Representation: Inspiring People, Stories, Books, and Poetry of Immigrants

Krashen recently said, “We do not acquire language by study, or by speaking or writing. We acquire in only one way: by understanding what we hear or read. What we call ‘comprehensible input.’ The ability to produce language is the result of getting the right kind of input.”  What was his recommendation on how to do that? Practice more storytelling and provide self-selected reading.  In early foreign language classes, studies show that students learn more effectively by listening to stories told to them by their teachers than from traditional study. Listening creates a path to reading, which is key for input for language acquisition.

From Larry Ferlazzo's blog (see below)

Inspiring stories of immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers

98x to be Inspired

98 Stories I have collected from around the web about inspiring immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.

Sample of student project

Television Show: By Paula Rangel. Paula, my student, created this 6 months after arriving as a non-English speaker.  She did not have all this vocabulary prior to this project. She listened, learned, revised, check her pronunciation and practiced.  She chose her topic from the slides. She watched videos, created an original script and edited/revised the English. She created a required prop.  

Project had to include: 1. name of immigrant, 2. country of origin of the person, 3.  specific challenges they faced, 4. what they valued or guiding principal, 5.  lessons we could learn from them, 6. a prop, 7. tone inflection that sounded like a reporter, 8. photo.  

Indigenous Stories: 

Powerful story and video. Norman King becomes the first college graduate of this small indigenous tribe. Haley Robinsonfor P&G Safeguard:

Charly Edsitty, a reporter at ABC13 in Houston, shares her memories of a childhood spent on the Navajo Nation.

Indigenous People's Day. History on Trial:

The story of 40 immigrants from around the world that made their way to Houston.

By  The Book Wrangler: September 15 – October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. Here are 36 portraits of influential Hispanic Americans. Click each image to learn more about Hispanic heritage and culture through the lens of these performers, activists, athletes, journalists, scientists, doctors, astronauts, politicians, leaders, artists, and educators. Each link will take you to a YouTube video that is commercial-free and full-screen to avoid those pesky ads where you never know what might pop up in class.

Most videos are five minutes or less, which lend themselves to being shared in the classroom daily during the month. As always, please vet these videos before sharing them with your class so you can anticipate the conversations and questions that might result from viewing.

Hopefully, this resource will give your students a peek into the lives of some of our nation’s most influential Hispanic Americans throughout the decades. If you want the clickable PDF you can find it here. If you want the Google Slides presentation, make a copy by clicking here.

Websites that collect stories

University of Minnesota: Immigration History Research Center: 

Click "Digital Stories"  for a search by countries/language

Click "Story Collections" to search by topic


Lesson Plans:

All 250+ Stories:

“Stories for the classroom”:

Story Corps: There are many.  Click photo to go to website  or

Click here to ones I have already added to my list. 

Green Card Voices: Go to website. Click: "Storytelling"

Click: Green card youth voices

Student created videos. I think your students from all backgrounds will enjoy them. 

PBS has a collection of professional story tellers sharing stories from around the world. You will have to confirm your zipcode, but then it is free access.

Poetry about immigrants

Please preview before using. Some may have words, styles or topics not appropriate for your class. Often these poets repeat negative things people have said to them so be aware of slurs. 

"Accents" by Denise Frohman 

"Where I am From"  by George Ella Lyon.   Here is more info about the author and her projects. There are many templates across the web that give you examples of how to use this poem in your class. I have my students brainstorm per section, write their version and then create a video in Adobe Spark. (free and easy to use.)  

First Generation by Ijeoma Umebinyuo. I have my student read this and we rewrote it for our parents. Each student did one line about their parent/family.  

"Home"   by Warshan Shaw. This is a powerful, beautiful, wrenching poem.  Please be careful.  I once used this poem in a presentation and because I was in a rush I forgot to give the background before I used it. I got a scathing review.  It was written by a Kenyan poet who had spent the day with African refugees and heard their stories.  She wrote about all they endured. It may not be appropriate for your class. Please read this before you use this poem.  

"Borders" by Denise Frohman

"Standing In Between" Khamal Iwuanyanwu, Sarina Morales, and Vanessa Tahay 

"Chingona" by Leticia (Caution: language)

"At The Wall, US/Mexican Border, Texas, 2020" Paola Gonzalez & Karla Gutierrez  

"Checkmarking a Box" Arasely Rodriguez 

“Immigrant” By Wyclef Jean 

“Translation for Mamá” by Richard Blanco

"Mother Country" by Richard Blanco

"Migration" by Ana Božičević

The Sound of One Immigrant Clapping” by Adrian Castro

First Light” by Chen Chen

Picture  and Chapter books

Seattle Librarian Selected Books

More than 70 books on immigrants K-12 levels

Scholastic: K-10th grade

Novels about Immigrants/Refugees. More for educators than students.

My favorite!  This is a boxed set by Saddleback for high school emergent readers. TEEN EMERGENT READER LIBRARIES: ENGAGE [2] ADDITIONAL BOOK SET (1 EACH OF 20 TITLES)


Saddleback Publishing beautiful, engaging hi/lo books. Students like them. Honestly, the company ethos is wonderful. Always helpful, never pushy. Owner, Tim McHugh and Reps really will help you find what you need

Stephen Krashen’s Seven Tips for Teaching Language During Covid-19

This is a great summary of Stephen Krashen's recent presentation.

Places to buy books in multiple languages: 

Ways to have students share their stories: 

Lesson ideas:

Fantastic Lessons using Pixar by  EFL Creative Ideas

Step-by-Step lessons for storytelling on Khan Acaedmy. Videos included. A real goldmine!

 I am super impressed with this engaging material. Ladies and gents, teaching writing just got easier