Ever since I first saw it I have been trying to figure out how I could use Shaun Tan’s The Arrival. The theme for our fourth graders’ year is immigration. We begin by having them think about their own migration from a small lower school to our huge building that has both our 4-8 middle school as well as our 9-12 high school. Over 1200 students in a twelve-floor building. And then, as we live in New York City, immigration is up close and intimate to us. Quite a few of our families are immigrants — sometimes our students were adopted, often their parents and/or grandparents came from elsewhere. And certainly, there are immigrants all around us — store and restaurant owners and workers, cab drivers, and more.
As I read and reread The Arrival I tried to think how best to set my fourth graders up to enjoy and appreciate it. I’ve finally decided to provide them first with a lot of context. They will watch films of earlier immigrants arriving at Ellis Island (images that Tan clearly considered when doing his own), listen to me read books about these earlier immigrants, and see Charlie Chaplin’s “The Immigrant.” I’m going to give them a little booklet in which to keep notes. And I’m going to attempt to record my lessons and them place them here as podcasts. All to document what I do. If it works — great! If not, we can all figure out why it didn’t and what I can do to make it work. So (time permitting) some of the next posts will hopefully be about this experience.