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We are a nation of immigrants who bring different beliefs and values to the United States of America. In this curriculum unit for a middle school ELA or a history classroom, students will interpret and analyze how two different ethnic groups of the 1850s and the 1960s were portrayed in two different films. Hester Street is a film about how a Jewish family from Russia adjusts to their new community in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1850. West Side Story is a filmed theatrical performance about two star-crossed lovers from different neighborhoods in Brooklyn. Each film has a very different style of portraying the stories of Jewish and Puerto Rican immigrants, yet students will see the parallels in themes and characters. The culminating assessment for the students is to analyze and evaluate the immigration process currently in the United States and to ask why immigration is a reform topic in the mayoral and presidential elections of 2016.
(Developed for English, grade 7; recommended for Social Studies, grade 7)