My classes are in the middle of their Immigration unit and I'm looking ahead to their final project.
The essential question for the unit is, "Who Deserves to Be an American?"
Yes, I know it's a provocative way to ask the question, but that's the idea; aside from learning about an important theme from American history, I want my students to be able to look at a controversial topic from several different angles, listen to a variety of opinions, and then form their own opinions. It's not important to me what their opinions are - just that they are based on something other than gut feeling.
We do some really interesting activities in this unit, which I'll post about soon, but their final assessment for the unit is to write a research paper.
They are supposed to express one (and only one) opinion about Immigration, discuss it with vocabulary terms we have learned over the past unit, then back it up with events we have learned about in class and a news story from the past year or so. It can be of any length.
This will be the fourth year I've done this project. I always get some amazing, inspired writing. I also get a few students who cannot, for the life of them, come up with an opinion. All the students in the past have said that this paper is one of the hardest assignments they have ever had to do and that the very hardest part was coming up with their topic sentence - after that, everything was fairly straightforward.
Over the past few years, I've come up with various ways to scaffold this project for students - showing them various papers and critiquing them as a class, for instance. This year, I've decided to make up a list of possible opinions that I can make available to students if they've struggled for several days without being able to come up with an opinion.
Here are some that I've come up with so far:
· All Americans should have to speak English.
· No Americans should HAVE to speak any particular language.
· In order to become citizens, all new immigrants should have to perform some form of community service. Young men should have to serve in the military.
· We should not have a cap on how many new immigrants come into our country; as long as they are good people, the number shouldn’t matter.
· We shouldn’t let any more new immigrants into our country.
· Quotas were a good idea; we should go back to that system.
· Illegal immigrants should not be able to get any government services, like emergency room care or education.
· “What? Are you crazy? They are still human beings! Of COURSE they should still be able to get basic services, regardless of what their legal status is.”
· Illegal immigrants should not be able to get scholarships to go to college.
· Scholarships should be available to anyone, regardless of their immigration status.
· We should open up certain jobs – dangerous ones, hard ones, ones we have trouble filling – to illegal immigrants.
· Immigrants should not have to change who they are in order to be American.
This is where you come in. I need some strong, common(ish) opinions about Immigration that might strike a chord with them. Could you leave an opinion in the Comments below, that I can add to the list. It should go without saying that this is not necessarily YOUR opinion. I'm just looking for opinions that students can explore.
I have no spare brain cells to devote to this. I need yours.
(Does that make me a zombie?)
Update - A week later:
I did end up posting my entire Immigration (well, entire-ish), but it was such an insanely long post that I've given it its own tab at the top of this page. (Or click here.) I may film and post my brilliant and eagerly awaited lecture on push-factors and pull-factors as well.
Also - It turns out that I somehow can't master the intricacies of reading a calendar. After some (very fast) panicking and soul-searching, I've had to scrap the research paper. There is just NO WAY to finish up the material in time to allow the students enough time to write their papers before Spring Break, the last week of April. So, here is Plan B:
Instead of writing a research paper, students will take a five-question, True/False test. They will receive a list of five strong opinions about Immigration. Each student will choose two of them to agree or disagree with, then explain his or her answer and back it up with three facts and X-number of vocabulary words (still TBD). This will be open-notebook and then some - they will be allowed to use their notes, textbooks and news stories (I've spent the past two years collecting immigration news stories and I'll print them up and put them in binders around the classroom). I'll borrow several netbooks and have those available to check the internet.
This is NOT as good an assessment as a well-thought-out research paper would be, but given our time constraints, it's the best I can do. The students are getting so much out of what we're doing right now that I can't in good conscience interrupt the learning in order to assess it.
Thanks again for all your help.