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Lesson Plan

Digitally Explaining the Immigrant Experience

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Digitally Explaining the Immigrant Experience

Grades 6 – 8
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Seven 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Kathy Wickline

Kathy Wickline

Tolono, Illinois


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



America has been nicknamed the “Land of Opportunity,” and many have left their homelands to come to America seeking new opportunities. This lesson focuses on helping students understand the immigrant experience by examining the lives of several famous immigrants. First practicing their visual literacy skills, students will examine photographs from the Library of Congress featuring immigrants. Then each student will research an immigrant's reasons for leaving his/her homeland, experience in America, and contributions to the world. With a partner, students will use the Venn Diagram Student Interactive to compare and contrast their two immigrants. Based on the differences and similarities, the students will write a conversation between the two immigrants that they will use to create a recorded video presentation using PowToon.

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PowToon: Students create their videos using this free website.

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Discovering new approaches to spark students’ interest and motivation is an endless challenge for all educators. Cruickshank proposes utilizing an interdisciplinary approach, such as combining history and language arts curriculum together as in this lesson, to promote positive viewpoints towards the topics as well as increase learner comprehension. Furthermore, this lesson adds technology, which, according to Hett, is essential in “promoting reading and writing skills through 21st century literacy.” As she points out, digital storytelling provides the opportunity for practicing these skills as students will conduct research, write scripts, find appropriate images, and communicate with a larger audience. Additionally, this lesson allows for students to practice their visual literacy skills as they analyze and interpret photos from the Library of Congress as well as create their own visual messages in the digital stories. As Baker points out, “because so much information is communicated visually, it is more important than ever that our students learn what it means to be visually literate” (44).

Baker, Frank. “Visual Literacy.” Media Literacy in the K-12 Classroom.  Eugene, OR: International Society for Technology in Education, 2012. 41-71.


Cruickshank, Douglas. "Kaleidoscopic Learning: An Overview of Integrated Studies." Edutopia. The George Lucas Foundation, 7 Oct. 2008. Web. 30 Aug. 2012.


Hett, Kirsten. “Technology-Supported Literacy in the Classroom:  Using Audiobooks and Digital Storytelling to Enhance Literacy Instruction.” Illinois Reading Council Journal 40.3 (Summer 2012):  3-13.

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