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More Voices of U.S.

School: King Middle School

City/State: Portland, ME

Grade(s): 8

Format(s): Interview(s)

Subject(s): English Language Arts, Social Studies

Project Overview

8th graders at the King Middle School in Portland, Maine created this book as a means for exploring the question, “Why do people move?” The book is comprised of interviews and student-written stories about immigration. As a center for Catholic Charities Refugee placement, the city and the school have a large percentage of recent refugees, particularly from East Africa. The school had students with thirty-one native languages. 

The Learning Expedition began with a cultural walk around Portland during which students became familiar with the diverse cultural landscape of the city. On their walk students posed questions to local business owners and employees to learn about these people’s life experiences. 

Students, in groups of 3 or 4, then conducted formal interviews with some of the people they had met. Students also researched the countries that their interviewee had immigrated from. Each student then took the information from the interview and turned it into a story. The book is organized into several sections – all of which are different themes that answer the question, “Why do people move?”

Many of the students who engaged in this project had themselves immigrated to the United States, which offered both a means for these students to investigate their own history while also sharing personal experiences with the rest of the class.

As a related but different aspect of this Learning Expedition, students also cooked and presented each other meals from the different countries their interviewees were from.

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Touches directly on students’ personal experience of immigration – helps build relationships between students and between students and the community
  • A project format that can easily be used in most cities and towns
  • A useful way to combine many students’ work in a single product
  • Although students conducted the interviews in small groups, each student was responsible for writing up his or her own story/interview
  • Writing, as a whole, shows good depth of understanding of the topic of immigration
  • The introduction nicely orients the reader to the rest of the book
  • Nicely combines writing in interview format along with stories written based on the interviews
  • A simple, inexpensive format

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write narrative texts about real or imagined experiences using relevant details and event sequences that make sense.
  • With support from peers and adults, I can use the writing process to ensure that purpose and audience have been addressed.
  • I can use correct grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
  • I can use correct capitalization, punctuation and spelling to send a clear message to my reader.
  • I can intentionally use verbs in active and passive voice and in the conditional and subjunctive mood.
  • I can use resources to build my vocabulary.
  • EL has not created long-term learning targets for WHST standards.
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