In the Classroom: Thoughts on Teaching The Arrival

Using this book with my students has been a fantastic experience; I can’t recommend it enough. I will definitely do it again next year with few alterations. To review:

  1. Before beginning, I showed the children Shaun Tan’s website on The Arrival. We discussed the images there, how to “read” them, and what they had to do with our studies of immigration. We talked about the challenges of reading a book that was all images, that had no words.
  2. I constantly referenced back to our immigration studies. The Arrival follows the same structure of the children’s own oral history interviews. That is: Old Country, Journey, Settlement, etc. I showed them books and artifacts from Ellis Island that reinforced what was in the book.
  3. I placed the children in groups of three to read the book. This seemed to be just the right number of children in a group — most of the groups worked well together and the children, in their journal assessments, remarked on how helpful it was to work together to determine what was going on in the story.
  4. I gave the children small booklets in which to take notes as they read. Many of them commented that they loved the note taking. Perhaps because the book was wordless, there was something about putting their own words down as notes that was particularly satisfying.
  5. At the end of each session, we came together as a class and one member of each group presented their findings in a podcast. This was incredibly motivating. I’m not even sure that many of the kids bothered to go to the blog to listen to the podcasts, but there was something about knowing that their presentations were being recorded and placed on the blog that was really compelling for them. After a couple of times, they became incredibly adept at passing the Ipod around as they commented on each others’ presentations. (Here and here are the final two podcasts, by the way.)
  6. As they presented I held up a copy of the book to support what was being said. So we noticed even more during these presentations.
  7. After we finished, my colleague Jenny Kirsch showed them a Powerpoint she had created, placing images from the book next to archival photographs on which they were based. This was exciting and fascinating for my NYC students.
  8. Next they will write letters — I want them to make a box of memories for the hero of the book — full of his letters to his family, origami perhaps, whatever my students think should go in it. They may also want to write Shaun Tan. Letters seem the perfect final project for this book. Once these are done I will post once again on what the children come up with.

So teachers who want to try something new and different, give The Arrival a try! It is a wonderful book to use within a study of immigration, bringing together the essence of that experience today, historically, and always. And for anyone who found the book confusing, children will help you see it much more clearly!



Filed under In the Classroom, Teaching

13 responses to “In the Classroom: Thoughts on Teaching The Arrival

  1. delzey

    Fantastic job. It’s exciting to see how an excellent book can bring a classroom to life. You’ve done a marvelous job here with this lesson. I hope others find this as inspirational and follow your lead.


  2. I’ve been following these posts with great interest. Ever since I first got this book last year, I’ve been wondering how best to use it in my classroom. Thanks for the lead!


  3. This is fantastic, thanks for sharing! Has Jenny Kirsch made her powerpoint available at all? I’d love to see it and to show my students.


  4. I may put some of the images on the class blog, but not Shaun’s as we don’t have permission to do so. I’m hoping in the future to perhap put something together for other teachers to use, but don’t know quite how or when yet.


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  6. Kirsten

    I bought The Arrival to use in the classroom, but was unsure of how to go about it. I am so glad I found these posts and hope that it won’t be too difficult for the class I’m working with.


  7. CKeys

    Hi! I’m actually going to be teaching an integrated unit based on The Arrival starting in February for my APT. Is there any possibility your colleague would share the powerpoint she created?


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