In a 10th grade classroom, a newly arrived student from Sudan, a returning student from a migrant worker family, and a student whose family came from Cambodia in the 1970s are among the 25 students in a US History class. These three students have been silent in all previous class discussions.
We are preparing to teach an upcoming section of our course, Accessing Inquiry for English Learners through Primary Sources, and reflecting on what specialists in English language acquisition tell us about making history and social studies accessible.
In 2010, when Emerging America first focused on teaching strategies using primary sources to engage and support English Learners, we built the course content around immigration history, expanding the investigation to include the history of American communities that speak languages other than English. A key part of making curriculum accessible to all learners is teaching topics, concepts, and skills that are directly relevant to their lives. Not all English Learners are immigrants, of course. Yet many are, and today’s volatile politics of immigration impact all English Learners.
A new lesson for high school students uses primary sources to engage students, including those whose reading levels may not yet be at grade level, in exploring the changes in policy in who is admitted to the United States.