Magazine Feature

Toolkit for An Educator’s Guide to the Immigration Debate

Teach AND learn about immigration with these literacy activities. 

Today’s debates about immigration policy raise important questions about membership, place, citizenship and democracy. As “An Educator’s Guide to the Immigration Debate” suggests, it’s important to think about contemporary immigration in a historical context. In this toolkit, students do a close reading of the article, take notes and develop and respond to their own questions. Once they’ve gained some historical perspective, students explore the current-day immigration debate by choosing what interests them from a menu of topics and tasks.


Essential Questions

  1. Why is it important to understand immigration historically?
  2. How is the current debate about immigration in the United States rooted in our nation’s past?



  1. After you have read “An Educator’s Guide to the Immigration Debate,” prepare copies of the student version of the same article, “A Brief History of Immigration in the United States.”
  1. Have students read the article. You may want to do a first and second read. On the first, you can read the article to students, have students take turns reading it aloud or partner students to read to each other. On the second read, have students do a close and silent reading of the article, taking Cornell notes as they read. Cornell notes help students identify the bigger themes and ideas and key details associated with those ideas, organizing them in a way that helps comprehension and future reference. Stop after each section to pull together and compare notes.
  1. Once students have read and taken notes on the entire article, have them respond to the essential question at the bottom of the Cornell notes sheet. Lead a whole-class discussion of the question, allowing students to share their responses. Use this time to begin drawing connections between the past and the present.
  1. Explain to students that they will now develop their own sets of questions based on the article. If they are not already familiar with it, explain the Question-Answer Relationship (QAR) strategy to students. You may need to do a mini-lesson on this strategy. The key is for students to understand the difference between right-there, in-my-head, think-and-search and on-my-own questions.
  1. Give students the Question-Answer Relationships handout. They can work on their own or in partnerships of two or groups of four. Each student or partnership will develop four questions based on the reading. This activity will likely require students to reread the article in a new way as they search for fodder for their questions.
  1. Once students have generated their questions, have them swap with each other and develop responses. Again, this activity can be done independently or in partnerships.
  1. An Educator’s Guide to the Immigration Debate” suggests some questions to help unpack the complexity of immigration reform with your students. The “Topic-and-Task, Mix-and-Match” activity allows students to explore immigration by choosing from a list of those questions and selecting from a variety of tasks. You can structure this a number of ways, but the key is to give students choice and provide multiple means of representation, expression and engagement. Use the choice board as an opportunity to differentiate instruction and tap into multiple intelligences.
  1. Depending on the size of your class, set aside sufficient time for students to share their Mix-and-Match tasks. Several of the tasks require an audience and/or participation from the class. Once everyone has shared, revisit the essential questions to assess how much students have learned.