“Recently arrived refugees in the United States prepare to cook the most American of feasts… From the day of arrival, food is an integral part of adjustment to a new country.” By J. Moskin, The New York Times
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key
Excerpt: The First Thanksgiving By Julia Moskin, The New York Times
“Two years ago this month, Mayada Anjari was only dimly aware that a holiday was approaching. After the family’s three-year journey as refugees from Syria, her sons — Hayan, Mohammed and Abdulrazaq — had just started school here; her husband, Ahmad Abdulhamid, was looking for work; She had cooked for the church group that sponsored the family’s resettlement…A new friend who was also Muslim gave her a turkey from a local halal butcher for Thanksgiving. Ms. Anjari cut it into pieces, covered it with water, and simmered it into soup with potatoes, carrots, ginger and cumin. Her family liked it, she said, but it didn’t seem very special to her. So she decided to take a test run at making her first Thanksgiving feast.
The [Anjari ] family left their home city, Homs, on March 31, 2013, when the daily violence of the civil war had made their lives untenable. They walked across the Jordan border in darkness, were picked up by the Jordanian military… They registered as refugees with the United Nations, so the boys could attend school, but the adults couldn’t work legally. Food and money were always scarce.
Working with the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Department of State brings a certain number of refugees each year — most of them families with young children — to resettle in the United States. Only people displaced by violence or the threat of violence (like asylum seekers) can apply; the program is separate from other American immigration quotas and regulations…So far in 2018, about 22,000 people have been allowed in, and just 50 of them were Syrian. Despite the continuing civil war and refugee crisis, Syria is one of seven countries from which the Trump administration has forbidden people to enter the United States.
On the State Department’s list of things that sponsors must provide immediately is a ‘culturally appropriate’ meal for the family. Some sponsors interpret this in religious terms, and provide store-bought halal fried chicken or kosher pizza.
‘The culturally appropriate hot meal is simply the best federal regulation of all time,’ said Chris George, executive director of Integrated Refugees & Immigrants Services, a New Haven agency that has resettled more than 6,000 refugees in Connecticut since 1982.
For Congolese and Rwandan arrivals, volunteers have made chicken moambe, a braise with tomato, onion, peanut butter and rich red palm oil, a basic ingredient in those countries and for many, the taste of home. For an Eritrean mother and children, an Ethiopian family who had arrived earlier supplied a meal with injera, the soft, spongy flatbread that is a staple in both countries.
Fereshteh Ganjavi, who arrived from Afghanistan in 2013 and now works at Integrated Refugees, said the meal is particularly powerful for refugees who arrive after years of exile from their home country. Her welcome dinner included a traditional pulao of lamb and rice with raisins, and green tea spiced with saffron and cardamom, a brew specific to the mountainous Hindu Kush region that stretches across northern Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Dima King, who arrived in the United States last year, is seeking asylum because of the anti-gay persecution and legislation that have taken hold in his native Russia since 2013. He is cooking his first Thanksgiving dinner this year.
‘I understood it right away as a celebration of new Americans and Native Americans,’ he said. Holidays that celebrate a good harvest are universal, he said, but Thanksgiving also honors the practice of treating strangers with generosity, charity and humanity. ‘Of course, that is a holiday I want to cook for.’
Mr. King is a graduate of Emma’s Torch, a nonprofit restaurant in Red Hook, Brooklyn, that offers professional culinary training to resettled refugees; he is soon to start a job as a line cook at Temple Court, a chic restaurant in the financial district.”
ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post
NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.
Level: Intermediate – Advanced
Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.
Time: Approximately 2 hours.
Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.
Objective: Students will read and discuss the article with a focus on improving reading comprehension and improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.
I. Pre-Reading Activities
Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming
Directions: Place students in groups, and ask them to list what they already know about Thanksgiving in The United States.Since one refugee in this article speaks about the significance of the American Indians and Thanksgiving, you may wish to begin with this Wikipedia article for background information.
Thanksgiving in the United States-Wikipedia
Next, have students look at the pictures in this text and generate ideas or words that may be connected to the article. Regroup as a class and list these ideas on the board. Students can use a brainstorming chart for assistance.
II. While Reading Activities
Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.
- The civil war had made their lives untenable.
- They registered as refugees with the United Nations.
- From the day of arrival, food is an integral part of adjustment.
- Food and money were always scarce.
- Chris George is a passionate advocate for refugees.
- The program is separate from other American immigration quotas and regulations.
- The vetting process for resettlement takes about two years.
- Sponsors must immediately provide a culturally appropriate meal for the family.
- Some sponsors stocked the family’s new kitchen with key ingredients.
- Dima King, who arrived in the United States last year from Russia, is seeking asylum.
Directions: Review the following statements from the reading. If a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they mark it F and provide the correct answer.
- Two years ago this month, Mayada Anjari was only dimly aware that a holiday was approaching.
- Mayada Anjari’s family is from from Pakistan.
- The family left their home city, Homs in 2013.
- They registered as refugees with the U.S. Refugee Camp so the boys could attend school.
- The children could attend school and the adults could work legally.
- Working with the United Nations Refugee Agency, the Department of State brings a certain number of refugees each year.
- Sponsors must provide a ‘culturally appropriate’ meal for the family.
- Chris George is a refugee at Integrated Refugees & Immigrants Services, in New Haven.
- Fereshteh Ganjavi, who arrived from Afghanistan in 2013 and now works at Integrated Refugees.
- Dima King, who arrived in the United States last year, is seeking asylum because of the anti-gay persecution.
Grammar: Identifying English Articles
Directions: Have students choose the correct English articles (THE, A, AN) from those provided to fill in the blanks.
By last fall, ___boys (now 14, 12 and 10) had learned about the Pilgrims.
Ms. Anjari had memorized ___two-mile walk to ___nearest store.
She had cooked for ___church group.
Fans of Ms. Anjari’s food helped her publish ___cookbook of Syrian recipes.
___daily violence of ___civil war had made their lives untenable.
From the day of arrival, food is ___integral part of adjustment to ___ new country.
Mr. George is ___passionate advocate. ___Eritrean mother and children arrived earlier in the year.
III. Post Reading Activities
Directions: Have students use the WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.
Who or What is the article about?
Where does the action/event take place?
When does the action/event take place?
Why did the action/event occur?
How did the action/event occur?
Discussion for Comprehension /Writing
Directions: Place students in groups and have them discuss the following questions/statements. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the topics mentioned.
- Are any students celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time in America?
- Have students discuss the ways Thanksgiving is regarded in their countries.
- Students might list some memories they personally associate with Thanksgiving.
- Students could create drawings of their families, food, or other items connected to Thanksgiving.
- Ask students to make a list of things for which they are thankful.
Groups could research and write short presentations or essays on the following topics:
The Wampanoag Indians are the tribe that had first contact with the Pilgrims. Compare that time when they first met the Pilgrims in March 1621 to the problems the Tribe is now facing in November 2018.
Visit: Where is the “Thanks” For the Mashpee Wampanoags?
Discover why some Native American Indians view Thanksgiving as a Day of Mourning.
Thanksgiving: National Day of Mourning for Native Americans
One Minute Free Writing Exercise
Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading. Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.
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