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An Immigrant Experience

School: Mary O. Pottenger School

City/State: Springfield, MA

Grade(s): 4

Format(s): Interview(s)

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies

Project Overview

As part of a multifaceted Learning expedition on immigration, 4th grade students at the Mary O. Pottenger School in Springfield, Massachusetts created this series of interview booklets. Students, working together in small groups, interviewed a person who had immigrated to the United States; each student then created his or her own booklet. The people interviewed were from a range of countries including Italy, Ireland and Vietnam.

The biographical information conveyed in these booklets shows student understanding of immigration, the meaning of coming to the United States, and the opportunities and challenges experienced by those who were interviewed. The important topic of immigration is made real for students – making connections with people in their community and deepening their understanding of their own personal histories.

The books also contain maps and country flags, drafted free-hand by students, glossaries of non-English words, and an About the Author page.

Working on these booklets created a direct connection between students and community members, both outside of, and within, the school, and allowed history to come alive for students. Immigrant Experiences was also an intergenerational project, providing opportunities for communication across multiple ages.

Each booklet is 5 ½ x 4 ¼ inches and is printed on card stock. The size of the books is vital to the project: the small scale allowed each student to produce an actual “book” that they could be proud to present to their interview subject and to their families. The amount of text could have easily been formatted into a standard-sized report of a few pages, but at this tiny scale, it produced a whole book.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • A unique example of an authentic audience - the people who were interviewed - creating an embedded layer of accountability
  • An engaging format to make world history and geography come alive for students
  • An example of a set that shows a range of student work, including writing and map-drawing skills
  • Each book is a unique product that shows each individual student’s creativity (i.e. not every booklet is the same or even follows a similar formula)
  • Appealing size of the booklet - small and kid friendly
  • The scale maximizes the text in an authentic way - the size allows this text to be formatted as a “full book”
  • Hand-drawn maps allow students to demonstrate their understanding of geography

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write informative/explanatory texts that convey ideas and information clearly.
  • I can produce writing that is appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • I can conduct a research project to become knowledgeable about a topic.
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