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Produced by David Marcano, Walter Reed Middle School, 2000

This unit is intended for my 8th grade U.S. History class. It will be a thematic unit on immigration. It will utilize concepts learned at the ISOP seminar to study immigration to the U.S. The class will be composed of newcomers with limited English skills. The unit is to be multi-modal in nature and will focus on the visual and oral domains of instruction. The overall complexity and the depth of the unit will be dependent upon the literacy skills that the kids bring along with them. Hence, the unit will be designed for LEP students at the intermediate level. My only regret in designing this unit is that I cannot use all of the resources provided, this being due to the requirements of my curriculum. However, I hope to use the plethora of materials later when I move to the senior high level.


  • Students will be able to identify multiple reasons for migration and immigration.
  • Students will be able to define key waves of immigration to the U.S.
  • Students will be able to be able to explain the importance of immigration and migration to the development of this country.
  • Students will be able to explain the economic and political consequences of immigration.
  • Students will be able to describe the global impact of immigration, not simply in the U.S. but also in places like the E.U.

Lesson Plan #1 - Introduction

Goal: This lesson will introduce the topic of immigration. We'll brainstorm first. Then we'll explore immigration.

Brainstorming Activity:

Purpose: Students will create a visual timeline of the different waves of immigration to the U.S.

  1. Students will label the time line with the names of the major immigration waves.
  2. Students will then draw two boxes under each migration wave.
  3. In the first box students will draw an icon that is representative of the group migrating to the U.S.
  4. In the second box the students will come up with a slogan for why the group came to the U.S.
  5. Under the last box students will attach a post-it briefly describing the wave of immigration: The origin of the people, the reasons they moved, and the reception they received in the U.S.

Brainstorming question: "Why do people move from one country to another?"

Purpose: Students make a list of reasons why people move from one country to another

Vocabulary List: Need to define the following words: Asylum, refugee, emigration, migration, and immigration. We'll review the definitions in class.

Mini-Lecture: Main reasons for world Migration - Historical and current. We use Europe as the model for today. For this section I'll compose my notes from Phil Martin's materials.

Student Collage: In groups, the students will create collages of immigration. They will illustrate all the vocabulary words and label all the images. In addition, they will go on the internet and find more images of immigration.

Writing Activity: Students will write a letter to a friend telling them why they and their family moved to the U.S. They will tell their friend why they left and what they expected to find in the U.S. They will tell their friend how their country of origin is different from the U.S.

Current Event Homework: Students will read an excerpt from Philip Martin's "Migration News" and answer some simple questions that we'll review at the next class session. The intention of the homework is to look at current migration in the E.U. and compare it to U.S. migration.

Lesson Plan #2 - U.S. Migrations

Focus Activity: Show a clip from the movie "Far & Away". Show the scene where they land at Boston Harbor. Afterwards, discuss how the people's expectations were different from the reality when they first encountered the U.S. In addition, see if the kids could describe the nationalities of some of the people waiting at the dock.

Mini-Lecture: European Immigration in the 19th Century.

Reasons for immigration: Economic, political, and social.
Northern European waves - Irish and British.
Southeastern European waves - Italy and the Balkans.
Eastern European waves - Slavic countries.

Venn Diagram:

Purpose: Using the lecture notes and their books, the kids will compare and contrast the waves of European immigrants to find similarities and differences. Then afterwards we will discuss their findings.

Timeline activity

Listening Comprehension Activity: Excerpt from The Jungle

Purpose: In this module of the lesson I would like to introduce the kids to an influential novel of the period, The Jungle. The Jungle is about an immigrant family from Eastern Europe that settles in the U.S.

  1. The teacher will select a section relating to the life of the immigrant family.
  2. The teacher will pass out a comprehension worksheet to students. The students will answer the questions on the worksheet as the teacher reads the selection.
  3. The teacher and students will review the question on the comprehension sheet.
  4. The teacher will initiate a classroom discussion about the excerpt. The teacher will ask students to describe the living conditions of the people and the trials that they had to undergo to survive in their new country.

Homework: Students will have to interview a recent immigrant to the U.S. It cannot be someone from their family. They will then write a simple paragraph at home describing the reasons why that person immigrated to the US and how life here is different from their native country.

Lesson Plan #3 - The Economics of Migration

Focus Activity: Students make a list of 5 rich and 5 poor countries. We will then discuss why some countries are rich and others poor.

Vocabulary: The teacher defines simple economic concepts such as capital, labor, welfare, GDP, and unemployment. The teacher uses visual and examples to make the words meaningful for the students.

Kinesthetic activity:

The Setting: Groups of student volunteers will be spread around the classroom in clusters. Each group will be given a stats card. The cards will tell them what the minimum wage is in their country, the value of the monthly welfare benefits, the unemployment rate, and the GDP level for their imaginary country. In between each group will be student desks that block movement. The desks will represent borders. Before the students are allowed to move, they will share out loud what their stats are. Then they will tell us what is impeding their movement.

Round One: Desks are moved to allow free flow of movement. Students are then allowed to freely move from one country to another.

Debrief Round One: Kids are asked why they moved. Kids who moved are asked why they moved. The kids who stayed in their countries are asked what will happen to their countries when others move there. The ones who moved are asked what would entice them to stay in their country of origin even if they were allowed free movement to other countries.

Round Two: Kids from poorer countries are given augmented stats cards that make it harder to leave their home country. For example, they may not speak the other countries language, their religion maybe different from the receiving country, most of their family may not move with them, etc... After being given the augmented cards, then kids are allowed to move again.

Debrief Round Two: Kids are now questioned about why they moved. Those who moved the first time, but not the second, are asked why they didn't move. They are then asked what would have to change for them to move the second time, like they did the first time.

Cooperative Activity: Student groups are given a set of the European maps. The first map has the names and statistics for each country. The statistics include the GDP, population, unemployment rate, welfare benefits, and wage rates. The students will study the maps and answer the following questions:

  1. If you were a company where would you build your next factory? Why?
  2. If you were a single worker, which country would you move to?
  3. Which countries do you think are going to lose people? Why?
  4. Which countries are going to gain people? Why?
  5. What's the main reason you would think people might move in Europe?
  6. What kinds of things might make it harder for people to move from one country of Europe to another?

Discussion: Now that the students have engaged in two activities allowing capital and labor mobility, the students will be asked to list the consequences of unrestricted immigration on rich countries and poor countries. Then we will discuss them as a class.

Lesson Plan #4 - Politics of Immigration

Focus Question: Why would some people want to stop immigration?

Mini-Lecture: Politics of Immigration. In this lecture, kids are given background information on current and historical reactions to immigrants. Here I present the idea of quota restrictions. I'll also introduce legislative initiatives against immigrants like The Chinese Exclusion Act and Operation Wetback. I might bring up Proposition 187 to see if the kids are aware of its existence and impact. We'll also see how Europe is reacting to immigrants. I'll mine Phil Martin's material for data.

Reading Activity: The teacher will select a few political excerpts from Phil Martin's Migration News for the kids to read in class. They will be excerpts that the teacher will paraphrase in simpler language for the students to comprehend. The students will then be require to read the excerpts out loud in round robin fashion and answer a set of comprehension questions. We'll then review the questions.

Open Mind Activity: For the uninitiated, an open mind is an outline of a human head from the portrait perspective. There are no features to the open mind. It is simply a blank head with nothing inside. In this component the kids will create 2 open minds. One open mind will mimic the mind of a politician who favors immigration. The second open mind will imitate the mind of a politician who opposes letting new immigrants into his country. In each open mind the student will write and draw thoughts, feelings, and images for the person they are representing. The purpose of the open mind is to role play. The purpose of the double open mind is to role play two differing points of view and contrast them.

Homework: Write a brief summary for the position of the pro-immigrant politician and the anti-immigrant politician.

Optional Activity: After doing their open minds and writing their summaries, the teacher may want the kids to come back the next day and debate immigration. Students would draw out of a hat and then defend the position of the person they pulled out of the hat, i.e. pro- or anti-immigrant.

Lesson #5 - Contributions of Immigrants

Focus: List 5 reasons why we need immigrants. List 5 reasons why we may not want immigrants. In your opinion, who has the stronger argument?

Discussion: How have immigrants been a positive influence? Describe some famous immigrants and their contributions.

Lecture: Immigrant Contributions: The teacher will highlight the contributions of ordinary immigrants to their new country. He will also show case a few extraordinary immigrants such as Albert Einstein and others.

Writing Activity: I am Poem. Students will again place themselves in the shoes of an immigrant and write a poem about that person's experience using a poetic formula called the "I am Poem".

Research Activity: Using the internet, the library, and CD's, students will write a short biographical description of a famous immigrant. The teacher and the students will prepare a list of such people. They will describe the person’s country of origin, the year of immigration, the reasons, if possible, and the accomplishments of that person. They will also explain how that person was valuable to their new country.

Debrief - End of Unit Questions:

  • Why do people move from one country to another?
  • List the major waves of immigration to this country. Explain the major reasons for each wave of immigration.
  • Why do we need immigrants?
  • Why might some people resist immigrants?
  • What kinds of contributions have immigrants made to the U.S. or the world?

Evaluation/ Assessment: The assessment strategy is quite straightforward. It will be tiered. For students where language is the main obstacle, their grade will be based on the activities for all the above lesson. Rubrics will be developed for each of the activities to give more objectivity to the grading process. For LEP students that have higher levels of language literacy, their final grade for this unit will be based upon a combination of all the lesson activities as well as a test given at the end of the unit.

Center for European and Eurasian Studies