Students explore the diversity of the American experience through a variety of voices, texts, and genres.
This 7th grade unit, “Defining America,” focuses on a diversity of immigrant experiences as they come to develop their own answers to the question: What does it mean to be American? In many ways, immigrants are uniquely equipped to answer this question quite simply because they know what it means to come from a place that is not America, to have been for some portion of their lives a person who is not American. Immigrants bring both an outsider’s and an insider’s perspective.
Through a series of articles, poems, short stories, audio interviews, and essays, students will explore what it really means to be a nation of immigrants. It is structured both chronologically and thematically. Students will closely read “The New Colossus,” Emma Lazarus’s enduring poem now inscribed at the base of the Statue of Liberty, and dive deeply into an essay written by an immigrant from the early 20th century. Using these as a foundational text, students will read about the diverse experiences of immigrants who have arrived in this country over the past fifty years, including those from Europe, Asia, Central America, and Africa. Additionally, students will read about the experiences of first-generation Americans, and the unique challenges they face as native-born Americans with immigrant parents. The unit concludes with the most pressing contemporary issue related to immigration—that of undocumented people. In these final lessons, students will read texts featuring the voices of undocumented people, describing their desire to be accepted—legally and culturally—as Americans.
Article: “What Does It Mean to Be American?” by Damien Cave and Todd Heisler (The New York Times)
Article: “Trends in Migration to the U.S.” by Philip Martin (PBS) — 1300-1400L
Poem: “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus (CommonLit.org) — 1100-1200L
Essay: “America and I” by Anzia Yezierska (CommonLit.org) — 800-900L
Essay: “An Iraqi Immigrant’s Unexpected Role” by Cynthia Agustin (The New York Times) — 800-900L
Essay: “Hello, My Name Is ______” by Jason Kim (CommonLit.org) — 1000-1100L
Poem: “Peaches” by Adrienne Su (CommonLit.org)
Short Story: “Who’s Irish?” by Gish Jen (In Who's Irish?: Stories, Vintage, 2000)
Poem: “Where You From?” by Gina Valdez
Website: American Dreamers by The New York Times (The New York Times)
Excerpt: Call Me American by Abdi Nor Iftin — 1200-1300L
Audio Interview: Sheena Jacob and Juliet Jegasothy by produced by Michael Garofalo (StoryCorps)
Audio Interview: Philomena Luciani and Alison Purcell by produced by Sarah Kramer (StoryCorps)
Audio Interview: Blanca Alvarez and Connie Alvarez by produced by Katie Simon (StoryCorps)
Audio Interview: Philip and Andy by produced by Lyna Anwar with Andrés Caballero (StoryCorps)
Video: “DACA, explained” by Vox (YouTube)
Article: “What is DACA and Who Are the DREAMers?” by Anti-Defamation League (ADL.org)
assimilate birthright citizenships culture disdain efficiency emigrate exile identity immigrate implore odyssey patriotism perplexing profound refugee undaunted undocumented immigrant work ethic
alliteration connotation personification tone
This assessment accompanies Unit 1 and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.
“What Does It Mean to Be American?”
Identify recurring themes/words/concepts and definitions of what it means to be American.
“Trends in Migration to the U.S.”
Briefly summarize historical trends in migration, and explain the meaning of words and phrases related to immigration to the United States.
“The New Colossus”
Determine the impact of specific words, phrases, and literary devices on meaning in the poem, “New Colossus.”
“America and I” — Paragraphs 1-49
Identify examples of literary devices used in “America and I,” and explain the figurative meaning and impact of these devices.
“America and I”
Explain how setting shapes characters in the essay, “America and I.”
Plan and outline a prose poem that explores what it means to be an American.
Interpret your experience of America through a prose poem.
Sheena Jacob and Juliet Jegasothy
Philomena Luciani and Alison Purcell
Blanca Alvarez and Connie Alvarez
Philip and Andy
Compare and contrast stories presented in different forms of media, and explain how these stories illustrate aspects of the immigrant experience in America.
“An Iraqi Immigrant’s Unexpected Role”
Explain the meaning and impact of specific words and phrases used in the essay, “An Iraqi Immigrant’s Unexpected Role,” and what the essay reveals about the immigrant experience.
“Hello, My Name Is ______”
Explain how experiences and beliefs shape the writer’s sense of his identity in the essay, “Hello, My Name Is _______.”
Explain how the poet’s use of specific words and phrases develops the reader’s understanding of the speaker’s experience as a child of immigrants in America.
Explain how the author develops the speaker’s point of view in the short story, “Who’s Irish,” and contrasts it with other characters in the text.
“Where You From?”
Explain how the structural choices in the poem, “Where You From?” help to develop meaning.
“What is DACA and Who Are the DREAMers?”
Gather and synthesize information on DACA and DREAMers from diverse sources in preparation for creating an informational poster.
“What is DACA and Who Are the DREAMers?”
Work collaboratively to create a poster that educates others on the topic of DACA and the DREAM Act.
Call Me American
Explain how beliefs and environment interact to shape the behavior of individuals.
All unit texts
Take a clear position on a question and share evidence to support that point of view in a Socratic dialogue.
Translate the expectations of the writing task and analyze a mentor text.
Differentiate between phrases and clauses.
Outline a real experience with food and translate this memory into a narrative.
Identify independent and subordinate clauses and analyze the effect of simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.
Craft an engaging and informative introduction.
Identify independent and subordinate clauses and discuss the effect of simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex sentences.
Compose a complete narrative and revise for transitions, mechanics, and organization.
Differentiate between simple, compound, and complex sentences.