My unit on migration was due for an upgrade this year.
First, I had planned to add an ArtSmart unit that I had developed with TPAC Education, which would bring a teaching artist into my classroom--more on that in another blog--and lead to a field trip to see the Cuban fusion group Tiempo Libre perform.
Second, my country had changed a lot since the last time I had taught the unit. It was time for new perspectives on the issue, beginning with the new President of the United States of America.
Migration was one of the first units I developed as a Common Core teacher. When I write, "Common Core," I'm not just talking about the standards themselves--I'm also referring to teaching methods introduced in Tennessee at that time, including:
- an emphasis on the use of source text to support writing and discussion about the texts (Reading 1).
- multiple reads of a source for depth and development of the standards
- the use of discussions and comment to drive learning about text (see the Speaking & Listening standards)
- Week 1: Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus" & related texts
- Week 2: Willa Cather, My Antonia (students began writing a narrative about a migrant)
- Week 3: Jeb Bush, Immigration Wars (excerpt) or an article on the DREAM Act
Debate over immigration as a culminating assessment--along with the final draft of the narrative
I teach in a very conservative community, so I took a lot of pride in presenting a range of opinions on immigration.
Or so I thought.
The 2016 Election proved a lot of things about my country--that "Golden Door" for migrants and refugees. Among the things I learned were that Jeb Bush was probably too liberal on immigration, and that the DREAM Act needed more lowercase "dream" than uppercase HOPE.
The standards said, though, it was time for argumentative writing, which meant that I would go from teaching Jeb Bush to Donald J. Trump.
Here's how it went.
Day 1: Read and Annotate "Remarks by President Trump in Joint Address to Congress," February 28, 2017I needed a source about migration, so I chose the speech, which was barely a week old at the time I assigned it. I edited it to focus on migration and preserve the President's opening and closing remarks. This brought the length down to four printed pages--about 10 minutes' reading--which I have found is a good length for in-class reads.
On our first reading, students were directed to annotate the text. I let students create their own code or emojis, while requiring they look for specific details. You can see my symbols on the top, right of the page.
On the first reading, I always ask students to find main ideas (Reading Informational Text standard 1) and identify the evidence the writer uses to support the idea (RIT standard 2). You may notice that I used the word, "claim," for main idea, because this was an argumentative text presented to encourage an argumentative performance (Writing standard 1).
In the discussion, I focused in on Trump's use of evidence. What was his strongest evidence? What evidence was poorly supported?
Day 2: Critical Thinking and Rhetorical Phrasing
Day 3: A Third Look at the Speech
The Debate: Should America Build a Wall on the Border with Mexico
Interesting watching Trump's speech in Nashville. That's my student, Garrett, behind him, upper-left corner. pic.twitter.com/raIAhA4uoz— James Dittes (@Father_Ahab) March 16, 2017