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Winners of the 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest

Released on Tue, May 17, 2016

Washington D.C. - The American Immigration Council is pleased to announce that the first place winner of the American Immigration Council’s 19th Annual Celebrate America Fifth Grade Creative Writing Contest is Eliana Jaffee from the Pardes Jewish School in Scottsdale, Arizona. Eliana’s poem was chosen from among thousands of entries nationwide. Her poem “Why We’re Here” describes America as a place of freedom, hope, and refuge for new arrivals. Eliana writes:


That morning when the sun had risen,

my shores, my seas,

my hopes freed from prison,

the poor,

the rich, and

all the forgiven came to me.



ask that girl to compare,

a life of despair to a breath of free air,

ask her why are you here,

not somewhere over there?


To read the entire piece and the other winning pieces, click here.Read more...

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Creating Inclusive Classroom Culture

Enlist your students in creating a classroom culture that welcomes and celebrates diverse talents and skills. Students first read a short story “Draw One for Me” written by Susan K. Coti. Then they participate in multimodal activities and discussion to reflect on classroom social dynamics and welcoming newcomer students. Read more...

Year Released: 2016


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Interpreting the Impact of Cesar Chavez’s Early Years

In this immigration lesson plan, students will understand how Cesar Chavez’s adolescence as a migrant farm worker influenced his later achievements.  First, students will analyze how an artist and biographer have interpreted Chavez’s legacy.  Then by reading excerpts from Chavez’s autobiography, students will draw connections between how his early years shaped his later beliefs and achievements around organized labor, social justice, and humane treatment of individuals. Once students have read and critically thought about these connections, they will write a response supported with evidence from the text to answer the investigative question on the impact of Chavez’s early years and development.

Extensions and adaptations are available for English Language Learners and readers at multiple levels.

For lesson procedures, Common Core and C3 standards alignment, please click here

Year Released: 2015

6-8 and 9-12

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Telling the Family Story

Telling family immigration stories is a powerful way to build community within and outside of the classroom. Whether the story comes from a student, parent, or a school professional, giving voice and an audience to the story opens channels for empathy and understanding on what can be a divisive topic.

The finished product of this lesson is an illustrated book and an opportunity to read the story aloud to others. Although this project could be done digitally, the physical book makes an important gift. This public reading should focus on celebrating, acknowledging, and supporting the immigrant author's triumphs, struggles, and continued efforts to build a new life in the U.S.

This lesson plan was created and implemented by the winner of our 2015-2016 Community Grant, English Language Learner (ELL) Teacher Angeline Sturgis from Eldridge Park School in Lawrence, NJ. 

Year Released: 2016


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"Behind the Mountains" by Edwidge Danticat

Teach students about the values of immigration and increase awareness of the adjustments faced by immigrants by reading Edwidge Danticat’s novel Behind the Mountains.  This gripping story chronicles the experience of Celiane Esperance, a young girl living in Haiti, who is forced to flee political violence to the US with her mother and brother and reunite with her father in Brooklyn, NY.  Along the journey, Celiane captures her thoughts and feelings in a journal she affectionately names her “sweet little book.”  This comprehensive unit plan includes activities for students to: keep a dialectical journal while reading, decipher the meaning of figurative language in Haitian proverbs and art, apply the “push-pull” factors of immigration, understand how a “duality of cultures” and “stages of adaptation” function in the lives of immigrants, as well as write an argumentative essay.

For lesson procedures, Common Core standards alignment, please download the Unit Plan.

Download Handouts:

Year Released: 2015


The Colors of My Words

By Marlyse Ngouabe, sixth grade student at Alice Deal Junior High, Washington, D.C. 

Have you ever had to leave your town and immigrate to an unknown land, just because the government wants to make financial gain by selling off your land to large companies? This is the struggle of the whole town of Sosua in the Dominican Republic, the tumultuous setting of the novel, The Colors of My Word by Lynn Joseph.

Narrated through the perspective of a young girl, Ana Rosa, the novel opens with a private conversation between Ana and her mother, in which Ana talks about what she wants to become when she grows up -- a writer. In this conversation, Ana’s mother warns her that being a writer is dangerous in the Dominican Republic because only the president is allowed to write. But Ana is determined to use her talent to help her family and to fight for what is right.  

Ana writes poignant poems about how the Sosua community has never felt hopeless or powerless in the face of the government’s belittlement as it was removing citizens from their homes. The citizens decide to fight back. They throw bottles and set tires on fire. In the midst of these anti-government demonstrations, innocent lives are lost, including a family member very close to Ana. Using the power of her words, she shames the citizens of Sosua for their violent protests that resulted in untimely deaths.  

After the violent outbreaks, Ana continuously blames herself for her family member’s death. She decides to punish herself by not writing a single word again. But in an emotional twist, on her birthday she receives a typewriter and is determined to tell her deceased family member’s story.  

It becomes clear that the people living in Sousa have a choice to make: to stay or to immigrate and escape an oppressive government.Read more...

Year Released: 2016

Digital Learning on Immigration: Quick Lessons for Students by Students

Teach digital learning and engage students any day of the week on immigration with our mini-lessons! We pair historical political cartoons with short video clips produced by young adults on immigration themes and provide rigorous questions for student reflection and class discussion. No more than five minutes in length, these films inspire dialogue, critical thinking and creative teaching on immigration. Additional activities are provided to extend learning and explore the themes covered in the films. Read more...

Year Released: 2015

Lessons for Students in Waking in Oak Creek

On the morning of August 5, 2012, six worshippers were murdered at a Sikh temple in the small Midwestern town of Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Many of the persons present at the time of the shooting were women and children. The lone gunman identified himself as a white supremacist. The senseless violence was halted by the bravery of Lieutenant Brian Murphy, shot 15 times during the attack. Too often we hear similar stories of hate and racism and less frequently do we hear about how families of victims, schools and communities come together to grieve and to remember, to rebuild and work together to ensure that such violence doesn’t happen again. 


Year Released: 2016

Book Review of Untwine by Edwidge Danticat

The accident, which opens the novel, is enough to get any reader — young or old— hooked on its plot. The blend of lyrical, poetic language with the at times sarcastic, witty teenage dialogue keeps it fresh and uniquely told. Untwine by Edwidge Danticat is a novel that probes fantastically into identity, loss, grief, and resilience with a gripping storyline.  


Year Released: 2016

Just What is Executive Action? A Lesson From the Principal’s Desk

Much has been made of the president’s use of executive action in order to carry out the nation’s laws. It is a vague term that puzzles many in the media and raises large questions. Is it legal? Is it an abuse of power? Is it constitutional? Has it been used by Democratic and Republican presidents alike?

As suggested by the title, “Just What is Executive Action? A Lesson from the Principal’s Desk” students will apply inductive reasoning skills about individual school policies that are determined by the principal in order to understand what execution action is and its limitations. Students will apply their knowledge of school policy in order to define executive action in their own words as well as to read the media for accuracy and bias. An extension of this activity is also available for students to closely read a report Executive Grants of Temporary Immigration Relief, 1956-Present published by the American Immigration Council.

  • For lesson procedures, Common Core standards alignment, please click here.
  • For the student handout close-read of Executive Grants of Temporary Immigration Relief, 1956-Present, please click here.
  • Click here to tell us how you’ve used this lesson plan


Year Released: 2014


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