Changing Demographics: How Will Our Nation Adjust?

In this lesson, students examine current statistics related to our changing demographics and consider how we as a nation adjust to our evolving identity. 
Grade Level


Students will:

  • Analyze a series of unfamiliar vocabulary words using the Frayer Model.  
  • Critically read and examine the central text using the Question Answer Relationship Model.
  • Participate in a discussion about the impact of changing demographics on the United States.
  • Write an argument that defends or refutes a quote from the article.
  • Organize a community day that informs, educates, and celebrates changing demographics in our nation.
Essential Questions
  • How do we as a nation adjust to changing demographics?
  • How should we as a nation adjust to changing demographics?
  • How can diversity both lead to and prevent social equality?
  • Access to the Internet
  • Handout: Frayer Model Graphic Organizer

This lesson is part of a series called “Changing Demographics, Changing Identity, Changing Attitudes”. The series focuses on how the American identity has and will continue to change as we move toward a plurality nation; how the nation responds to that evolving identity; how changing demographics relate to issues of equality; and what we can do to promote respect for all people living and working in the United States.

In this lesson, students examine current statistics related to our changing demographics and consider how we as a nation adjust to our evolving identity. 


Central Text



Word Work

  1. The Frayer Model is a graphic organizer used to analyze words and build vocabulary. Readers examine words and concepts by defining, describing, and providing examples and non-examples of them. The model is designed to help readers understand words within the larger context of a text.
  2. Working in partners, select one of the words or phrases from the list below to examine. Make sure that the words are divided among partners so that no two partner groups have the same word. Word list: minority*, demographics, census, communities of color, demographic shift, ethnicity, race, immigration reform, civil rights, social justice, binaries, diverse.
  3. Do a close reading of the text, “The Future of the ‘Tan Generation’” to understand how your selected word or phrase fits with the concepts covered in the text.
  4. Then, using the attached graphic organizer handout, use context clues and your own knowledge and experiences to define the word or concept, describe its characteristics, and share examples and non-examples of it.  
  5. Present your information and conclusions to the rest of the class.
  6. When all pairs have presented, discuss relationships among the words and general conclusions about how the words and concepts relate to your lives.

* There can be many definitions and interpretations of the word “minority,” depending on context. Take some time to explore these interpretations (demographic minority, power minority, etc.) in the text to help you form your examples and non-examples. You may need some guidance from your teacher.


Close and Critical Reading

The Question Answer Relationship (QAR) Model asks you to examine and answer four types of questions to help you critically read and understand a central text. They include:

  • Right There Questions: The answers to the questions can be found directly in the text.
  • Think and Search Questions: These answers can be gathered from different parts of the text and put together to make meaning.
  • Author and You: These questions are based on information provided in the text, but you are asked to relate them to your own experiences.
  • On My Own: You must use your own prior knowledge to answer these questions.
  1. Reread the text of “The Future of the ‘Tan Generation.’” Then, use the attached handout to answer the QAR questions, individually or in a small group.
  2. Upon completion of the questions, write your general thoughts about the article’s content in the box at the bottom.
  3. Review and identify similarities and differences in your answers with another group.


Community Inquiry

  • In many Native American cultures, people used a "talking stick" to make sure that each person had a turn to share his or her ideas and opinions. The person who held the stick had the right to speak. Everyone else was expected to listen with respect. When a person finished talking, he or she passed the stick to another person.
  • Practice this technique using information and ideas from the central text you have read. Sit in a circle. Choose one classmate to speak first. Give him or her a “talking stick.” You could use a pointer, stick, pencil or any other object.
  • Choose one of the questions below to discuss. Ask the first student to share opinions, ideas, and/or thoughts about the question. When he or she finishes sharing, the stick is passed to another student. This can go in order of the circle, or current speakers can simply choose who goes next. Students who don’t want to speak can pass the stick to the next person. Continue passing the stick until each person has had a chance to speak.
  1. What will the 2042 demographic predictions mean for our country? Consider political, social, educational, labor force, and cultural changes.
  2. Do you think these demographic shifts will make our country more or less color-blind, and why?
  3. How does it feel to be a majority? A minority? What could be done to help everyone feel equal?


Write to the Source

In the article, scholar and author Marcia Alesan Dawkins shares her opinions about the significance of changing demographics in the United States and why we should pay attention to it.

Select one of her quotes below. Conduct research and consider your own opinions about the topic. Then, write an argument that supports or refutes her quote using information from the article, other sources, and your own experience. Your argument should include:

  • A precise claim about your quote.
  • Examples, data, or evidence that supports your quote.
  • Words, phrases, or clauses that link the major sections of the text.
  • A concluding statement that summarizes the argument. 

Quote 1: “ … this new ‘tan generation’ might have a broader and more progressive view of social and political issues–such as immigration reform, education reform, and civil rights–based on changing ideas about race and ethnicity.”

Quote 2: “Increasing rates of non-white births today in the U.S. does not automatically equal increasing social justice for tomorrow.”

Quote 3: “These shifts [demographic trends] will require increased focus on U.S. history.”

Students will plan, prepare for and host a film festival around social justice themes, including a panel discussion featuring student critics.


Do Something

Dawkins argues her view in the text that it isn’t the “tan generation’s sole responsibility to make our nation a more perfect union. It’s everybody’s responsibility, and the time to do this important work is now.”  Consider ways that your class can help others in your community embrace changing demographics in the United States. Plan and host a “2042 community day” with presentations and booths that inform, educate and celebrate the demographic changes that are ahead.

This activity addresses the following standards using the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts.

CCSS RI.9-12.1, RI.9-12.2, RI.9-12.4, RI.9-12.6, RI.9-12.8, W.9-12.1, W.9-12.4, W.9-12.9, SL.9-12.1, SL.9-12.2, SL.9-12.4, SL.9-12.5, L.9-12.4, RH.9-12.1, RH.9-12.4, RH.9-12.8


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