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From Writing the Page to Pressing Play: More Tips on Teaching Digital Stories on Immigration

This article completes a two-part series dedicated to the art of teaching the digital story on immigration to build writing and research skills while engendering empathy and engagement. 

These practical insights come largely from middle school teacher Brian Kelley who regularly incorporates digital storytelling and podcasting on family heritage and immigration into his curriculum. The American Immigration Council’s teacher’s guide “Crossing Borders with Digital Storytelling” complements these tips. It provides educators with easy instructions to develop similar projects in their classrooms. It is Common Core aligned and adaptable for multiple grade levels. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Students Read and Review Shaun Tan’s The Arrival

Author: Shaun Tan

Reviewed by: Owen Bouchard, Tyler Garry, Alia Higgins and Julia Semmel
Joseph A. DePaolo Middle School, Southington, CT

A number of people have never been to another country. They don’t know what it is like to be an immigrant; however, if they read Shaun Tan’s The Arrival, the readers would have a better understanding of the troubles that people go through. The immigrant protagonist in the story leaves his family behind to start a new life. This story helps the reader relate to the sorrow, longing, and unfamiliarity that many immigrants experience. 

Tan’s abstract art conveys a difference between old and new. The fanciful and bright details in the artist’s depiction of a new, more advanced country is relatable for any reader who has experienced awe of their surroundings. There is plenty more to this story than simply the journey and acclimation of the character, such as: the emotions of his departure, the loss of his family, and the wonders of a new world. Further, the story is all told through black and white pictures.

Tan’s story starts with a simple family: a husband, wife, and young girl in a gloomy and melancholy environment. They are seen packing to leave. Whilst they walk down the street, reptilian spines snake their way in between uniform rows of drab, dreary houses. Later, the husband gets on a train after a seemingly painful farewell.Read more...

Year Released: 2015

8 Tips for Teaching How to Write a Digital Story on Immigration

This is part one of a series dedicated to the art of teaching the digital story on immigration. The second part is accessible here. Digital storytelling about immigrant heritage is a way to access a shared past and present, however distinct the individual stories are, develop reading and writing skills, and most importantly, build empathy while thoroughly engaging students. It can, however, be challenging to teach for a number of reasons: 1) uncertainty in the writing process when there may be unknown variables in immigration experiences 2) fears of technology 3) relevancy within what may be a restrictive curriculum.

The American Immigration Council’s “Crossing Borders with Digital Storytelling” is a comprehensive guide adaptable for any grade level and aligned to Common Core, but best practice often involves learning from other teachers to improve.  Middle school teacher Brian Kelley has been developing family heritage podcasting and digital storytelling with his students for several years and has shared some of his methods for working with students in writing about their immigration journeys.  His tips connect well with our curriculum.Read more...

Year Released: 2015

9-12+

How the Novel Americanah Explores Immigration, Race, and Love

Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Told through a series of flashbacks,  by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, captures the stories of two Nigerians, Ifemelu and her childhood friend/first love, Obinze, who enter themselves into self-imposed exiles in America and Great Britain after their options for education are squelched by a military dictatorship back home. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Crossing Borders with Digital Storytelling

In this Common-Core aligned immigration lesson plan, teachers are guided step-by-step through a process for launching a digital storytelling project on immigration in their own classrooms.  Recommended writing prompts, easy to use digital platforms, as well as resources and collaborative planning tools are shared and explained. 

Using digital storytelling to capture immigration stories is a powerful way for teachers to create opportunities for “empathetic moments” among students and shape classroom environments.  Telling stories of family immigration history – no matter how distant or recent – allows for common threads and variations of the immigration experience to be seen, heard, and reflected upon.  Digital storytelling offers the advantage of authentic engagement to reach all learning styles as well as to teach technological skills while exploring connections and understandings to an important issue.

Watch this video for an example of a digital story based on a poem written by a fifth grade student about her grandfather’s immigration from China to the U.S.

Year Released: 2015

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How the Film Spare Parts Presents an Opportunity for Educators

The film, “Spare Parts” is both emotionally uplifting and disheartening, and a film that can resonate with the viewer on both these levels is worth watching.  Based on the true story of four undocumented students and their quest to compete in a national robotics championship against the likes of prestigious, well-funded universities such as MIT, the film recounts a compelling tale of the underdog, which is why it made a successful article when it first appeared in Wired magazine in 2005 and a popular book written by the same author, Joshua Davis.  (A book review by us can be found here).  There is something fundamentally relatable about the pursuit of individual dreams and Hollywood capitalized on this phenomenon, while to its credit, showed that part of this dream remains unfulfilled.  Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Spare Parts: Four Undocumented Students, One Ugly Robot, and the Battle for the American Dream

Author: Joshua Davis

Author Joshua Davis tells the true story of four undocumented teenagers from an impoverished section of Phoenix, Arizona who build a ragtag robot nicknamed “Stinky” out of spare parts to compete in a national robotics championship against the likes of MIT among other prestigious, well-funded universities. This brave and unlikely team combats more than their competitors. They also fight the vehemence of anti-immigrant sentiment, laws designed to prevent their advancement in society and a pervasive fear of deportation. Even so, they deal with typical teenage issues of insecurity and fitting into high school culture. They find their way with the support of each other and the backing of two teachers, Fredi Lajvardi and Allan Cameron.    Read more...

Year Released: 2014

Organizations in Your Community

Educators, community organizers and civic leaders interested in engaging your community with service learning projects? Find local organizations committed to immigrant rights, integration and social justice. Read more...

White House White Board: Why Immigration is Beneficial to America

It's clear commonsense immigration reform is good for the economy as a whole. Don't take our word for it — study after study has shown that commonsense immigration reform will strengthen the economy, spur innovation, reduce the deficit and increase US trade and exports.

Year Released: 2013

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Council Announces Winners of the "Change in Motion" Multimedia Contest

Published on Fri, Feb 01, 2013

The American Immigration Council is pleased to announce the winners of the inaugural 2012 “Change in Motion” Multimedia Contest. The competition challenges young adults to explore the role that immigration plays in their lives and communities.  The program allows young filmmakers and artists to create projects which focus on celebrating America as a nation of immigrants and explore the impact immigration has on our everyday lives.   The contest is sponsored, in part, by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

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