Read Immigration Stories

Nothing makes a historical topic come alive like reading firsthand accounts. At scholastic.com/immigration, you’ll find the stories of a Polish boy who arrived in 1920 and a Chinese woman who arrived in 1933. Kids can follow these journeys from beginning to end, responding to prompts on the issues they raise. Students can also read about the experiences of three recent immigrants from Kenya, India, and Vietnam. Compare and contrast these stories to those found in books such as At Ellis Island by Louise Peacock and Denied, Detained, Deported by Ann Bausum.

For more stories, visit immigrantjourneys.com, myimmigrationstory.com, and weareamericastories.org.

Tour Ellis Island

From 1892 to 1954, Ellis Island served as a gateway for (mainly) European immigrants coming to the United States. The interactive tour of Ellis Island on Scholastic’s site allows students to trace the exact path a newcomer would have taken before he or she could call this country home. The tour features bonus audio and video elements of immigrants recalling what took place at each stop along the way, from the baggage room to the medical exam to entering the port of New York City. After students take the online tour, invite small groups to further research one of the “stops” at Ellis Island. Then present to families or another class at your school a live demonstration of what happened at Ellis Island.

For more on Ellis Island, visit ellisisland.org or nps.gov/elis (yes, it’s only one L!).

Do Immigration “Math”

Scholastic’s immigration site offers ready-made graphs showing the percentage of immigrants from different continents, the total number of immigrants by year, and the number of immigrants by country, along with questions that encourage students to analyze these graphs in light of historical trends and events. You’ll also find a lesson plan on how to make your own immigration graph. You might deepen the connection between math and history by inviting groups to develop word problems based on the statistics presented in the charts and graphs. Groups can then trade problems and attempt to solve them.

For more immigration statistics, visit census.gov/population/www/socdemo/immigration.html or dhs.gov/files/statistics/immigration.shtm.

Write Oral Histories

Invite students to interview an immigrant they know and publish his or her oral history online. In mini-lessons at scholastic.com/immigration, students can walk through the process step-by-step, from listening and note taking to drafting and revising—and even better, they can find hundreds of student-published oral histories on the site! If you’d rather embark on a group project, invite a community member who was an immigrant to come and speak to the class. Work together to prepare a list of questions to ask your special guest, and practice how to take notes when someone is speaking. After the visit, discuss which elements of the speaker’s story were the most surprising. Encourage students to write poems based on these surprising moments. Be sure to share the collected poems with your visitor!

To hear more oral histories (not all are connected to immigration), visit the StoryCorps project at storycorps.org.

Research and Deliver

Students can click on “Research Starters” on Scholastic’s site to access a list of topics and resources. The “Research Starters” link also contains a glossary to help kids understand some of the issues around immigration. Rather than having kids write traditional reports, why not have small groups choose one of the topics on the site and create a presentation for their classmates? Students might choose to make a video or slide show, stage a play,  or pretend to be historical figures that the rest of the class can interview about the topic at hand. Students’ hard work and creativity will make immigration come alive for everyone!

Other useful research portals include pbskids.org/bigapplehistory, brainpop.com, and ihrc.umn.edu.