One of the most inspiring aspects of the We Are America Project is that it takes student stories and student’s ideas seriously. The following teaching idea offers one way you might use them as classroom texts exploring the theme of migration. We might use this lesson as the introduction to a unit exploring migration or immigration in the past or present, in history or literature.

What social-emotional and academic dispositions will students practice?:

  • Perspective-Taking
  • Communicating Across Differences
  • Recognizing Power and Inequities

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 are stories of migration similar? How are they different? And, what can be learned by comparing and contrasting them?

Teaching Activities:


  • You might want to begin the discussion by introducing a definition of migration. It’s simple. Migration means to move from one place to another. Animals migrate. Information migrates. And, people migrate. The do so, so all kinds of reasons, by choice, because of opportunities, for love, somethings there are driven because of unsafe conditions, for example,war and climate change. Other times people are forced to migrate, for example during the Middle Passage Africans were captured and taken, against their will, across the Atlantic to the Americans. Native Americans were forced to leave their ancestral homelands as the boundaries of the United States grew across North America.
  • Spend a few minutes discussing the guiding questions as a warm-up. Allow students a few minutes to reflect on the first question, “In what ways do stories of migration help us understand who we are?” in writing as the first step of a think-pair-share thinking routine. 

Selecting, Reading and Reflecting on the Text

  • Before class, browse the We are America website by topic and identify a selection of student stories using the theme of migration or if you students have access to a computer in class or at home, ask them to read two stories and them ask them to select on of them to reflect upon.
  • Structure student reflections on the text, choose either the see-feel-think-wonder or connect-extend-challenge Project Zero thinking routine. Both routines ask students to make personal connections to the text. Connect Extend Challenge is particularly focused on perspective taking whereas See Feel Think Wonder is a very good routine if your focus is building inquiry skills. Both work well for this exercise. 

If your students need additional structure, you might turn the questions from the routines into graphic organizers and have students record their observations about the We are America student stories. 

  • Once students have finished recording their reflections, you might group students in threes or fours to share their observations on the individual story they read. As a group ask students to compare what they have read, How are the stories similar? How are they different? What can ee gain from comparing and contrasting them?

Beyond the Text

  • Returning to a whole group, return to the first guiding question in a discussion, “In what ways do stories of migration help us understand who we are?” You might need to remind students to use evidence from the stories they discussed to add to the answers they developed earlier.
  • Dig deeper. You might ask: What do the similarities and differences between the stories reveal about power, equity, and American identity?
  • To conclude this mini-lesson, incorporate an additional Project Zero thinking routine into your wrap up. Use the Three Whys routine. Have the students consider: Why do these stories matter to me? Why do they matter to my community? And, why do they matter to the world?

Additional Resources

For additional context into the approach we have taken in these ideas see:


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