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On Coming to America – Small Moments, Big Meanings

On Coming to America – Small Moments, Big Meanings

We are a nation of immigrants.” Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Mark Zuckerberg, etc.

The greatest gift we can give someone is the gift of their history.” HmongStory40

Yes, we are a nation of immigrants. I am fortunate to work in a school district that is yearly enriched by its history of cultural diversity. Last year, in recognition and celebration of the experiences, challenges, and contributions of those who have come to America, I collaborated on the Coming to America – Small Moments, Big Meanings Lesson and Teacher’s Guide. This year, I am adding another resource: On Coming to America Hyperdoc.*

Both these online lessons are invitations to your students to interview, document, and publish the story of an immigrant or refugee, with a shared goal of:

  • Introducing students to the differences between an “immigrant” and a “refugee”
  • Providing a collection of primary source interviews (videos) with recent refugees
  • Providing guidelines for students to step into the role of oral historians by conducting an interview
  • Encouraging students to publish their Small Moments, Big Meanings projects to an authentic audience via several online options.

On Coming to America Hyperdoc Lesson Graphic

I have posted before about the Time of Remembrance Project’s recently added Student Gallery. The Student Gallery is one of the suggested publishing venues for On Coming to America – Small Moments, Big Meanings, especially via the hyperdoc.

How about your school or district? Have your students had the opportunity to roll up their sleeves and do the work of an oral historian? If not, I can promise that in the process of interviewing an immigrant or refugee, they will discover what I have learned: history happens one story at a time. It would be an honor to showcase your students’ On Coming to America projects.

Questions? Suggestions? Please leave a comment. Let the conversations begin!

*Note: The term “hyperdoc” stems from the ever-amazing Lisa Highfill’s commitment to use tools (such as Google Docs/Slides/Sheets) to create lessons with access to “instructions, links, tasks… to get kids thinking.”
Thank You, Scholastic

Thank You, Scholastic

There was a time when I was not a proponent of students’ having access to technology during class time. Twenty years ago, when we moved from San Francisco to a semi-rural district in the Sierra foothills, I pulled my then 1st grade son  out of a 1×1 desktop class he had been assigned to for a little remedial work in English/language arts.  I was not OK with his being plugged in for drill all morning.  He needed more opportunities to interact, listen, and speak, not multiple-choice exercises done in isolation.   Funny how quickly his reading, writing, and speaking skills jumped following his departure from the 1×1 desktop environment.

Image from
The following year, I was hired at the middle school in the same district.  And there, thanks to Scholastic, I came to embrace and advocate for technology as part of my 6th grade humanities program.  It started with Scholastic’s Authors Online program.  As I handed out Scholastic’s monthly book order form (another great Scholastic product), I noticed an invitation to sign up for an online discussion with author R.L. Stine, a favorite of many of my students.  Well, by the time I was able to get my computer hooked to the external box required for an Internet connection at that time (thereby becoming the first classroom in El Dorado County connected to the Internet), R.L. Stine had finished his 2-week session.

We were in time for a two-week round with Paul Zindel, author of Loche.  Neither my students nor I were familiar with this author, but, oh my, what an impact he had on a number of them, including a few very, very reluctant readers.  As students engaged with Zindel on an interactive writing assignment to change “telling writing” to “showing writing,” I was blown away by both their  level of engagement and their earnest desire to write something that was truly “good” (as opposed to “good enough”).

The following year, Scholastic opened the world of current events to my students by connecting them with Zlata Flipovic, young author of Zlata’s Diary, her first-hand accounts of surviving the Bosnian genocide.  Thanks to Scholastic, our tiny, semi-rural district no longer seemed as remote and isolated as it once had.

I’m in another district now and working as a technology integration specialist.  Although I do not have my own classroom, I often send great Scholastic resources on to teachers, such as:

Yesterday I visited Richard Byrne’s Free Technology for Teachers blog – and discovered another great resource from Scholastic: An Interactive Timeline of U.S. Immigration.  This rich resource includes five eras:  A New Land, Expanding America, The American Dream, A Place of Refuge, and Building a Modern America. Each era includes a video, such as the video below, which was  filmed at the Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts, with a historical interpreter taking on the role of Miles Standish:

Typical of Scholastic, each immigration era includes teacher guides and resources (books, teaching ideas, printables). Twenty years later, I’d like to thank you, Scholastic, for continuing to provide resources that take technology options far beyond multiple choice and that promote a love of reading and a window into events of the past for our students.
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