficit. (How often do we get to do these things?)

Creating the Narrative
Our version of this project spanned eight instructional hours, but it’s very adaptable to however you might use it in your own curriculum. We used these traditional steps of the writing process: Read More Here

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