Lesson Idea: “No Human Being Was Born Illegal” | Not in Our Town

Lesson Idea: “No Human Being Was Born Illegal”

Grade Level: 
Middle School (6-8)
High School (9-12)

Created by Facing History and Ourselves 



In this lesson idea, the short video “No Human Being Was Born Illegal” is explored through teaching strategies such as pre-viewing, think-pair-share, word walls/clouds, levels of questions and fishbowl. By learning about the social activism of the students in the video, students may think more deeply about the issues facing their own communities.
Suggested Activities
Pre-viewing – Before watching the video, identify the core issue the students are attempting to address: The treatment of immigrants in their community. They focus on the use of power of labels and the use of the word illegal to describe people.
Then ask students to respond to the following questions:
  • What strategies might students use to address these issues?
  • What are the risks, if any, to taking these steps?
  • What challenges might students confront?
  • What would “success” in addressing these issues look like? How could “success” be measured?
  • What resources do students need to be successful?
  • What might be the consequences of doing nothing?
Think-pair-share The Power of Labels. How do labels shape the way you view others?  In the film people talk about immigrants, illegal immigrants, and undocumented immigrants. What do these labels mean?  Merriam Webster defines “illegal” as “not according to or authorized by law: unlawful, illicit.” What associations do you have with these words? How might they shape the perceptions people have of newcomers?  Then students can present their responses as a think-pair-share.

Word clouds/walls -- Illegal, Immigrant, Undocumented, Upstander,  Tolerance, Bigotry, Inclusion and Exclusion are some terms students can define before and after watching the film.  Word walls or word clouds can help students present their definitions. (Websites such as www.wordle.net or www.tagxedo.com can help students create word clouds.)

Fishbowl – After students have had the opportunity to process the video independently or in small groups, facilitate a whole-class conversation. Here are some specific questions with which you might consider having students grapple:
  • What were students responding to in this video? What problem were they trying to solve?
  • What did they do? What strategies did they employ? What community or school resources did they draw from?
  • What risks did they take? What challenges did they confront?
  • What do you think of their response?  What did they accomplish?
  • What advice would you offer these students? What could be some next steps these students could take to further address this problem?
  • What more do you want to know about this situation? If you had the opportunity, what would you want to ask the students in this video?
  • What do you think the new immigrants gleaned from this experience? How could this project be expanded and deepened?
Fishbowl: Fishbowl is a strategy that helps students practice being active listeners and participants in a discussion. Half the class can debrief the video while the other half observes. Then students can switch roles.

Levels of questions -- Here is an example of the kinds of questions you can use with this strategy:

  • Level one: What were students responding to in this video? What action did they take?
  • Level two: What do you think of their response? In what ways was it effective? What else could they have done to address the problem they saw in their school or community?
  • Level three: What power do you think young people have to change attitudes and actions? What gives young people power? What limits the power of young people to create change?
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