Lesson Plans

Women on the Move: Analyzing Text and Photography from Eight Migration Stories

Sajeda Bahadurmia, 32, embraces the eldest of her six children, Asma, 16, on a beach near Sydney. Sajeda is wrapped in a white scarf her mother gave her as a safety charm before their gruel- ing three-month jour- ney six years before. As Rohingya Muslims, they fled persecution in Myanmar. But the haven they found in Australia is an uncer- tain one because they don’t yet have perma- nent residency. Image by Mridula Amin. Australia, 2020. 

“Women on the Move” documents the life-changing and often perilous journeys of eight female migrants through photography and print journalism. Led by journalist and National Geographic contributing writer Aurora Almendral and photographers from The Everyday Projects, this project examines different reasons that women migrate, the challenges they face along the way, and the difficulties and hopes they experience when they arrive in a new place.

For additional lessons and resources connected to “Women on the Move” from National Geographic, click here

Lesson Objectives: 

By the end of this lesson, students will be able to...

  1. Analyze print and visual journalism that captures the migration journeys of eight different women. 
  2. Evaluate why people migrate, the challenges they face as they migrate, and the ways their lives change as they settle in new countries.
  3. Evaluate how gender plays a role in the decision to migrate and the experience of migration.
  4. Evaluate ways that photojournalism from The Everyday Projects highlights underreported stories about migration.
  5. Evaluate ways that photojournalists from The Everyday Projects compose and share underreported stories about migration.

Warm up:

  1. Brainstorm and list: What images, words, and phrases come to mind when you think of the word “migrant”?
  2. Use the following questions to identify more images, words, and phrases for your list: 
    • What stories have you heard about the experiences of people who are migrating? 
    • Where have you heard the term “migrant” in the news, or in other classes? Suggestion: Where have you heard the term “migrant?” In the news? Other classes?
    • What places come to mind when you think of the term “migrant,” and why?
  3. On your own, or as a class, use the list above to write a definition for the term “migrant.” 
  4. Compare your definition with the following definition from the United Nations, an international organization made up of 193 member countries that aims to maintain international peace and security: “The UN Migration Agency (IOM) defines a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a State away from his/her habitual place of residence, regardless of (1) the person’s legal status; (2) whether the movement is voluntary or involuntary; (3) what the causes for the movement are; or (4) what the length of the stay is.”
  5. Reflect and discuss:
    • What are voluntary reasons that a person might migrate to another city or country?
    • What are involuntary reasons that a person might migrate to another city or country?
    • What challenges might a person who is migrating face, and why? 
    • How might the experience of a woman who is migrating differ from that of a man who is migrating?

Exploring Photojournalism:

This lesson will explore the project “Women on the Move” from National Geographic, which shares the true stories of women from eight countries who have migrated over the past several years to different parts of the world. The stories are told by journalists through writing and photography as part of eight articles.

Journalists who use photography to communicate true stories are called photojournalists, and the eight women photojournalists who supported this story are part of The Everyday Projects. According to the article’s introduction, “The Everyday Projects network uses photography to challenge stereotypes and amplify storytelling worldwide.” To learn more about The Everyday Projects, click here.

Before reading the stories, use the following steps to evaluate the  images from the articles, which can be found here:

  1. Closely observe each image and notice what you see. Take notes on details you notice in each image. After studying the images, make the following predictions:
    • Where are the women in these stories migrating from, and why?
    • Where are they migrating to, and why?
    • How do you think they feel about leaving their homes?
    • How do you think they feel about their new homes?
  2. Notice which images you were most drawn to, and why. Notice what you like about the way the image was composed.
  3. In the opening quote from the project, journalist Aurora Almendral writes, “Out of fear, hope, or desperation, millions of women around the world migrate each year in search of new lives." Discuss the following:
    • Where do you see evidence of fear, hope, and desperation in these images?
    • Why might women be more likely to migrate?
  4. Notice the captions: Photojournalists use both images and captions to help communicate stories. The captions are the short texts found close to the image that provide more detail about what is happening in the image. 
    • Review the captions for each image and answer the following questions:
    • What new information is the caption giving the reader about the person in the image?
    • How has the caption changed your understanding of the photograph?
    • Facilitation note: Rather than having students review every image in the document, students can review one photograph independently or in small groups. They can then share their responses to the two questions about the image they reviewed with the class. 
    1. Does the image you are most drawn to change after you read the caption? 
  5. Return to the list of words, phrases, and images from the warm up, and reflect on how this list compares to what you observed in the images. Consider the following:
    • How accurately does the list represent what you saw in the images?
    • What words, phrases, and images could you add to the list to more accurately reflect what you saw in the images? 

Explore Articles from the Project “Women on the Move:”

  1. Explore the project introduction, “Hope and Resilience”: Together in class, or independently, have students read the project introduction, and respond to the following questions:
    • Of people migrating worldwide, what fraction are women?
    • According to the author, what are some of the reasons that women are migrating?
    • According to the International Organization for Migration, how many people were living outside the country they were born in 2019?
    • According to the International Organization for Migration, where do 60 percent of migrants live?
    • What does the author describe as the “feminization of migration”?
    • What are some of the challenges faced by women as they migrate? 
  2. Explore the eight articles from the project: Read the eight articles that make up “Women on the Move,” and use the accompanying comprehension questions to note details from each article. 
    1. Click here to review all eight articles from the project.
    2. Each reading guide below also includes key vocabulary for the article, comprehension questions, and extension questions that students can use to deepen their analysis of the story.
    3. Note to teachers: If students are unable to read all of the articles below due to time constraints, assign articles to different students and ask students to prepare to present what they learned from their assigned article(s) to the class. 


Reading Guide


Analyzing the Articles

  1. In the closing paragraph of the introduction to “Women on the Move,” journalist Aurora Almendral writes that each of the stories in the project highlights the following five parts of the migration experience:
    • The decision to leave.
    • The hope and hardship of the journey.
    • The arrival in unfamiliar circumstances.
    • The adjustment to a new life.
    • The realization that however demanding or traumatic it is to uproot oneself from home, migration can be a path to freedom.
  2. Evaluate what these five facets of a migration experience look like in the lives of the eight women whose stories were highlighted in the project using this graphic organizer
  3. Use details from the graphic organizer to engage in a discussion that compares and contrasts how each of these facets of migration looked for the eight women highlighted in the project.

Discussion Questions:

Use details from the story, and your own reflections and experiences, to respond to the following questions. These questions can be explored as part of whole-class discussions, small-group discussions, or individual reflections.

Connecting to the Content:

  1. Which story is sticking with you the most, and why?
  2. What details from the stories most surprised you? What new information do you learn about the causes and effects of migration from these stories?
  3. According to the reporting, what are some barriers to migration? Consider legal barriers, social barriers, gender-based barriers, and financial barriers. Dig a little deeper into these barriers—why do these obstacles exist at all?  What attitudes or beliefs about migrants fuel these barriers?
  4. Reflect on the barriers faced by the women profiled in “Women on the Move,” and the challenges they present. What are some potential solutions for these challenges? What actions, policies, and attitudes would need to change to make these solutions possible?
  5. What do you think the countries highlighted in this story will look like in the next 10-15 years? How will the migration trends highlighted in this story impact those countries?

Connecting to the Structure:

  1. Which images were most sticking with you, and why? How do the images in "Women on the Move" contribute to the story? 
  2. How do images uniquely communicate stories? How does text uniquely communicate stories?
  3. What do you think was the impact of presenting these eight stories together?
  4. Why do you think this project explored the experiences of millions of women through the individual stories of eight women? 
  5. What information and perspectives do you think are missing from the story? What might they add?

Extension Activities: 

  1. Write a research paper inspired by “Women on the Move.” Choose one of two topics:
    • Migration in your community—Conduct research about migration to your neighborhood, city, or state. Answer the following questions:
      • What percentage of people living in your neighborhood have immigrated from a different country?
      • Where have they migrated from? 
      • Why have they left their countries? 
      • What do their lives look like in your community? 
      • What percentage of the migrated population are women?
    • The impact of migration on global communities — Conduct research on one of the countries highlighted in the project. Explore the following questions in your paper:
      • What are the migration trends in this country?
      • What are the gender dynamics in this country?
      • How is migration affecting men, women, and people who identify with other gender identities in this country?
      • How are children affected by migration? 
      • Based on the migration trends that you researched, make a prediction about the future of this community. What does this community look like in 10 years? How might the gender roles in these communities change? 
  2. Classroom presentation: In “New Choices,” Farheen talks about how K-pop helped her embrace new ideas and experiences and see herself in a different way. Describe a book, movie, music, idea, or experience that changed your mind about yourself or the world around you. Share your story in class.
  3. Fighting Words poem: Write a poem of any form and length that includes lines from the story. Submit your poem to our Spring Fighting Words Contest, which will launch in March 2021. Click here to view poems from last year's winners. 
  4. Mapping migraion journeys: Choose one of the subjects from the project and map her journey using details from the story. Use mapping graphics, photographs, and quotes from the project to communicate the experience. Take time to highlight the central events, challenges, and moments of hope throughout the trek. 
  5. Craft a Comparison Essay: 
    • Find an outside text or source to compare or contrast with the themes or experiences highlighted in this project. You can use short stories, novels, poems, Pulitzer Center articles, podcasts, plays, films, or TV shows that capture the experience of migration. 
    • You can choose to focus on the five facets of the relocation experience mentioned in the project, or other themes such as financial security and/or challenges, violence, religious oppression, educational freedom, gender equality, transgender experiences, etc. You can also choose to compare two narratives from similar regions or countries.
Educator Notes: 

This lesson plan is written to align with the following Common Core Standards:


Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.


Analyze how and why individuals, events, or ideas develop and interact over the course of a text.

Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

This lesson is written to be student-facing. Notes within the lesson plan also outline how sections can be broken up for work in small groups. The lesson also outlines discussion and brainstorming exercises that students could do independently. For support facilitating this lesson plan, contact education@pulitzercenter.org.



Lesson Builder Survey