by Marilyn Chin

Writing Workshop

Workshop Title: Immigration

Step 1

Have your students watch the embedded overview of the history of US immigration laws. Then briefly discuss the ramifications of such laws in the United States, particularly toward immigrants.

Step 2

Read “Gruel” by Marilyn Chin. When you’re done, briefly discuss the poem. Who is the speaker? Whom is the speaker talking to? What message is the poem trying to impart?

Step 3

Say, “Think about video we watched earlier and Marilyn Chin’s poem, particularly how US immigration laws have negatively impacted immigrants in the United States. Then write down the different ways immigrants to the United States may have felt in the aftermath of such laws. You may either focus on a specific group or people or comment on the immigrant experience on a broader scale.” Then give your students a bit of time to brainstorm.

Step 4

Ask your students to compose a poem similar in sentiment to “Gruel” in which they comment upon the “immigrant experience” in the United States. They may pull from personal experience, observations, or historical knowledge.

Step 5

When the students are done, have them share their responses with one another.

The full presentation may be found HERE.

Analytical Lesson

Area of Focus: Imagery

Step 1

If your students are not familiar with the concept of “imagery,” go through the introductory lesson.  

Step 2

Start by showing your students the following clip from Netflix’s Stranger Things. While watching, have them pay particular attention to its unique subtitles. 

Step 3

When the clip is over, ask them about the subtitles. What did they notice about it? In what ways did it “enhance” the experience, or make it more sensory? Briefly discuss. 

Step 4

Have your students open the following document and spend a few moments going through the introduction with them. The introduction will provide some insight behind the creation of the subtitles in Stranger Things

Step 5

When you’ve read through the introduction, read the directions aloud to your students. In this assignment, your students are going to create “subtitles” to Marilyn Chin’s “Gruel” to enhance the poem by adding an auditory component to it. Then give your students time to work.

Step 6

When you are done, have your students share their responses with one another. If time permits, share the exemplar essay.

Lesson Details

Lesson Info


  • Imagery


  • Appreciation
  • Children / Youth
  • Class
  • Community / Culture
  • Family
  • Food / Hunger
  • History
  • Home / Homelessness
  • Immigration
  • International
  • Joy
  • Race / Ethnicity / Racism

Literary Tags

  • Diction
  • Figurative Language
  • Imagery
  • Selection of Detail
  • Structure (Syntax)
  • Tone

Content Warning

  • Racism or Racial Slurs