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Winning Lesson Plan
And the Streets Are Paved With Gold: Immigration lesson


Subject: Language Arts, American History
Grade: K-8

Brief Description

Students explore the immigrant experience at Ellis Island, New York, at the turn of the century.


Students immerse themselves in the Ellis Island immigrant experience and gain historical perspective. Depending on the activities selected, students may also:

  • Develop oral history writing skills, including note-taking and conducting an interview.
  • Use real-world examples as models for writing an oral history.
  • Compare and contrast immigration stories of the past with the present.
  • Use graphs and facts to respond to several research-based questions and activities.


Ellis Island, immigration, immigrants

Materials Needed

  • pictures students have brought in of relatives
  • computer with Internet access, printer and scanner
  • immigrant pictures from Ellis Island (see source1, source 2 and source 3 for images)
  • method of projecting images for whole-class viewing
  • the DVD An American Tail
  • method of playing DVD for whole-class viewing
  • teacher Internet access to Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today - Teacher’s Guide
  • student Internet access to interactive activities associated with the above unit

Lesson Plan

  1. To whet the students' appetite for learning about the immigrant experience, have students bring in photos of relatives who emigrated from another country. Scan and copy the photos and use them to create a classroom bulletin board.
  2. Choose images from source1, source 2 and source 3 and project them for the whole class to see onto a screen, and discuss such questions as these:

    --What nationalities are represented?
    --How might the immigrants be feeling?
    --Why might they have left their homelands?
    --What might the immigrants' dreams for the future be?
  3. Show the first section of the animated movie An American Tail, in which Fievel's father explains his dream of going to America -- where there are no cats! Run the movie to the point at which the mice family arrives at Ellis Island.
  4. Use Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today - Teacher’s Guide to implement lessons and activities on immigration. This unit from Scholastic includes lesson plans across grade levels, printables and book suggestions.
  5. Have students explore the interactive activities associated with the above unit.

These include:

  • History of Immigration in America Interactive Timeline (grades 5–8): Teaches about important periods and dates in the history of immigration in the United States.
  • Ellis Island Interactive Tour (grades PreK–8): With captioned photographs, period video and audio files of oral histories, students tread the path that all immigrants at Ellis Island followed while entering America at the beginning of the last century.
  • Meet Young Immigrants (grades 3–8): Students meet Asya from Ukraine, Taylor from South Korea, Vandi from Sierra Leone, Sandana from India, and Gabriella from Mexico. Through video interviews and essays, the students share what it’s like being an immigrant today.
  • Who Lives in America? Explore Immigration Data (grades 3–8): Students create their own immigration charts and answer questions using chart information and research skills.
  • Relive a Boy's Journey (grades 3–8): Students meet Polish immigrant Seymour Rechtzeit, who came to the U.S. in 1920. This photo-illustrated oral history shares the challenges of young immigrants in the early 1900s, and how the talent of people like Rechtzeit has enriched American life and culture.
  • Ellis Island Facts and Worksheets (grades 3-8): These materials accompany a free webcast.    


Evaluate students’ participation in class discussion and online interactive activities. If applicable, assess the quality of student writing using a grade-appropriate rubric.

Lesson Plan Source

Brenda Dyck ([email protected]), Master's Academy and College, Calgary, Alberta, Canada


If you like this resource, then you’ll enjoy the lesson “Coming to America: Immigration” from ListenCurrent. 

Last updated 2/11/2015. 


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