Lesson Plans

A Lost Generation: Learning About Family Migration from Indigenous Villages in Guatemala

An empty desk where Baldemar Lucas García Alonzo once sat sits against the wall at the primary school in Bulej, Guatemala. Baldemar left with his father the previous week for the U.S. Image by  Simone Dalmasso / The Arizona Daily Star. Guatemala, 2019.

An empty desk where Baldemar Lucas García Alonzo once sat sits against the wall at the primary school in Bulej, Guatemala. Baldemar left with his father the previous week for the U.S. Image by  Simone Dalmasso/The Arizona Daily Star. Guatemala, 2019. 

Printable PDFs of this Lesson:


Students will be able to evaluate audio and print reporting on the long-term causes and effects of family migration from rural Guatemala in order to research or write about the history and implications of migration to the U.S.


1. Discuss the following questions as a class:

  • How many of your classmates have moved homes, and why? How many have stayed in the same home their whole lives? Why?
  • Do you want to live in another place when you grow up? If yes, where? If not, why?
  • Imagine if half of the students in your class right now were absent. What would be different in your daily activities?
  • What is a generation? Do you think that you have more in common with your peers than your teachers because of your age? Why or why not?
  • What do you think makes a good story, whether fiction or nonfiction?

2. Today’s lesson looks at news stories from The Arizona Daily Star about immigration from Guatemala to the U.S., and how communities left behind are affected. To contextualize the resource, discuss the following questions as a class:

  • What are some stories or facts you’ve heard about immigration to the US recently? Do you remember the names of any people or places involved?
  • Where is Guatemala? Place it on a map. What do you know about Guatemala?
  • What are some of the ways that someone could travel from there to the United States, and how long would each of these take? What are some of the risks of taking this journey?
  • The news stories you will explore look at the effects of migration on the community that migrants leave. The stories are part of a project called “A Lost Generation.” Based on the title, what do you think some of these effects might be?

3. Before looking at the news stories, look up and discuss the following terms, which will be used in the reporting: debt, family migration, Indigenous people, individual migration. As a class, create working definitions for each of the terms above.

Introducing the Resources:

“A Lost Generation” is a reporting project by Perla Trevizo, a Mexican-American journalist who has spent more than a decade covering immigration stories from about a dozen countries. In this project, she examines the causes and effects of immigration to the United States by Indigenous communities in Guatemala. 40 percent of immigrants arriving at the U.S. southern border are from Guatemala, many of them Indigenous. In this lesson, students will learn about how debt and tougher border enforcement in the U.S. are both contributing to migration, and what the effects are on the community left behind.

Exploring the Resources:

1. Listen to the story “Surge in Family Migration Leaving Void in Rural Guatemalan Schools, Communities” by Perla Trevizo for the Arizona Daily Star and answer the comprehension questions in this graphic organizer. You can refer back to the text transcript, available below, as you listen. Share your answers as a class after listening.

2. Read this excerpt from another article by Perla Trevizo from the same project, called “Passports to the American Dream: Mounting Debt, Few Opportunities Keep Guatemalans Coming.” As you read, respond to the comprehension questions in the graphic organizer

Discussion Questions: Content

Individually, write down your answers to the following questions. Be prepared to share your answers with the class.

  1. Why do you think this project is called “A Lost Generation”?
  2. What are some of the reasons that people are leaving Guatemala? Why are more people leaving with their children?
  3. Think of the ways in which money comes up in this piece, and consider the following:
  • What are some of the effects of poverty or insufficient funding on daily life in these villages?
  • Can you separate these into short-term effects (ways that Guatemalans are affected right away) and long-term effects (ways that Guatemalans are impacted over many years)?
  • How can these effects impact an individual? What about a family or community? What about a generation?
  • In your own words, describe how debt fuels migration. Provide an example from the text.

Discussion Questions: Structure

As a class, consider the way that the information you heard in the first article and read in the second article was presented to you. Discuss the following questions in small groups.

  1. What parts of the story most interested you, and why?
  2. What characters does the journalist introduce us to to tell this story? Do you identify with any of them? Why or why not?
  3. What moments of audio stand out to you? How does the reporter use sound to set the scene?
  4. How does the journalist balance between sharing the voices of the people she interviews, and translating their words into English? 
  5. What was different about listening to an article versus reading it? Was there one that you preferred?
  6. Why do you think reporters publish several articles on the subject, and sometimes feature the same people? What is the advantage of publishing these in different formats?
  7. If you were interested in reading more articles about immigration, how would you seek them out? What kinds of stories would you look for?

Extension Activities:

1.  Expository Writing:

1. Write down your daily schedule and compare it to Candelaria’s. 

2. Use your schedule and details from Trevizo’s reporting on Candelaria to discuss the following with a partner:

  • What is one activity that you think every child should have the right to do every day, and why?
  • What does a child need to have access to this activity?

3. Write a persuasive essay describing the activity, why it is important, what children need to have access to the activity, and why every child should have the right to do it. Use details from the reporting as part of your argument.

2. Research and Design a Timeline:

1. Research: Use details from the article to research and design a timeline of U.S. immigration across the U.S. Mexico border that includes key events you think are important. There are many ways to do this. Different timelines tell different stories and emphasize different factors. Here are some questions to prompt the way you shape your project:

  • Trevizo discusses how legal decisions made in the U.S. affect families’ personal decisions to immigrate. What policy changes have influenced migration to the U.S.? Research key policies and legal decisions.
  • Trevizo’s reporting describes how a decades-long civil war in Guatemala led to increased migration by Guatemalans to the U.S. How has conflict from other parts of the world led to increased immigration to the U.S.? Look up the Guatemalan civil war, and conflicts in other countries, to create a timeline of events that may have led to increased migration to the U.S.
  • The journalist describes the death of Felipe Gómez Alonzo, a Guatemalan boy who died while in the custody of U.S. border patrol. How common is it for people to die while crossing the border, and why? Conduct research into the number of recorded deaths of people who try to migrate to the U.S.

2. Presentation: Give a short presentation of your timeline to the rest of the class. Compare your timeline with your classmates’, and decide if you want to add or remove anything from the timeline you have built.

3. Discussion and Written Reflection:

As a class, choose another piece of reporting on immigration that interests you from the following three:

1. Watch the documentary in the reporting you have chosen, and discuss the following as a class:

  • How does watching a documentary compare to the experience of listening to the reporting, or reading it as an article?
  • Which of these do you prefer?
  • Who is a human subject that stands out to you from this piece of reporting? How does the reporter structure to story to make us care about subjects and their stories?

2. Individually, write a short reflection comparing the situations of people in Guatemala and in the other region you have chosen. Consider the following as you write:

  • How do these people view their home country?
  • What are the long- and short-term pressures that are incentivizing them to leave?
  • Why are some people choosing to stay?
Educator Notes: 

This lesson can be done in two parts or one. Teachers can choose to teach each resource on a different day, and use comprehension questions on content for the first day and comprehension questions on structure for the second. For lower grades, teachers may find it more appropriate to only use the audio article, "Surge in Family Migration Leaving Void in Rural Guatemalan Schools, Communities."

Common Core Standards:


Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.


Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.


Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in diverse formats and media (e.g., visually, quantitatively, as well as in words) in order to address a question or solve a problem.

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