This lesson adapts the In Brief for stories on immigration. Students consider stories on immigration with different biases and compare their readings, focusing also on how hospitality might be embodied in the process of listening to another’s story. It is not intended that you repeat this lesson with all provided topics, but that you select the topic most fitting for your setting or adapt the template to a topic of your own.
- Students will examine biases in a pair of current events stories about immigration.
- Students will be able to explain how the telling of news stories can humanize or dehumanize another person.
- Students will assess news stories and their own reading process in light of a focus on hospitality.
Before tackling this lesson, take a look at the story template lesson for an overview of the process and its goals. This lesson adapts that process for stories about immigration. This lesson will probably make most sense if you have done at least some prior work with students on hospitality as a lens for thinking about differences and interaction around them, for instance by completing at least the first lesson from the Hospitality module. Prior lessons on the image of God are also relevant. This lesson works to apply a hospitality lens rather than spending time explaining what such a lens would look like.
Before you teach the lesson, be sure to read the article carefully and note any biases. Some of these may be only tangential to the topic (for example, the article from the Epoch Times refers to COVID as “the disease caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus”; the site’s “about” page explains that the paper was founded “in the year 2000 in response to communist repression and censorship in China” by “Chinese-Americans who themselves had fled communism.”) Consider also whether your students have enough preparation to talk about bias, or whether you need to work on that concept before introducing this activity.
Much of the work in this lesson is done by students. Look out for opportunities to keep students thinking about the two levels at which the lesson asks them to work:
- The content of the articles, and how others are represented and humanized or marginalized;
- The process of engagement, and how the students interact with one another and with perspectives with which they may disagree.
The call to be hospitable toward others applies to both levels. Remind students at relevant junctures that the goal here is not to decide which article is right, but to think about how public discussions across fundamental differences could play out, and how we approach the stories of others. In this way we can connect previous lessons on hospitality and on the image of God with skills for interpreting news stories.
Preparing the Activities
For this lesson you will need:
Access for students to one of the following pairs of stories or a similar substitute from current news (A good source of multiple versions of the same story for national news is the All Sides website.):
If handouts are used, you will need enough copies of each story for half of the class.
- The provided presentation slides.
- The homework handout: Reading Reflections.
- The concept of bias plays a role in this lesson. Your students will only need a basic understanding of bias in order to participate. There will be opportunity to offer your students a definition of bias during the “Reflect” section, but you might also consider preparing your students before using this activity if this is not a topic that has been covered.
- This activity requires work in an even number of groups of 2 to 3 students—it will save instructional time if you prepare a suitable classroom layout before the beginning of class.
Teaching the Activities
Introduction (5 minutes)
At the beginning of the sequence, take a few minutes to activate prior knowledge about the topic(s) involved in the story that students will study. You could use a KWL chart (Know, Want-to-know, and Learned) as a graphic organizer (see this example for a model) or other graphic organizer.
Then take the first step toward humanizing the story by displaying either the image on slide 1 or the image on slide 2 in the presentation slides. Ask students to voice their ideas about who the person or people in the picture are and what their story might be. This is a small first step toward exercising empathy. The details in the background include references to immigration (the “we are America” placard in the first image and the DACA reference in the second image).
First phase: Read (15 minutes)
Divide the class into an even number of groups of 2 to 3 students and mentally assign half the groups as Group A and the other half as Group B. For example, divide a class of 24 students into 8 groups, four of them designated as Group A and four as Group B. Do not indicate yet to the students’ which groups are A or B. Bear in mind that the next step will involve combining groups –consider what layout will help this to happen with minimum disruption.
Choose one of the following pairs of articles (the first is more issue-oriented, the second more event-oriented, both focus on debates about immigration).
story for national news is the All Sides website.):
- Story A (focuses on immigrants’ contributions to the economy)
- Story B (focuses on immigrants competing with poor Americans for jobs)
- Story A (focuses on immigrants taking away hospital capacity from local COVID needs. Note the option to turn off the comment section by the article.)
- Story B (critical toward deportations, includes some focus on the refugees themselves)
Give the Group As one story and Group Bs the other and have them do the following in their small groups (you can display the questions using the provided presentation slides.)
- Describe who the story is about (i.e. persons or groups involved).
- Summarize what the story is about in 3 to 4 sentences.
- Identify when the story took place. What other local, national, or world events were taking place at that time that may be relevant?
- Identify where the story is focused (i.e. neighborhood, city, state/province, country, etc.).
- Describe why the story is significant and important to know.
The goal of this stage is for students to familiarize themselves with the story and think their way into its implicit perspective.
Second phase: Combine (20 minutes)
Next, combine the groups so that each Group A combines with a Group B. There should be about 4-6 people in each group now with roughly half of the students from a Group A and half from a Group B. Do not announce yet that different types of groups are combining; wait for students to discover this.
In their new groups, have them debrief the following for about 5 minutes—this could be done orally or in the form of a written summary in response to the questions, which again are in the provided presentation slides:
- What did you gain from working with this story?
- What perspectives can you identify in the way the story was told? Which people’s perspectives were foregrounded or neglected or doubted?
- Did anyone within the group question the version of the story that was given, or did they accept its perspective? Why?
- Share a detail with a quotation from the story that you found particularly interesting or telling.
At the latest by the time they get to the last question, students should have realized that they did not have exactly the same version of the story. There is an opportunity now to reflect not only on the differences in the versions (bias) but also on the listening process.
Do a quick check-in with the students, explicitly telling them about the two versions of the story and briefly explaining why they were given different versions. Ask them to identify which version comes across as more negative toward immigration and which one is more supportive. Draw students’ attention explicitly to the theme of hospitality: if we want to embody hospitality, how will we listen to the perspectives of others, even if we disagree with them? Then have students continue their debrief with the following questions for another 15 minutes:
- What similarities/differences can you identify between the two versions of the story?
- Who were the storytellers?
- If you had to identify the protagonist of your story, who would it be? Is there an antagonist?
- What basic conflict did each story point out? (Person vs person, person vs nature, person vs society, rich vs poor, etc.)
- What solutions, if any, does your version of the story offer?
- How easy is it for you to integrate a conflicting account and let go of the one you had been building based on the initial reading?
- What had you become too attached to from your version of the story?
- What prior knowledge or beliefs factored into your understanding of the story you were given? Did it confirm or challenge any of your own biases?
The latter three questions can also be assigned as an individual reflection if time is an issue.
Third phase: Reflect (15 minutes)
The idea here is to establish consistency across the stories and help students reflect on the process they just went through. Appeal is made here to concepts of hospitality established in other lessons. You may wish to review them briefly to help students make the connection.
Ask the combined groups to return to both versions of the story and discuss the following questions (provided in the presentation slides.):
- Look closely at how the people implicated in the story (individuals or groups) were represented in each version. Which people or groups were made to seem most human? Which were made to seem most vulnerable? Which people did the story most help you connect with? How did it do this? How representative might these people be of a wider group?
- Should any of the ways in which people are talked about in the story be changed if we wanted to treat them with hospitality? (E.g., is anyone reduced to a stereotype or a statistic? Do the images present any group as threatening or heartless? Is anyone’s story told without their own voice being heard?) Are there any laws or policies in the story that seem to dehumanize some more than others?
- Think about the issue in the story through the lens of hospitality. Who in the story seems to get to play the role of host (having ownership of the space to which others must adapt) and who seems to be in the role of guest (more vulnerable and needing welcome)? Does the story itself show a willingness to listen and consider other viewpoints?
- Think about the way we just approached these stories in class. How might the way that we read and the questions we asked be related to being hospitable and learning to welcome others well? How is bias connected to hospitality? Did we listen well to other perspectives?
- Can you think of a time when you have promoted a perspective in a way that ignored others’ concerns? How does this relate to a Christian stance of hospitality towards others?
Debrief with the class in the last 5 minutes, asking them to share the main things they have learned.
Ask students to produce a reflection on the process of reading news in this format using the following prompts (provided as a PDF):
- What felt different or strange? Why?
- What realizations did you have?
- Did you learn something from another person in your group?
- What questions do you still have about this story?
- Could you retell this story more fairly now?
- How can the way you tell a story honor or dishonor another person?
- What does any of this have to do with being Christian?
Consider using a variety of media to help students express themselves—students could write a journal reflection or make a short video or interview one another in podcast format. You could process their ideas further in the next class through discussion in small groups or a Spiderweb discussion. Maintain student awareness that we should be practicing hospitality to one another in any discussion. We suggest a final silent, written reflection on what students have learned.
This is a template for preparing lessons based on news stories that highlight civic issues. The following lessons provide specific examples of the template in action; it can be adapted to other topics.