A vast debate swirls around the topic of immigration to the United States. Unfortunately, the frustration many have with our immigration system has also caused some people to stereotype all immigrant populations. This lesson helps break stereotypes by getting to the source of the prejudices. But where do stereotypes come from? This is the question students will explore in the following activities. The focus here is on facing some common misconceptions about immigrants as a group. By connecting stereotypes to myths and then dispelling those myths, students will confront the lies that are the foundation of bigotry toward immigrants.
Controversial Subjects in the Classroom outlines some ideas about how to handle complicated topics with students.
Activities will help students:
- Break down myths and stereotypes about immigration
- How do stereotypes begin?
- Why do people perpetuate myths?
- How can myths and stereotypes be broken down?
- Chart paper and markers (at least six different colors)
- Handout: The Truth about Immigration Myths (PDF)
1) (Note: Prepare six workstations around the room. Place a sheet of poster paper at each workstation. Write one of the immigration myths below on the top of the poster paper. Use each myth only once and use all of the myths:
Workstation 1: Most immigrants are here illegally.
Workstation 2: It’s just as easy to enter the country legally today as it was when my ancestors arrived.
Workstation 3: There’s a way to enter the country legally for anyone who wants to get in line.
Workstation 4: Immigrants take good jobs from Americans.
Workstation 5: Undocumented immigrants cause crime rates to go up.
Workstation 6: Undocumented immigrants don’t pay taxes but still get benefits.
To help with classroom management, time students during this carousel activity. Divide the class into six groups, and number the groups 1 through 6. Give each group a different color marker.)
Your classroom has been divided into six separate workstations, each showcasing a different common myth about immigration. Go the workstation that matches your group’s number.
2) With your group, hypothesize why that myth is not accurate. Assign one person to record your responses. Complete the following information for that myth:
Remain at this first workstation until given your next task.
3) Now, smoothly and quickly move to the next workstation. If you are now at workstation 1, move to 2, workstation 2 to 3, etc. Once there, offer feedback on what the previous groups answered and expand upon their responses. You have 3 minutes.
4) Repeat #3 (e.g., move stations, etc.). Repeat continuously until your group has a chance to offer feedback on all the myths.
5) Finally, return to your original group’s workstation to see what others had to say or add. Do you agree with the feedback? Why or why not?
6) As a group, read the facts about your specific myth in the handout The Truth About Immigration Myths. In addition to what’s listed, why is your group’s workstation myth inaccurate? As a group, present your immigration myth chart to the rest of the class along with what you’ve learned. Take a poll. Ask your classmates to raise their hands if they have ever heard of your immigration myth before. Then, share the reasons why that myth is untrue, using the feedback gathered from the collective experience and from the handout. (Note: Call on each group to come up and present in front of the class. Take notes on the board as each group dispels each myth.)
7) As a class, read and discuss the four myths listed in the handout that were not covered during the carousel activity. They are:
- My ancestors learned English, but today’s immigrants refuse.
- Today’s immigrants don’t want to blend in and become “Americanized.”
- The United States is being overrun by immigrants like never before.
- Anyone who enters the country illegally is a criminal.
8) Now that you’ve learned about immigration, who else in your life might want to know about this? Think about at least three people in your life with whom you can share this new knowledge. In your journal, write down:
a) the person or people you plan to talk to about immigration myths and stereotypes;
b) what you plan to say to the person (feel free to copy some quotes directly from the article).
Be prepared to share with the class how the experience went the next day.
Create Immigration Myth-busters posters to hang all around your school to help spread knowledge and prove myths wrong. Include all the myths listed in the handout, The Truth About Immigration Myths.
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Standard 9: Understands the importance of Americans sharing and supporting certain values, beliefs, and principles of American constitutional democracy
Standard 11: Understands the role of diversity in American life and the importance of shared values, political beliefs, and civic beliefs in an increasingly diverse American society
Standard 14. Understands issues concerning the disparities between ideals and reality in American political and social life
Standard 24: Understands the meaning of citizenship in the United States, and knows the requirements for citizenship and naturalization
Standard 25: Understands issues regarding personal, political, and economic rights
United States History
Standard 31: Understands economic, social, and cultural developments in the contemporary United States
Working With Others
Standard 1: Contributes to the overall effort of a group.
Standard 4: Displays effective interpersonal communication skills.