Adult Ed

Becoming American: The Chinese Experience

Overview | Activities


All over the globe, people -- young and old -- grapple with the concept of "a personal identity." It's a challenge that many will face time and time again. For immigrant populations in the United States, this challenge can be particularly daunting because of the overwhelming influence of American culture over much of the world. By looking at the experience of Chinese American immigrants in the PBS series BECOMING AMERICAN this lesson will ask ESL learners to investigate and explore their own identities within a multicultural context.

Grade level: ESL

Subject Matter: Social studies, language arts


Commencement level (Standard 1)

Students will use a variety of intellectual skills to demonstrate their understanding of major ideas, eras, themes, developments and turning points in the history of the United States and New York. The study of New York State and United States history requires an analysis of the development of American culture, its diversity and multicultural context, and the ways people are unified by many values, practices and traditions.

Commencement level (Standard 4)

Students will listen, speak, read and write for social interaction. Students will use oral and written communication for effective social communication with a wide variety of people. As readers and listeners, they will use the social communication of others to enrich their understanding of people and their views.

Media components:

Becoming American: The Chinese Experience Companion Web site
"HOT DOGS AND APPLE PIE" (essay)/Being Chinese American (Video, Real Player required)
This page includes a powerful essay on being bicultural that is substantiated by the adult retelling of a child's story about his discovery of his dual Chinese and American identity.

A Kind of Declaration of Independence (Video, Real Player required)
This video clip showcases the experiences of a young Chinese American woman. The clip details the complexity of age, gender and generational conflict precipitated in an environment of bi-culturality. The link to the video clip is located in the left-hand column of the Web site.

1898 Wong Kim Ark v. U.S. (Video, Real Player required)
This video clip can be accessed from the interactive timeline (1851- 1900) available on the Becoming American site. While viewing the segment, several historians provide important insights into the Constitution of the United States and the rights of all people under the banner of American democracy.

Merriam-Webster Online
This online dictionary shows American English pronunciation keys and allows learners to hear the pronunciation of words using audio links available through the site.

A Portrait of New Americans
This photo essay can be used to generate a language experience story if personal photos are not available.


Loose leaf paper/index cards
Newsprint and markers
Personal headphones, class set
Personal photos, optional
Tape recorder, optional


Prep for teachers

  • Make copies of the "HOT DOGS AND APPLE PIE" essay for the class (If the downloaded version is being used, number the lines of the essay before making copies.)

  • Bookmark Web sites

  • Load current Real Player plug-in