Tag Archives: immigration

Los Trabajadores/The Workers

Bibliographic information: PBS: Los Trabajadores/The Workers: http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/theworkers/film.html

Brief description: This video focuses on two men who are day laborers in Austin, Texas. Their stories highlight the dependency of the region on workers who are discriminated against. The men are willing to do almost any job as the cities grows and needs workers, but they wonder why they are not able to share in the wealth they help build. The site features a bio of the filmmaker, as well as a Q&A section with her. There is a section with background information on what day labor is, who does it and why. Another section has links to multiple resources on the topic, including links to websites, articles and books. There are also teaching resources with a discussion guide and quiz about the film.

Qualitative Analysis: Background information on the issue would provide more depth, but is not necessary for understanding. The website has a section with background information for those wanting to know more before they see the film. The story will be of interest because it is a contemporary issue dealing with immigration and the treatment of those who come to the US. In my students’ community there are still many day laborers, so it is particularly relevant. Vocabulary is…Some levels of meaning are stated and others are left to the reader to identify. Organization adheres to most conventions, but digresses on occasion to temporarily provide the viewer with a shift in focus to another view point and place before returning to the main subject. For example, there is a shift to the families left behind in Mexico, so that viewers can see how their lives are affected by the departure of the men to find work in the US.

Subject area: Social Studies, Economics

Personal thoughts: This documentary shows the human side of day labor. Many businesses rely on day laborers and would not be able to run their business without them. However, laborers are frequently disrespected and looked down upon in the communities they helped build.

Subjects/themes: immigration, day labor, Texas

Awards: Audience Award at SXSW and International Documentary Association Award

Series information: Independent Lens

Character names/descriptions: Ramon and Juan are two Mexican day laborers in Austin, Texas, working to make money for their families back home.

High interest annotation: Ramon and Juan are day laborers who take on any job, but are continually marginalized and discriminated against as they do the best they can to build a better life.

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U.S.-Mexico Border: Fences and Deaths

Bibliographic information: National Geographic Education: U.S.-Mexico Border: Fences and Deaths. http://education.nationalgeographic.com/education/media/tijuana-border-fence/?ar_a=1

Brief description: National Geographic Education has several great lesson ideas for an immigration unit. There is one about the border between Mexico and the United States that discusses what the border is like in different areas and what reinforcements are used to keep illegal immigrants out, such as the triple fenced section at the crossing near Tijuana. The article would be especially good for English Language Learners or students with lower vocabularies because it has definitions linked to vocabulary words.  There are also links to other National Geographic resources (articles, images, worksheets, etc) on related topics. Another related article and assignment on the site has student’s interview migrants in their community to gather their own first hand accounts. I would love to have my current students do a project like this, since many have friends and family who are immigrants (or are themselves from another country). National Geographic is a well respected nonprofit scientific and educational institution.

Qualitative Analysis: A vocabulary list is provided, which lists terms, parts of speech, definitions and links to encyclopedia entries for some terms. This list should help clarify any vocabulary that may be unfamiliar to students. There is also a Spanish phrase that is used in the text, but its meaning is also provided. An image is at the focal point of this webpage. It is a photograph of the fence that separates the US and Mexico at the border near Tijuana. The image is essential for evoking sentiment in the reader. It shows hundreds of white crosses hanging from the fence, which many students will recognize as evoking images of crosses on graves. The caption of the picture explains that the crosses represent those Mexicans who died trying to cross the border, so students who are not familiar with the Christian symbols of gravesite crosses still have access to the meaning of the image.

Subject area: English, Geography, Social Studies

Personal thoughts: I especially like the piece about interviewing immigrants to find out about their personal experiences. This would be especially relevant in my school community where there are many immigrants and diverse cultures.

Subjects/themes: immigration, history, migrants, border crossing, United States, Mexico

Series information: National Geographic Education: U.S.-Mexico Border

Character names/descriptions: The main character of this segment is the border and its different characteristics, such as fences, deserts and rivers, as it makes its way from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. In one activity the characters will be the immigrants interviewed by students.

High interest annotation: Find out about what the border is like at different points along the frontier between Mexico and the United States. Do your own interviews to discover what migrating was like for family, friends or community members.

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Reparation for Mexican and Filipino Farm Workers

Bibliographic information: Oakland Museum of California: Reparation for Mexican and Filipino Farm Workers. http://www.museumca.org/picturethis/timeline/depression-era-1930s/migrant-farm-workers/info

Brief description: This collection, as the title suggests, is about the reparation for Mexican and Filipino farm workers to their native lands. Mexican and even Mexican American farm workers were rounded up by officials and sent in busloads over the boarder. These resources are from the Oakland Museum of California. This website has a collection of photographs showing living and working conditions of Mexican and Mexican American agriculture laborers in the 1930’s. Each photograph has a short description, as well as quotes from people who experienced or witnessed the conditions. There is also a brief history of Mexican immigration from 1900-1930s, which discusses working and living conditions, exploitation, discrimination and government regulations on immigration.  A museum of California seems to be a reliable source for information on what happens in California.

Qualitative Analysis: There are references and allusions to cultural and historical elements. The economical climate is briefly explained and basic background information is given to aid in the reader’s comprehension. Language closely follows reader’s linguistic base and when academic vocabulary is used it is explained. Several themes are explored. The text is about the early 1900’s so there is distance between the readers and the experiences depicted on the website. However, some students may have family who are or were migrant farm workers. This is more likely in communities with large minority populations. Most students will have heard about workers rights and that agriculture works are often not treated well, but most will not have first (or even second) hand knowledge. Sentence structure contains many complex sentences with several subordinate phrases or clauses and transition words. Photographs are the focal point of the online exhibit and the text offers a bit of historical background to help readers interpret the primary source images.

Subject area: History, Social Studies

Personal thoughts: This website has primary sources of photographs which show living and working conditions of farm workers in the early 1900’s. I think seeing actual photographs of the time will help students visualize what the workers experienced. There is also background information about these workers and how they were treated during that time period.

Subjects/themes: immigration, history, great depression, dust bowl, migrant farm workers, reparations, Mexicans, Filipinos

Awards: Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services

Series information: Picture This: California Perspectives on American History

Character names/descriptions: Migrant workers featured in the photographs of this exhibit are unidentified.

High interest annotation: Find out about the lives of farm workers in the early 1900’s through historical information and a collection of photographs documenting the time period.

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PBS: The Border

Bibliographic information: PBS: The Border. http://www.pbs.org/kpbs/theborder/about/index.html

Brief description: The Border is a PBS Documentary focusing on six stories of the Mexican/American border. The documentary focuses on everyday life, traditions and opportunities in border towns on both sides of the border, contrasting life within the border towns. There is also a timeline telling what the border area was like in the past, up to the present day. Links to other related sites are also included. There was also a follow up documentary called Beyond the Border, which tells the stories of four Mexican brothers and their transition to life in the United States. The website also contains information about a writing contest for students, which includes both creative writing and poetry categories on themes related to the border. PBS is public broadcasting, a nonprofit organization recognized for making quality programming.

Qualitative Analysis: I think the stories will be of interest to students because they remind them that all of their families were at one time immigrants to this land, whether it was recently or before this place was called the United States. The vocabulary and sentence structure varies throughout each vignette and even more widely between vignettes. The documentary is broken up into six separate sections that each have their own focus related to the U.S. Mexican border. The narration is all done in conventional English, with a more formal tone. The parts of the story that are interviews and first hand accounts from people living along the border are more conversational and familiar. Some of the people speak English as a second language, so their vocabulary and sentence structure can vary from traditional American usage at times. The documentary is filmed on video so the moving images and actions of the people are integral story telling elements.

Subject area: Social Studies, English

Personal thoughts: This is an appealing piece because it offers a more intimate look at life in border towns. It focuses on day to day life of people in border towns, rather than border crossing. We get to know more personal stories about immigrants, as seen through the documentary.

Subjects/themes: immigration, traditions, border towns, history, Mexico, United States

Series information: 1st in the PBS Border Documentary Series

Character names/descriptions: families and communities living in border towns in the US and Mexico. For example, one segment follows Richard Montoya, Herbert Siguenza and Ric Salinas who are part of Culture Clash, a Latino theater group, as they work on a piece commissioned by San Diego Repertory Theatre.

High interest annotation: See what life is like on both sides of the border in this documentary featuring the people and lives of those in border towns.

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The Mexican Migration Project: Oral Histories

Bibliographic information: The Mexican Migration Project: Oral Histories. http://mmp.opr.princeton.edu/expressions/stories-en.aspx

Brief description: This site shares the findings of a research project to better understand the migration process of people from Mexico to the United States. It contains oral histories in both English and Spanish, which are grouped into the following categories: boarder crossing and working, everyday life and return and those who stay. This seems like it would be a great resource for a Spanish, History or Language Arts class to hear the voices of the immigrants first hand, as they tell their own stories. Text structure and language used is moderately complex. There is also data about migrant workers’ employment, family, earnings, etc. This project is headed by professors at the University of Guadalajara and Princeton University, both of which are well know Universities.

Qualitative Analysis: The vocabulary adheres to the readers linguistic base. Register is familiar and casual. There is distance between the readers experience and those of the text. Unless readers are immigrants, their experiences will not closely relate to the text. The stories are all told in first person and are limited to the perspectives and viewpoints of the narrator, as they tell their own stories of coming to the North. There are a few instances where Spanish words are used mixed in with the English, but the meaning can be found from context. Since the stories are told by native Spanish speakers, some of whom had to quit school at the elementary level, vocabulary is sometimes limited in English. Also, the sentence structure is mostly simple or run on. Some mistakes are found in translations, such as ‘medium class’ instead of ‘middle class’ and other minor vocabulary usage issues. The grammatical and vocabulary mistakes may cause some readers to slow down and read more carefully to fully understand.

Subject area: History, Spanish, English

Personal thoughts: I like this website because it has primary sources and you can read the stories of the immigrants in their own words and find out about their lives directly from the source, both in Spanish and English.

Subjects/themes: immigration, history, migrant farm workers, Spanish

Character names/descriptions: Migrants Hector Liñán, Victor Villa, Miguel Gutiérrez and Baudelio Rosas among others, share their stories of going from Mexico to ‘El Nord’

High interest annotation: Hear migrants’ stories collected here in their own words, both in Spanish and English.

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My Name is Yoon

Bibliographic Information: Recorvits, Helen (2003). My Name is Yoon. New York: Frances Foster Books.

Plot Description: Yoon is a young girl who has just moved to the United States from Korea. In preparation for going to school she must learn to write her name in English. She does not like the way the lines and circles of her name look standing alone, instead of ‘dancing together’ as they do in Korean. On the first day of school the teacher shows pictures and sings a song about a cat. Yoon does not know what the word CAT means, but she knows what the picture says. The teacher gives her a paper to practice writing her name, but instead of Yoon, she writes CAT over and over. The teacher says, “so you are Cat?” and the girl behind her giggles. Each day she imagines herself as something else and writes that instead of her name. One day she makes friends with a girl who gives her a cupcake and she writes Cupcake on her paper instead of her name. The teacher smiles when she reads it. When Yoon gets home she sings a song she learned in English for her parents and tells them about her new friend. They are very proud. The next day at school she could hardly wait to write. This time she wrote Yoon.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile Measure: 320L Interest Level: Lower Grades ATOS Book Level: 2.3

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The text consists of simple sentences. The reader sees Yoon’s name written in Korean, but it is explained what the symbol means. The story is told through the eyes of a young girl. Sentences are not complex. They are simple, as if a child were talking. The pictures help to illustrate the meaning of the text. For example, when Yoon wishes she were something else, like a cat, a bird or a cupcake, she is drawn as those things to show what she is imagining. The pictures are not necessary for comprehension, but they help the story come to life. Poetic language is used as Yoon makes her wishes, using metaphors to say she is different things. Organization is sequential and chronological. Explores themes of adjustment, as Yoon begins her life in the US. Experiences may be familiar to immigrant students and show other readers what the immigrant experience is like for children.

Content Area: Reading, Language Arts

Content Area Standard:

English Language Arts Standards for Reading: College and Career Readiness: Anchor Standards for Writing:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.W.2.8 Recall information from experiences or gather information from provided sources to answer a question.

Curriculum Suggestions: Ask students what their names mean. Have them research their names and write about whether or not they think their name fits them. Then have students create acrostic poems with their names.

Supporting Digital Content:



Awards: ALA Notable/Best Books; SLJ Best Book; Publishers Weekly Best Book; Booklist Editors’ Choice; Ezra Jack Keats Award

Character names/descriptions: Yoon, a young Korean girl who has just moved to the US and at first experiences some trouble adjusting to her new home.

Personal Thoughts: This would be a great book to share with ELL, for them to connect with Yoon’s character and her initial discomfort in her new country, but also for other students to better understand how immigrant students feel and perhaps make them more accepting.

High interest annotation: Yoon doesn’t like the way her name looks in English. When her new teacher asks her to write her name, Yoon imagines all types of creative things to be instead of Yoon.

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Grandfather’s Journey

Bibliographic Information:

Say, Allan (1993). Grandfather’s Journey. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Plot Description: A young man recounts his Grandfather’s journey from Japan to America, where he explores and never misses home. He loves California and brings his bride there and they raise a daughter in San Francisco. However, as time goes by, his Grandfather misses his homeland and longs to return to the country of his birth. When is daughter is almost grown he can no longer wait and moves his family to Japan. The young man remembers his Grandfather’s stories of life in America and the last time he sees him, he dreams of once more visiting America. The young man follows in his Grandfather’s footsteps-traveling to America and making a home there, but he still has a longing in his heart for Japan and must return when it gets too strong. Their shared experiences help him understand his Grandfather and miss him very much.

Quantitative Reading Level : Lexile Measure: AD650L, ATOS Book Level: 3.6, Interest Level: Lower Grades (K-3), AR Points: 0.5

Qualitative Reading Analysis: The text organization is clear and chronological. Illustrations directly support the interpretation and understanding of the text, but are not necessary for comprehension. The language is contemporary and familiar. It adheres closely to the reader’s linguistic base. The text is easy to understand and most is literal, though some inference is needed for the parts about the war and the songbirds. The sentence structure is primarily simple and compound, with some complex sentences. The theme is clear, but has some subtlety in the way it is conveyed. The experience of feeling torn between two homelands may be familiar to some immigrant students, but will not be common to others. Some cultural elements are conveyed through illustrations, such as the picture of Grandfather in his ‘European clothes’ as well as pictures in traditional Japanese clothes. There are no allusions to other texts.

Content Area: English, Literature

Content Area Standard: English Language Arts Standards Reading: Literature

Key Ideas and Details: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events.

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.9 Compare and contrast the themes, settings, and plots of stories written by the same author about the same or similar characters (e.g., in books from a series).

Curriculum Suggestions: Have students discuss their own travels (vacations, trips to see family friends or relatives, etc). How did they get there? How long did it take? How is the place different from their home? Have students read the companion book by the same author about the narrator’s mother’s story as a girl growing up in San Francisco and then moving to Japan. Compare and contrast the two stories and the characters feelings about their native and adopted lands.

Supporting Digital Content: 




Awards: ALA Notable/Best Books; Award Winners-Horn Book Fanfare; Award Winners-Booklist Editors’ Choice; Award Winners-NCTE Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts; Award Winners-Parent’s Choice Award/Honor Book; Award Winners-BCCB Blue Ribbon Book; Award Winners-Caldecott Medal; Award Winners-Boston Globe/Horn Book Award/Honors; Award Winners-SLJ Best Book

Character names/descriptions: Grandfather-he leaves Japan and goes out to see the world as a young man, then settles in California, but cannot stop the ache that he feels for Japan as he gets older. His Grandson narrates the story and has similar experiences.

High interest annotation: Can your home be two places simultaneously?

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