Discover the history of immigration in America and take an interactive tour of Ellis Island with this interactive unit. Hear the stories of recent immigrants, explore the interactive historical timeline of immigration, and delve into data about immigration patterns over the last 200 years.
- Use web technology to access immigration history
- Develop an understanding of the concept of immigration
- Develop oral history writing skills, including note-taking and coming up with questions
- Read for detail
- Use real-world examples as models for writing an oral history
- Compare and contrast immigration stories of the past with the present
- Compare and contrast immigration through Ellis Island and Angel Island
- Use technology to explore a historical place and event
- Use graphs and facts to respond to several research-based questions and activities
- Whiteboard and markers
- Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today online activity
- Interactive whiteboard, tablets or computers for student use, or a computer and projector to display the online activity
- KWL Chart printable or Concept Map printable
- Explore Immigration Data online activity
- Graph paper or graphing program
- Explore Immigration Data: Data-Based Questions and Group Projects printable
- Writing paper
- Immigration: An Oral History Writing Workshop online activity or Research Papers: A Writing Workshop online activity
- Optional: "Relive a Boy's Journey to America" article
- Optional: Angel Island: An Asian Pacific American Heritage online activity
- Large map of the world
- Yarn in multiple colors
- Push pins
- Optional: Double-sided tape or another way to temporarily attach photos to the map display
Hall of Fame and Music From Around the World and Social Studies
- Reference materials from the library or online sources
- Depending on the grade level and maturity level of each class, activities can be facilitated as independent work, collaborative group work, or whole-class instruction.
- If a computer is available for each student, guide students to the activities either through printed URLs on handouts or on the board.
- If you are working in a lab, set up the computers to be on the desired websites as students walk into class. If there are fewer computers than students, group the students by reading level. Assign each student a role: a "driver" who navigates the web, a timer who keeps the group on task, and a note taker. If there are more than three students per computer, you can add roles like a team leader, a team reporter, etc.
- If you are working in a learning station in your classroom, break out your class into different groups. Have rotating groups work on the computer(s), read printed background information, hold smaller group discussions, write first drafts of their scrapbook, etc.
- Optional: If you want students to read Seymour Rechtzeit or Li Keng Wong's immigration stories, print class set of the "Relive a Boy's Journey to America" article or the Angel Island: An Asian Pacific American Heritage Activity.
- Optional: You may also want to create a special display for your classroom library in honor of immigration. Check out the Immigration for Grades 6–12 Book List for suggested print materials. Be sure to keep a shelf available for students' oral history scrapbooks or research papers!
Activity 1: Immigration Introduction (1–2 days)
Step 1: Introduce the topic of immigration to the United States through a class discussion. Use the Discussion Starters below for ideas. Ask students to volunteer any information they may already know about U.S immigration, both in the past and the present. Encourage students to share family stories. Write repeating themes on the board for students to copy down.
- What is the definition of immigration?
- What are some reasons people immigrate?
- Why is America a popular destination for immigrants?
- What are the differences between immigrate, emigrate, and migrate?
- What are some of the obstacles that an immigrant faced in the past?
- What are some of the obstacles that an immigrant faces today?
- Who were some famous immigrants that made important contributions to America?
- What are some controversial issues surrounding immigration today?
- What is an undocumented immigrant?
- What is the process of becoming a legal immigrant?
- What may happen if you are an undocumented immigrant living in the United States?
- How many immigrants does the United States allow each year?
- What is the estimated population of undocumented immigrants moving to the United States each year?
- What does it mean to be "Americanized"?
- What is the meaning of assimilation?
- What are some creative ways Americans can assist newly arrived immigrants?
- What are the pros and cons of assimilation?
- What are the pros and cons of Americanization?
Step 2: Have students explore the Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today online activity, either as a class on the interactive whiteboard or individually on computers or tablets. Hand out copies of the KWL Chart printable or the Concept Map printable for students to fill out as they explore the activity.
Optional: You can also assign Seymour Rechtzeit and Li Keng Wong's stories for home or class reading.
Activity 2: Explore Immigration Data (1–2 days)
Step 1: Review the Explore Immigration Data online activity as a class. Look over the various charts and tables with students. Ask volunteers to describe the kind of information each chart is showing. Have them support findings with examples from each chart.
Step 2: Ask students to compare two graphs or charts that give the same information. How are they similar and different? Have students state the advantages and disadvantages to using each one.
Step 3: Invite students to create a graph or chart showing the class's immigrant history. Then have students investigate and discuss the following questions, among others, about the immigrant history of your area:
- Was your area primarily settled by people from one country?
- Why would immigrants have chosen your region in America?
Step 4: Have groups of students respond to five questions relating to the immigration data on the Explore Immigration Data: Data-Based Questions and Group Projects printable.
Step 5: When groups have finished answering the questions, challenge them to write questions to pose to other groups. Have students explore the immigration timeline for ideas of how they might write interesting questions that relate to world events.
Use this activity to visually identify connections students have to other countries in the world. Display a large map of the world. Have students draw self-portraits or bring in photos of themselves. Place the pictures around the border of the map. Have each student stretch a piece of yarn from his or her picture to a country or region where his or her ancestors lived, and secure it with push pins. You may want to color code the yarn by country, continent, or world region. Take time to discuss the finished map.
Hall of Fame
Invite the class to create a Hall of Fame of immigrants who have made important contributions in the United States. For their Hall of Fame submission, each student should provide a photograph or other likeness of the person, identify his birthplace and when he came to America, and explain in a paragraph his accomplishments.
Music From Around the World
Work with students to investigate examples of music and literature from other lands that have influenced American writing and music.
Have students investigate words, foods, sports, and fashion that have their origins in other countries.
Immigration Written Reflection
Students will reflect upon and answer the following questions. Convey to students that they are to be thinking about the Immigration online activity's overarching concepts and ideas.
- What are some reasons that people have immigrated to the United States?
- What can we learn about American attitudes toward immigrants from the experiences of immigrants themselves?
- See the Discussion Starters above for a list of interesting questions to use for the written reflection.
Oral History and Research Paper Writing
Have students complete either the Immigration: An Oral History Writing Workshop or the Research Papers: A Writing Workshop. When students are finished, encourage students to read one another's writing projects.
Students can also present their learning to their peers with a PowerPoint presentation, a poster board, or an oral report for the class.
Use a writing rubric as a way to assess your students' writing skills. Each of the online writing workshops has its own writing rubric: Oral History Scrapbook Project Writing Rubric and Research Paper Writing Rubric. These rubrics can also serve as models for modified versions that might include your state's writing standards.