Chinatown Resource Guide

Teaching Tools

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Building a Community: San Francisco's Chinatown

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

Linking Past to Present

young Chinese girl sitting at a school desk GOAL

Students will understand the value of community in the support and development of its members' lives.


1 CLASS PERIOD - discussion and video
1 CLASS PERIOD - project outline
1 CLASS PERIOD - poster presentation



    community - a group of people with common interests living in a particular area.


1. Give students a brief amount of time to write a list of words or phrases describing a community. Have each share his/her list with one other student.

2. Before screening the video, instruct students to add to their list of Chinatown community traits as they are discussed. (Stopping the video after a community characteristic has been mentioned is a useful technique to reinforce learning.)

3. After viewing the video, have each student again meet with another classmate to discuss their lists.

  • What were community characteristics of Chinatown?
  • Were there certain life experiences that drew the residents of Chinatown together?
  • Ask each group to share a community characteristic with the class.

4. Have students look at their lists and circle the items they feel are characteristics of their own community.

  • How would they define their community (friends, family, heritage, neighborhood, common goals, interests)?

5. After selecting specific attributes, students design and create a poster visually representing their community.


Have students interview a community hero. Why is this person a hero in their lives, or the community? Have students prepare speeches honoring these heroes.

Using the list that has been developed while viewing CHINATOWN as a foundation, write a series of letters home from a Chinese person expressing his/her frustration with laws and discriminatory treatment. Because the writer did not want to worry his/her family in China, she/he actually did not send these letters but tied them up and put them away in a trunk. An archaeologist discovers this dust-covered bundle 100 years later (1996). What do these letters say

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