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Phase I

The following Classroom Close-Up is taken from the Teacher's Guide to Developing an I-Search Unit, a component of the Make It Happen! manual.



  • computer simulation program such as Decisions, Decisions: Immigration - Maintaining the Open Door (Tom Snyder Productions, Inc.)
  • large screen monitor
  • student journals


  • two to three periods

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In the Classroom Close-Up, the class is using Decisions, Decisions: Immigration - Maintaining the Open Door (Tom Snyder Productions, Inc.) to acquire a broader understanding of the complex issues involved in immigration policy and generate questions for their searches. In this simulation, students assume the role of the U.S. President, and must make difficult decisions about thousands of refugees who are about to land in a major port city. They must prioritize their goals and make a series of difficult decisions as they work together to find solutions to this "real world" dilemma.

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Setting the Context

Sam introduced the activity to his class by saying,

"This activity will give you an opportunity to experience first-hand how tough it is to make decisions about immigration policy. You'll be debating social, political, and economic issues related to immigration."

Sam asked the students to read the worksheets included with the simulation program to introduce them to a brief history of U.S. immigration law. He used the following prompting questions to elicit discussion:

  • Why did the government establish immigration laws?

  • What do you think are the most important things to consider when deciding immigration policy?

Sam then introduced the situation presented in the simulation and assigned one student to work at the keyboard.

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Doing the Activity

Sam had the whole class work together, encouraging all students to express their viewpoints about the "real world" dilemma presented in this simulation. First, taking the role of the President, the students discussed and prioritized their goals. They looked critically at different sides of the issues, examined the impact of one decision on others, and predicted the consequences of various options. Onscreen "advisors" offered historical references and opposing viewpoints, which inspired class discussion.

After using the program, Sam engaged the students in a discussion about their experience. He asked:

  • What have you learned about immigration law and policy?

  • What questions come to mind?

  • What else would you like to find out?

In response, the class touched on relevant events such as the influx of Cuban refugees in the early 1980s, when Castro allowed many political prisoners and criminals to flee the country. Many students raised questions about the impact this had on the acceptance of Cuban refugees in this country, and the resulting relationship between the United States and Cuba. During the discussion, Sam recalled a point that John made earlier when they were doing the simulation. Hearing his teacher give him credit for something he had said was just the impetus John needed to further expand on his idea.

As a final step in the activity, Sam asked students to take out their journals. He had them divide a page into two columns, with the headings "What I've Learned" and "What I Want to Find Out." Sam encouraged the students to take 10 minutes to fill in the two columns. At the conclusion of the 10 minutes, Sam had the students form small groups to share their thoughts and questions with one another. He circulated around the room, listening to the discussions and questions the software had stimulated.

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Linking Back to the I-Search Process

Sam reminded the class that what they had written in their journals would contribute to the pool of questions from which they would select their individual research questions. He concluded the activity by saying, "This was just one computer simulation. Other computer simulations may help you find information relevant to your own searches."

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