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Immigration Unit Activities

Compiled By: Mrs. G

These are lessons that focus on immigration to the United States.

Immigration Unit
Posted by: Julie

Kay -

I do an immigration unit with my fourth graders and it's always a big hit w/ lots of learning! Here's the basics - if you want more info, just let me know!
We start with reasons for immigration, move to their family history, find out where roots are from, they become an immigrant from that country. Students receive "passports" that act as journals for their voyage. They discuss why they are leaving their country, what they are taking, do a little research on their country, too. Then they board the "ship" and have either first, second, or steerage tickets. We have situations arise on the ship that they respond to in the journals. We then hit Ellis Island (I have some videos, books that tell about the experience.) Then we create a "Mock Ellis Island" and they go through the health checks,etc. Students create immigration costumes to wear, etc.
Like I said, before this is just the basics, let me know if you want more detail!

Posted by: Laurie

I just finished a unit on Immigration. I used the book "Where Did Your Family Come from?" by Melvin and Gilda Berger. The book talks about immigration and then has four stories about boys and girls who have come to the U.S. for differnt reasons. I made a chart with the following headings: Name, Country they are from, What they came to the U.S., How they came to the U.S.(transportation), Hardships/problems they had, and Things they learned to do/overcome. The children loved it and then I had them pick one character and write a Journal entry as if they were that character.

Posted by: Linda

One activity my students like in 5th is that I tell them they are going to another country and give each one of them a large brown bag. I instruct them that they cannot bring anything with them that will not fit into the bag. They are to go home and decide what possessions they would like to take. I also discuss the weather for the trip, the time frame, etc. I then tape off a section of floor about 3 x 5 ft. and tell them that it is the section for them and their belongings. They may not put any of their stuff in the other squares. It gets quite confusing and noisy but they do realize that the immigrants had it rough on ships. This is just a quick overview and I am sure you can improve upon it.

I also have a majority of students in my class who have come here from another country and I have them discuss with their classmates why they came here, how, what they brought, etc.

Hope this helps.

I Was Dreaming to Come to America
Posted by: Rosemary

I created a unit when I was a student teacher in fifth grade. I used the book I Was Dreaming to Come to America which is the story of children who came through Ellis Island and was created as part of the Ellis Island oral history project. Then I had the kids interview their families about their own immigration history. Some of my students went on the Ellis Island website where you can look up the manifests from the ships that came through Ellis Island and actually found entries for their ancestors. Then I created a fake diary entry form on the computer, printed it out, burned the edges to make it look old and had the kids imagine they had traveled to the United States with the relatives who had immigrated to the US. They created a diary entry that answered these questions: What country are you leaving? Why are you leaving your homeland? Who are you travelling with on your journey? Who did you leave behind? What did you bring with you? What do you think your life will be like in America? I took a giant world map and put it up on the board and gave each child a length of string and a labeling tag and they traced the routes their relatives took to get to America and the date that they arrived. It was a really fun unit.

immigration idea
Posted by: tracethree

I am about to begin a unit on immigration and was considering have the students assemble scrapbooks. They could do this in groups or individually. They would make a scrapbook of an imaginary family that immigated to the US. The scrapbook could include photos, letter, journal entries, maps, travel tickets and other items (obviously they would make, draw or cut from magzines or the internet these items). I got this idea from the latest Houghton Mifflin SS series.

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Posted by: Carolina Girl

I have had students interview someone from another country asking questions such as: What is your home country? In what year did you come to the United States? What caused you to come here? What is the native language of your home country? What is your most favorite food from your country? What food(s) have you tried and come to enjoy in the States? How is the way you dress different than in America? What is one memory of your homeland that you treasure? Do you have anything you would like to say to students in my class about your experience since you came?

Along with the interview, students purchase a wooden long-handled spoon or get a free paint stick that they then dress up as someone from the country of the person who they interviewed.

These reports and dolls (much like Molly's Pilgrim) are then shared with the class.

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Theatrical Presentation
Posted by: SFteacher

How about having students research a relative who emigrated to America and on a designated day have them dress up as that relative and give a 2-3 minute presentation.

Also, in my class we do something called Heritage Dolls, it's a paper version of this idea. The students receive a blackline master of a doll (can fit on an 81/2 x 11 paper). They take this home and have mom/dad help them trace it on cardboard. They dress their doll to represent the country (i.e. Germany = liederhosen) and fill in a two page handout that we give. On the handout are questions

1. Which ancestor did you choose?

2. Discuss what they're wearing and tell more about this person.

It's simple but informative. Once the class presents they I post the dolls around a world map ($10 at the local teacher store) and it turns out to be a wonderful, visual presentation.

Hope that helps!


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Letter to their family
Posted by: Sandy

I play Neil Diamond's song "Coming to America" for the students and print out the lyrics so they can follow along. Then we discuss what the song is about and how the people must have felt leaving their homes and coming to a world of the unknown.

After my students have learned more about immigrating to America and what it was like, I wrap up my unit by having them write a letter to a "family member" that they left back in their home country. I have them describe the process that they went through upon arrival to America and what the voyage was like. Some of the students were so creative.

Hope this helps.


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immigration unit
Posted by: trexteach

I teach fifth graders. We do activities like the following:

A simulation of being an immigrant coming to Ellis Island right off the ship. Each student plays a role (ex. doctor at the bottom of the long set of stairs, doctor who checks the eyes, doctor who checks for lice, one of the hospital workers, immigrants from various countries, interpreters for different languages, guards, money exchanger, and the question station workers (I don't remember the exact job title!) who asks a variety of questions to each immigrant such as "Do you have any money? Do you have a job ready for you? Why have you come here? Where will you live?" etc. The students really "get into" this. Each is given a role card at the beginning of the simulation that gives them suggestions on how to act and what to do/say. They do a lot of ad-libbing (sp?) which is neat to watch.
Each of the immigrants wears a piece of black construction paper pinned to his/her shirt. The doctors place chalk marks on them if they find any defects such as back problems, eye problems, lameness, heart problems, etc. Some were sent to the hospital, some were sent back to their country depending on the severity of their illness. They moved around the room as if they were actually moving through stations at Ellis Island. This activity makes for some great photo ops.

We read and discuss info on Ellis Island from resources such as the Ellis Island issue from Kids Discover magazine.

In partners, the students research a country and create a large poster to represent that country and its immigrants. They present it to the class as a minilesson. They have to include such info as the country's name, what the immigrants are called, time period when they immigrated, reasons for emmigrating (leaving the country in which they lived), the country's flag, areas where they settled, and interesting info about the country.

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ideas for immigration
Posted by: trexteach

1) We intro our immigration unit by giving groups of 4 all the same craft-like materials: ex. glue sticks, popsicle sticks, plastic cups, index cards, staplers, tape, string, construction paper, foil, stickers, etc. Really, anything could be used as long as each group has the same size, shape, color, and number of objects.
The task:Each group is given about 20 min. to create a "creature". They may use any of the materials provided. The catch is, they are absolutely forbidden to speak to one another in words or writing. Gestures and facial expressions are okay, but no other communication.
The result: When time's up, each group is given time to display their version of a "creature" and explain the pros and cons of working in a group that couldn't communicate in words or written responses. The general consensus is that it was very frustrating and that they found it difficult to share how they thought part of the "creature" should be put together.
The purpose: This intros immigration because we tie in their frustrations to that of all the immigrants entering our country without the knowledge of the languages of the majority of people they encountered. The kids have so much fun with this.

2) I also do an immigration simulation where I set up the room like Ellis Island. Each student is given a role like: eye exam doctor, general doctor, hospital building nurse, security officer, ticket master, interrogator (Asks questions such as how much money do you have? Where will you live? Are you planning on overthrowing the gov't? Do you already have a job lined up? Can you read/write, etc.), immigrants from various countries, and interpreters who speak one or more languages. Each student is given a card that explains his/her role and their particular situation.
For instance:
*An immigrant may have to walk with a limp while walking up the main staircase. The examiner at the top of the stairs will consider the person lame, and not permit him/her into the country. Instead, he/she will have to go the hospital building until it is decided if he/she can remain in the country or be sent back.
*A doctor may be given a card that says he/she must only allow three immigrants to pass. Each immigrant will have a black piece of construction paper pinned to his/her back. The doctors will mark with chalk a code that indicates if the immigrant has any ailments such as back trouble, eye problems, mental illness, etc.
*An immigrant may have a card that says he/she cannot find any interpreters who speak his/her language. Therefore, that immigrant is to get very, very angry. Security has to be called, and the person is considered to have a mental illness. Of course, this gets the immigrant sent home.

The kids like this and it makes for some interesting photos. At the end the kids will reflect on their feelings during the experience. Some state how disappointed they were by not being permitted into the country; others will say how frustrating it was that they couldn't find anyone who spoke their language; others will end up saying how happy they were to make it through the whole process.

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