A Moving Stories Mini-Unit
Note: The teaching ideas below have been adapted from a high school social studies elective focused on teaching about migration through U.S. history. This mini-unit links to teaching strategies from Facing History and Ourselves and Project Zero.
As humans, stories are at the fundamental to who we are—sharing them with an audience that listens validates our experiences. By creating a space in which our students’ stories can share their histories, we are telling them that they matter. Stories are also central to the experience of migration. Through stories, we transmit experiences, pass down culture, and connect with others. In the opening activities of the course, we will explore the relationship between stories, identity, and migration by engaging with the stories of others and our own.
The goal of this first section of the class is to introduce students to stories of migration and encourage them to reflect upon and share their own stories of migration and engage with migration stories that are carried by others. The activities are written to allow students to recognize the ways in which their experiences of migration are similar and different from the experiences of others. We see this as a first step in preparing students to understand a world on the move. Indeed, helping students recognize how their own perspectives influence how they respond to the world is an incredibly important habit of mind for living, working, and playing with people whose identities, experiences, and perspectives might be different than their own. In the next section of the Re-imagining Migration learning arc we focus on understanding migration in ways that help us better understand the connections and distinctions between experiences of migration.
We believe that sharing and reflecting upon stories of migration helps students to develop empathy while exploring issues related to identity and belonging within nations, communities, families, and schools. Through the lesson ideas described below, students will discover that our identities and feelings of belonging are profoundly impacted by the environments by which we are surrounded. We also believe that sharing these stories can help students take ownership of their own narratives, build community in the classroom, and make students feel less invisible to their peers and school faculty.
These activities might be more comfortable for some students than others. For some, migration is central to their and their family’s identity; for others, it is a more distant memory that may require students to rethink or investigate their family history. It is for these reasons that we begin with stories from literature and oral history collections before asking students to share their family stories. Beyond the stories themselves are issues relating to identity safety, trust, confidentiality, and for some, trauma. Classroom contracts can help to define norms of participation and respect; at the same time, sharing personal stories can be challenging for some, and they will need to be reassured that there are a variety of ways that they can safely participate without being penalized.
Essential and Guiding Questions:
- In what ways do stories of migration help us understand who we are?
- What can we learn from the many visible and invisible stories of migration around us?
- How do our stories connect us with others (across time, across cultures, across experiences) and what are the significant differences?
Social and Emotional Learning Goals:
These lessons will help to develop:
- Students who are curious and prepared to inquire about the ways that migration
impacts individuals, communities, and nations;
- Students who are empathetic to individuals and communities who are navigating the changes that come with mass migration;
- Students who recognize their own perspectives and can understand the views of others about issues of migration;
- Students who can articulate changes and continuities of the experience of migrations across a range of histories and geographies;
- Students who recognize the importance of working to build bridges between newcomers and receiving communities.
This section of the curriculum will promote the following speaking and listening skills as defined in the Common Core State Standards.
- Students will practice initiating and participating in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on topics, texts, and issues, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively;
- Students will work with peers to set rules for collegial decision-making and (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on critical issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed;
- Students will practice responding thoughtfully to diverse perspectives, summarize points of agreement and disagreement, and, when warranted, qualify or justify their own views and understanding and make new connections in light of the evidence and reasoning presented;
Students will practice adapting their speech to a variety of contexts and tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate
You might kick off instruction with an Iceberg Activity using a contemporary image of a headline that can reveal the complex intersection of issues that come together when we encounter current events related to im/migration.
2. Explore Stories of Migration.
To begin to understand the role of migration in the U.S., and the world at large, you might start by jigsawing texts and multimedia from the Stories of Migration collection. Encourage students to share their observations about the stories in expert groups and then jigsaw. In groups students might consider: What do these stories share in common? What differences do you notice?
In a large group begin to identify the themes that connect the stories.
Before closing the lesson, consider leading a discussion on the importance of stories using the Three Whys thinking-routine from Project Zero.
3. Stories and Identity
You might begin the next lesson with a discussion on the relationship between the stories we tell, the opportunities we have, and our identities as individuals, members of families, communities, and within the nation.
To make the ideas on the discussion concrete, introduce Bronfonbrenner’s concept of the ecology of identity and have students create their own ecological identity map. Bronfenbrenner’s model explicitly locates typical ways in which people often describe their identities, such as age, gender, cultural labels, with concentric circles that make the identity, values, social and political climate of the surrounding communities explicit. Looking at these identities together, we have a tool to begin to discuss the way that our identities are shaped by the ecological system that surrounds us.
If there is additional time, create a classroom contract. To set norms and a shared understanding of the kind of community you hope to achieve in the class and make visible the roles and responsibilities of all members of the community to make that happen.
Suggested at home extension:
Research what you can about your family’s migration stories. When and how did the move? Have their families always lived in North America or was there a time when they or their ancestors moved across national or state borders? How did they acclimate after migration? What helped? What got in the way?
4. Conduct a Moving Stories Interview
Teacher’s Note: Ahead of time consider whether you would like to conduct these interviews using the Moving Stories app, or if you would prefer, have students do the interview offline. We developed an in-depth guide for using Moving Stories, you can access it here.
If you decide to use the app, spend a few minutes acquainting yourself with the registration process and the functionality of the app. You might encourage students to log in without giving their full names.
In class, discuss the purpose of the interviews: They provide an opportunity to learn about migration through our own stories. They will also give us a chance to better know each other as individuals and a community. However, it is crucial that we create a shared sense of expectations about confidentiality. It should be assumed that what we share in the classroom will not be shared with others outside of the class unless we have been given explicit permission to do so,
Invite students to reflect on how much they want to share of their story and their family story with their peers. To help students think about why this matters, return to a discussion of the stories of migration they read during the second lesson.
Ask students to consider what makes a good story. In a world with so much polarization about immigration, what would they want people to know about their story or their family migration story? Are there details in their stories that might move people to care or re-examine some of their assumptions? Are there aspects of their stories that should remain private?
B. The Interview
Pair students for the interviews and ask students them review the interview questions (either on the app or in hard copy) and identify three to five items that they would be comfortable answering.
Set a time for each interview. Each student should have an equal amount of time in each role, as the interviewer, and as an interviewee. We suggest seven to ten minute interviews before having students switch roles.
To facilitate the interview, encourage interviewers to ask the question and then allow the interviewee time to answer the question without interrupting. If there is still time after answering the first question, the interviewer should continue asking the additional items that their partner have agreed upon.
C. De-briefing the Moving Stories Interviews
An essential first step for all students to take after conducting an interview is to reflect on the experience. Consider having students respond to the following prompts:
- What did I hear and learn about this person’s story?
- How is this person’s story different or similar to my story or my family’s story?
- I wonder what I would be like if I had experienced some of the things this person or their family have?
In a large group consider allowing each student to share some of their responses. If you have permission, encourage students to share something that struck them in their partners’ story or something they learned. A particularly moving teaching strategy you might adapt for this debrief is a town hall circle.
As you continue the whole group discussion, offer the following questions for reflection.
- What similarities did they notice between the stories?
- What differences did they notice?
- What themes, dilemmas, or challenges did they notice from across the different stories?
To close this section of the curriculum, create a collaborative K-W-L chart. focusing on the topic of im/migration based on what we have learned from each other’s stories. These are questions and ideas that you will want to revisit throughout an exploration of migration.