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Welcome to Show me the BOOKS! A blog about literature for elementary school students. All posts include a summary, a citation, and teaching suggestions along with websites for lesson extension or references. Please explore and comment!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side by Raymond Bial

Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side is a non fiction text that focuses on the migration of many Europeans into the United States in search for a better life. Little did they know what waited for them. The only living accommodation many immigrants could get for their families was a Tenement.Families living in tenements dealt with buildings so close together creating dark alley ways, and no yard or green areas for children to play. Families were forced to share living spaces, and bathrooms.This text is an eye opening account of immigrant life in tenements and the limitations it forced upon them. It is depressing to think of people living in such conditions, but it is important to identify the struggles immigrants had coming to and starting new life in America.
Bial, Raymond. Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2002. Print

Teaching Suggestions for Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side
This text could be used as additional reference in a social studies class for upper elementary grade students learning about the United States History. 
  • Before reading, discuss the term Immigrant. Have students discuss who immigrants were, and provide information on what immigrants provided for our country. Discuss the terms: tenement, poverty, discrimination, destitute, dynamic, Tenement House Act, unjust, unventilated, etc. 
  • During reading, pause every so often to discuss as a class the situation of the immigrants. Have students provide examples from the text to support their positions. Encourage students to develop connections or to put themselves in the position of the immigrant and encourage them to keep their thoughts and opinions while they read so that they can further develop their position. Some questions you may ask: Did the immigrants have any other choice? If you were in this position would you consider returning to your mainland? etc.
  • After reading, have a whole class discussion on the information presented in the book. Have students reflect upon the Tenement House Act. Have the students write a response to these questions: What is your opinion of the Tenement House Act? Do you think this act should have been established earlier? How do you think the tenets felt? How would you have felt living in such conditions? Explain your thoughts. 

Supplemental Websites for Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side
  • Tenement Museum this website has some historical information on the living conditions in Tenements. You can also use this site to potentially plan a field trip for a tour of a tenement. 
  • Interactive Lesson for 3-4th grade presented by the Kennedy Center "Arts Edge" there is an interactive lesson guide:"Understanding Tenement Life"

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