Multiculturalism is not an easy concept to define as it is constantly evolving...

Society will continue to become more and more diverse as immigrants continue to bring over and maintain their cultural heritage. It is extremely important that educators recognize and embrace multiculturalism in order to create a safe, positive classroom where all students have ample opportunity to learn and grow.
One way to effectively incorporate the notion of multiculturalism into the Language Arts classroom is to look at immigration.
Not only does studying immigration introduce students to other interesting cultures all around the world; it also helps students develop into responsible, thoughtful and knowledgeable citizens who can greatly contribute to society.

Please use this website as a tool to aid you in incorporating immigration studies into YOUR classroom.

Theoretical Framework: | Teaching Ideas: | Mini Lessons: | Teacher Resources: | Assessment Ideas:

Theoretical Framework: 254398-2605-34.jpg

"Graphic Journeys: Graphic Novels' Representations of Immigrant Experiences" by Michael D. Boatright
- Immigration is a hot topic in North America. There is much coverage on the news which provides teachers an excellent opportunity to bring the theme of immigration into the classroom.
- Graphic novel allows point of entry to engage in dialogue (historical, social, economic, political, cultural)- Not all immigrant experiences are the same
- Tan's The Arrival, Kimya's The Four Immigrants Manga: A Japanese Experience in San Francisco and Yang's American Born Chinese are all examples of graphic novels that deal with immigration.
- Because graphic novels convey meaning by employing both illustrations and words, the combination of images and words in graphic novels privileges certain perspectives and merits critique in their representations of immigrant experiences.

"Pre-Service Teachers Explore Cultural Identity and Ideology Through Picture Books" by Roberta Hammett
- This article examines a study that took place in seven Canadian universities by introducing student teachers to the concept of picture books and multiculturalism.
- Idea of an identity struggle: we draw on literary and life experiences to create meanings through reciprocal relationships with texts and images . What does it mean to be Canadian? This helps students understand different immigrant experiences.

"Talking Race" by Jenee Darden
- Discusses the importance of having an open door policy about race. Different learning abilities overlap with race.
- Idea of America as a "post-racial" society: notion that we have completely gotten past racism, especially after the election of Obama. So some people think bringing up race is just a way to get ahead.
- A lot of white people don't have the vocabulary or experience to bring up the idea of race. They're afraid of being offensive or impolite.

"Computers, the Media and Multicultural Education: Seeking Engagement and Political Literacy" by Paul Carr
- Talks about media and computer literacy within a multicultural environment- Technology has created a power barrier that separates the Western world from the rest of the world.
- Most teachers view technology and information as liberating: that it can create a better quality of life for all citizens. Easy to just teach about the positives (customs, heroes, holidays). But they must engage in multicultural education that analyzes power imbalances and socially constructed identities. Challenges youth to see the oppression around them and become more socially just people.

"The Power of Art in Multicultural Education: The International Stories Project" by Mark Graham
- Use cultural journalism to engage students in investigating the differences in their midst.
- Cultural journalism: students go into community to document experiences and stories of people who live there. (interviews, photography, broadcasts) and incorporate a contemporary artist who makes the notion of diversity a main part of their work.
- Importance of studying visual culture to understand how we are persuaded to understand the world in certain ways. Helps students develop awareness of issues of race, immigration, difference, privilege.

Teaching Ideas:

To note: these teaching ideas, lesson plans, and assessments are intended for secondary school students but can be modified to suit most grade levels. Increased time, more in-class help and specific expectations are all examples of accomodations that can be made. Such accomodations may also benefit students with exceptionalities.

a) Social Discourse

Bringing the topic of immigration into the classroom can be very beneficial to students but it is important that the teacher creates a safe, comfortable and positive environment. It is always difficult to talk about things that we do not fully understand because we may not have the appropriate vocabulary to express ourselves. The teacher must set the stage for students by giving them this missing vocabulary. For example, the teacher might initiate a discussion about which terms they think are appropriate to describe people of different heritage (First Nations, Chinese-Canadians, etc.)

b) Graphic Novels

Examining graphic novels within the context of immigration studies is very fitting for several reasons. For one, it is ideal for ESL students (often recent immigrants) since the stories have little to no words and can often be understood through just the images. This helps such students feel more confident and comfortable in the class. Furthermore, it would be interesting to study graphic novels that are about the immigration experience (or any new experience). It would also be interesting to have the students create their own graphic novels about a new experience they have had (ex. going to a new school, moving into a new house). Or, they could make up a fictional narrative.

c) Incorporating Media

Because it has become so important and valuable to incorporate media literacy into the English Language Arts classroom, it would be interesting to tie this into the immigration theme. Immigration is often discussed on the news, in magazines and in various art forms (theatre, movies). Investigating such media sources, both in class and independently, would be a great assignment for students as it would introduce them to the topic by showing real life situations. After the students have done their investigations, they may be asked to display their knowledge by creating their own news broadcast, short film, comic strip, etc.

d) Canadian Identity

Generate a group discussion about what it means to be Canadian. After a few minutes, give them material that shows the experience of recent immigrants to Canada (short video clips, magazine articles). Then continue the discussion to see how their opinions and ideas may have changed.

Mini Lessons:

a) Bring in "The House on Mango Street" by Sandra Cisneros, a collection of short stories about a young immigrant girl who dreams of one day having her own home. In Small Working Groups, students read one or two of the short stories. Activity tables are set up around the room where students must complete taks such as Character Charts, Conflict Dissections, Discussions, etc. In accordance with the Ontario Curriculum, this activity teaches students about Understanding Form and Style, Reading for Meaning, Reading With Fluency, and Reflecting on Skills and Strategies. This lesson may take up to a week or so.external image images?q=tbn:ANd9GcQkFAzpoJZzR40t9WLOTM5AoMNY3PgwJPAB1Z-ZjOo2if-aqxQ&t=1&usg=__8fNEc4we_ebIc7ANhNUn4ryFewA= See The House on Mango Street for more details.

b) In groups of six, students analyze an element of a text from six perspectives using the Cubing strategy (Neeld, 1986).
The six perspectives are: Describe it, Compare it, Associate it, Analyze it, Apply it, Evaluate it. For example, the teacher may show a short video or hand out copies of a short story, poem, or song.

An example of a video documentary to show in class:

The following link will take you to a website where you can download a book called "Stories of Identity". This book tells the stories of various immigrants through interviews, journals, and memoirs.
Stories of Identity

c) Here is an idea about how to study immigration represented in graphic novels.
First, it is important that students receive some scaffolding on graphic novels. The teacher can start off by showing various images from a graphic novel separately. Any of the novels listed in Boatright's article are apropriate to the immigration theme. See Theoretical Framework on this page.

As a whole class or in small groups, the students discuss the images (what kinds of feelings they invoke, what they think is the story behind each picture). Then move on to showing them several consecutive images. As students begin to piece together the overall story, ask tstudents to come up with actual text to accompany the images.

After students are introduced to the concept of graphic novels, the teacher can link it to the study of immigration. Depending on timelines, the teacher can either get students to read the entire text during class or at home. In small groups, ask students to discuss and reflect on their experiences while reading the novel. Did they use any strategies to help them? Did they enjoy this type of reading? Get students to discuss theme, character traits, setting, plot, etc.) Did the fact that the story was portrayed through images have an effect on their emotional reaction? Do they think their reading experience would have been different if there had been accompanying text? How could they relate to the experience of immigration? Afterwards, get students to share their discussions and findings with the rest of the class.

Reference: This idea was adapted from an activity/discussion that took place in David Slomp's PED 3177 class.

If you are particularly interested in teaching graphic novels, "Teaching Graphic Novels: Practical Strategies for the Secondary ELA Classroom" by Katie Monnin is a wonderful resource. It gives some great lesson plans, suggestions for how to relate to the curriculum, and assessment activities.

Teacher Resources:

Facing History and Ourselves
Non-profit organization that links historical events with the choices we make in our daily lives. This is a great resource that has lots of topical information that is updated daily. It also has many resources such as teaching strategies, lesson and unit plans. They also have links to seminars and workshops for teachers to learn more.

Myths, Folktales and Fairytales
This is a resource website run by Scholastic. It has lots of teaching ideas, resources and interactive activities that students can take part in (for all grade levels).

Immigration Teacher Resources
This website has lesson plans, activities and guides for all grades (and several subject areas) in relation to immigration.

Learning About Immigration Through Oral History
This website provides the framework for developing an entire unit or year around learning about immigration through the practice of oral history.

Unicef: Global Classroom
This is a great website for obtaining resources, information on events and professional development seminars, and ideas on how to make your classroom more global. This website also contains ready-to-go lesson plans.
Statistics Canada
This website has valuable data, resources and lesson plan ideas.

Assessment Ideas:

The Mathieu Da Costa Challenge is a contest put on by Citizenship and Immigration Canada that gets students to highlight how African, Asian and other ethnocultural backgrounds have helped shape Canada's identity. More information is available at under Multiculturalism.

a) Independent Study
- give students a list of relevant novels (some examples include Yamashita's Tropic of Orange, Danticat's Behind the Mountains, Ondaatje's In The Skin of a Lion, and Larsen's Quicksand). Students doing their study on the same novel will meet regularly to discuss and give updates on their reading so far (literature circles). As the final assessment, students have the choice of writing an essay, designing a scrapbook, or creating a documentary about the novel. The students have to relate their project back to the theme of immigration or identity. Before final assessment is due, students will meet with their literature.

Curriculum Expectations:
Reading and Literature Studies:
1.1: Variety of Texts
1.2: Using Reading Comprehension Strategies
1.6: Analyzing Texts
2.1: Text Forms
2.2: Text Features
2.3: Elements of Style
4.1 Metacognition
1.2: Generating and Developing Ideas
1.4: Organizing Ideas
2.1 Form

b) Community Research Project
- Students must go out into their communities to investigate all the different people who live among them. They are to gather information on one or more recent immigrant. Some questions to ask include where they are from, if they had a choice in coming here (and if yes, what was the reason), what has been their experience in Canada so far, what has been difficult, what has been inspiring. If the students cannot find anyone or do not feel comfortable with this exercise, teacher will provide them with a character profile that the student must elaborate on and create a story about. The students must then choose a way to output their data. They can choose to write an article, create a news broadcast or documentary, or some other means of expression that displays media literacy (must be approved by teacher). To note: this assignment will require scaffolding on various media forms. For example, how to structure a news broadcast and which types of questions to ask.

Curriculum Expectations:
Media Studies:
3.2: Form
3.3: Conventions and Techniques
3.4: Producing Media Texts
1.1: Identifying Topic, Purpose, and Audience
1.3: Researching
1.4: Organizing

c) The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
- Students can either do this project individually or as a group. Teacher gives students a list of mass immigrations to Canada (ex. French, Irish, British, Scottish, Ukrainians, Russians, Southasians, Chinese, etc.) Students choose one group to do some research on. The assignment is three-fold. They must find a way to portray i) the good, ii) the bad, and iii) the ugly experiences their particular group has endured using three different methods.
1) Students must use the R.A.F.T. strategy (Buehl, 2001) [Role, Audience, Format, Topic] as one of their methods.
2) Students have a choice between creating a poem, making up a game show, designing a model or representation, or role playing for the other two methods.

Whichever two methods they choose on top of the RAFT, students must cover the good, the bad, and the ugly.
This assignment is meant to have students realize the reality of immigration and multiculturalism. There is more to other cultures than food, dance and clothes. It is important that students understand power imbalances and social situations that various groups of immigrants have struggled with. To note: This assessment activity will also require scaffolding on elements of poetry, what a RAFT is, etc.)

Curriculum Expectations:
1.1: Identifying Topic, Purpose, and Audience
1.2: Generating and Developing Ideas
1.3: Research
1.4: Organizing
2.1: Form
2.2: Voice
Oral Communication:
2.1: Purpose
2.2: Interpersonal Speaking Strategies
2.3: Clarity and Coherence
2.7: Audiovisual Aids


Boatright, M.D. (2010, March). Graphic Journeys: Graphic Novels' Representations of Immigrant Experiences. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(6), 468–476. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.53.6.3

Carr, P. R. & Porfilio, B. J. (2009). Computers, the media and multicultural education: seeking engagement and political literacy. Intercultural Education, 20(2), 91-107. doi:10.1080/14675980902922200

Darden, Jenee (2009, Fall). Talking Race. Teaching Tolerance, 36,

Graham, M. A. (2009). The Power of Art in Multicultural Education: The International Stories Project. Multicultural Perspectives, 11(3), 155-161. doi:10.1080/15210960903116712

Hammett, Roberta (2009, October). Pre-service teachers explore cultural identity and ideology through picture books. Literacy, 43(3), 152-159. doi: 10.1111/j.1741- 4369.2009.00522.x