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Immigrant Students Will Read Their Oral Histories At TC


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Speaking Worlds, Oral Histories From the Tenzer Learning Center.

Related Documents

  • Graphic Novel Excerpt [PDF]

    Click here to see a graphic novel excerpt by SPI teaching artist and TC doctoral student Nick Sousanis that reflects material from the oral histories.

Immigrant Students Will Read Their Oral Histories At TC

Hundreds of young immigrant students and their families will gather this Thursday, May 27 at 11 a.m. at Teachers College, Columbia University to read from and celebrate their recently published oral history, Speaking Worlds. The event will be held in the Joyce Cowin Auditorium, at 120th Street N.W. and Broadway. The authors will sign copies of the five-volume book series, a collection of 130 immigrant voices from across New York City that is being created under through Teachers College’s Student Press Initiative.

The series is a culmination of a months-long, citywide literacy project that enlisted the experiences of students representing 15 different countries. Most of these students, new immigrants from five alternative education sites in District 79, have been in the United States no longer than a year and come from countries including Haiti, Yemen, Morocco, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Dominican Republic, and a number of Latin American and African countries.

“There’s so much to learn from these students,” says SPI Founding Director Erick Gordon.  “They’re resilient and bold in their desire to learn and be heard. And as we teach them, they teach us.”

Working with teachers, SPI engages immigrants in their new and native languages by working with them to craft their own stories. First-person accounts are first recorded orally—often in the student’s native tongue—then transcribed into English and methodically shaped into complete narratives. The process involves public speaking. Students end up with more confidence, both in their command of language, and in themselves and how they relate to their new home. Their stories are published in a text that will be used to help future immigrants undergoing the same learning process.

“These new immigrants are sharing their stories with the world and by doing so, they’re developing English language and literacy skills,” Gordon says. “It is an amazing shift in which students become teachers and teachers becomes students, all together.”

SPI is a professional development organization dedicated to giving teachers the resources to help turn their classrooms into mini-publishing houses.  SPI has partnered with some 30 schools to publish 10,000 students in over 100 publications. To learn more information about the organization, please visit

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