Chinatown Resource Guide

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The Insistent Chorus: Voices of San Francisco's Chinatown

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This lesson relates to the following topics from the California History-Social Science Framework for grade four:

Gold Rush, Statehood and the Westward Movement


    By learning about the contributions and hardships of the Chinese who came to America, students will appreciate their role in California's development and see the roots of anti-Asian sentiment today.


    1 CLASS PERIOD - discussion, preview questions, watch 1/2 of program
    1 CLASS PERIOD - review,preview questions, complete program
    1 CLASS PERIOD - choral reading, choose culminating project


    immigrant - a person who comes to a country for the purpose of establishing permanent residence.

    citizenship - entitlement to the rights and privileges as a member of a community.

    segregation - the separation or isolation of a race, sex, class, or ethnic group.


1. DAY 1 Introduce the class to the program by reading the following quote from CHINATOWN:

" Heard one by one, their voices may seem small, quiet. But multiplied many times over, generation after generation, you start to hear an insistent chorus. It says "We want to be here...we want to improve the lives of our children...we want to dream American dreams."

Have the class discuss the meaning of this quote. What examples can they find from their daily lives among their friends, family and community that might represent a collective strength? Write a brief paragraph about these examples.

2. Questions for students to think about as they view the program.

  • What types of occupations did Chinese people have in America?
  • How did other people feel about the Chinese in America?
  • What are some of the obstacles that Chinese people had to overcome?

3. Viewing. Pause the program at the part just before the earthquake section. Have students brainstorm while discussing the questions in cooperative groups, record their thoughts on large chart paper and present their findings to the class.

4. DAY 2 Review some of the occupations and challenges from Day 1. Use these preview questions for Day 2:

  • -Did the occupations of the Chinese change after the earthquake?
  • -How did Chinese people respond to discrimination?
  • -Do you think that Chinese people still face discrimination today?

View the second half of the program. Have students meet in cooperative groups again to discuss the questions.

5. DAY 3 Class choral reading. Ask one student to read the quotation from the program again. At the end of the reading, have two students join the first student to reread the quote above. Next, have it repeated and reread by four students, then eight students, then sixteen students, and finally, by the entire class, ending with emphasis on "WE WANT TO BE HERE." Students should discuss how important small individual efforts are to developing strong group efforts.


Students could individually design a 2" x 4" cartoon box depicting a historical scene from the program. Have them stop and pause the video footage to freeze-frame images for their cartoon square. Students can then organize all of their cartoons in a comic page format for a school display.

Using the charts created by the cooperative groups, have students pick out any ten phrases and write a poem about their thoughts and reactions to the program. Illustrate the poem and share it with classmates. Mount the poems on tagboard to create an accordion book to share with other classes.

As a homework assignment, have students interview their parents about their heritage. Did they immigrate to this country? How did they feel as newcomers to America? Each student can give an oral presentation or make a poster of their family's journey.

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