Grade 4: Through An Artist’s Eyes – Jacob Lawrence’s THE MIGRATION SERIES


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Reading Informational Text

RI.4.2 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.

RI.4.3 Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.

Speaking and Listening

SL.4.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience in an organized manner, using appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details to support main ideas or themes; speak clearly at an understandable pace.


This Grade 4 mini-unit “Through An Artist’s Eyes – Jacob Lawrence’s THE MIGRATION SERIES” developed by Rachel Cates, Conservatory Lab Charter School for is designed as a workshop of 10 one-hour sessions. While it is intended to launch a three-month interdisciplinary curriculum unit on the Great Migration, it can also stand alone.  Through unit activities, students explore why people move and how the arts can help people understand history and themselves by: examining a series of paintings by Jacob Lawrence on this topic; using primary sources, photographs, poetry, quotes, maps; listening to blues music. The focus throughout the unit is to have students raise questions about migration while building background knowledge. As a culminating activity, students work in small groups to create and ultimately perform a migration story through a narration, a skit, or a tableau. Students then read a short text to examine the reasons that motivated the artist to tell the story of the Great Migration in his art. Students end the unit with a short quiz consisting of multiple choice and open response questions.


Connecticut teachers are cautioned that the unit materials will require familiarity to be used effectively; significant teacher preparation is required for some instructional activities. It is not clear if students who are ELL, have disabilities, or read well below the grade level are provided with the necessary scaffolding to meet the targeted standards.  Although many of the resources and materials that are needed to implement the unit are included, some texts are not and will need to be secured, and the short multiple choice quiz will need to be created. While there is a rubric for the student presentations, there is no aligned rubric to provide sufficient guidance for interpreting the degree to which each student can independently demonstrate the targeted grade-level standards that are listed above.


This unit is a good example of how to provide opportunities for students to build knowledge about a topic or subject through analysis of a coherent selection of strategically sequenced, discipline-specific texts. The lessons make reading text(s) closely, examining textual evidence, and discerning deep meaning a central focus of instruction. The unit activities cultivate student interest and engagement in reading and speaking about texts. The use of technology and media deepen learning and draw attention to evidence and texts as appropriate. This unit could be used in either ELA or Social Studies; the unit topic aligns with the Connecticut Elementary and Secondary Social Studies C3 Frameworks for Grade 4.