Friendship Across Boundaries: Return to Sender

In the novel Return to Sender, students explore the complexity of immigration and stereotypes, and interpret how authors highlight different characters' perspectives.

Unit Summary

In this unit, students begin to explore the complexity of immigration and immigrant rights by reading the core text Return to Sender. Through the eyes of two children, Return to Sender highlights the challenges of life for Mexican laborers in Vermont and the way in which stereotypes about undocumented workers are formed. Through the eyes of Tyler, the farm owner’s son, students witness the internal struggle surrounding what makes something right or wrong, particularly in regard to if the family should hire undocumented workers even though without them the beloved family farm would need to be sold. They also see how the stereotypes Tyler believes about Mexican workers are broken down through his relationships with the Cruz family. Through the eyes of Mari, the daughter of an undocumented worker, students witness the daily challenges and barriers undocumented workers face in the fight for a better life and future. As Tyler and Mari develop a friendship, readers are pushed to think critically about the arguments on both sides of the debate surrounding Mexican and other laborers in Vermont, and the way in which friendships across lines of difference can help dismantle stereotypes.

It is important to note that the scope of this unit is intentionally narrow. Immigration, particularly undocumented immigration, is an incredibly complex issue. This unit serves as an entry point. It is our hope that this unit begins to humanize a controversial topic and inspires students to question things beyond their own world and fight for their own view of what is right. To build a deeper understanding of the nuances and history of migrant workers in the United States, we recommend that this unit is paired with the social studies unit on Cesar Chavez and the migrant workers’ fight for justice and equity. 

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials

Supporting Materials

Assessment

These assessments accompany this unit to help gauge student understanding of key unit content and skills. Additional progress monitoring suggestions are included throughout the unit.

Unit Prep

Essential Questions

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  • How do people develop stereotypical ideas? How can stereotypes lead to prejudice and discrimination? 
  • How can friendships and learning across lines of difference help build empathy and stop the spread of stereotypes? 
  • What is life like for undocumented Mexican laborers and their families? 

Vocabulary

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Text-based

adolescence agitated apprehended ballistic civilized contradiction commending confiscate console consoling contradictory courteous culpable democracy diversity ecstatic enlightened escorted esteemed exasperate generalization hysterically immoral insistent la migra oversimplify petition prejudice preoccupying resigned sentiments stereotypes stigma tension testimony trespassing unanimously unburden undisclosed upstanding vigilant wholeheartedly

Root/Affix

-ous -sion -tion en- pre- un-

To see all the vocabulary for this course, view our 5th Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

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Lesson Map

6Essential Task

  • Return to Sender pp. 39 – 57

    RL.5.3

Explain what the events of the chapter suggest about Tyler. 

18

  • Return to Sender pp. 227 – 246

    RL.5.2

    RL.5.3

Summarize the key events from Mari’s letter.

21

  • Return to Sender pp. 281 – 296

    RL.5.2

    RL.5.3

Analyze if Mari is a brave and noble young lady.

28

Assessment

Common Core Standards

Core Standards

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L.5.1

L.5.1.a

L.5.1.e

L.5.2

L.5.2.b

RI.5.1

RL.5.2

RL.5.3

RL.5.6

SL.5.1

SL.5.2

SL.5.3

SL.5.4

SL.5.5

W.5.1

W.5.1.a

W.5.1.b

W.5.1.c

W.5.1.d

W.5.3

W.5.9.a

Supporting Standards

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L.5.4

L.5.4.b

L.5.5

L.5.6

RF.5.3

RF.5.4

RL.5.1

RL.5.10

RL.5.4

W.5.10

W.5.4

W.5.5

W.5.6