Grades 6–8

These lessons can be taught over a 2-week period, but each activity can be taught in 1–2 class periods.

Lesson Introduction:
The focus for students in this age group is on researching the effects of immigration on American history and culture.

Activity 1: Immigration introduction 1–2 days
Introduce the topic of immigration to the United States through a class discussion (See Discussion starters below). Ask students to volunteer any information they may already know about immigrants coming to the United States, both in the past and the present. Encourage students to share family stories. Write repeating themes on the board for students to copy in their notebooks.

Depending on the time available and the number of computers available, have students explore the Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today. Hand out the KWL graphic organizer (PDF) for students to fill out as they explore the activity. If computers are not available for all students, print and hand out copies of Seymour Rechtzeit and Li Keng Wong's stories for home or class reading. Encourage students to think about and even write thoughts about each "Think About it" or "Write About it" question they encounter in the stories.

Activity 2: Who Lives in America? 1–2 days
Explore Who Lives in America? 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.

  • Ask students to compare two graphic organizers that give the same information. How are they similar and different?
  • Have students state the advantages and disadvantages to using each one.
Divide the class into groups to take part in the Make Your Own Immigration Graph activity. Read aloud the page with students before assigning the activity. Then assign a different graphic for each group: pie chart, table, bar graph, line chart, two-column chart, and so on. Following directions in the activity, invite students to create a graphic organizer 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?
Learning About Immigration Patterns
Have groups of students respond to the five questions addressing the information in the Immigrant table. Remind students that they should use reference materials, such as Web sites or the library to find answers to the questions. Refer students to the Immigration resources in background knowledge section of this teacher's guide.

When groups have finished answering the questions, challenge them to create an immigration time line using the Immigrant table and the information they have gathered.

First assign each group a decade from the table to research. Have students find worldwide events — taking place in the decade — which affected or caused immigration to the United States.

Then begin the whole-class time line. Schedule time for each group to contribute to the creation of the time line. Distribute butcher paper and colored marking pens. Share the time line checklist with students, and ask them to keep in mind this information as they create the graphic. Then have each group add their decade information to the appropriate area of the time line. Have the whole class assess the time line using the criteria from the checklist. Discuss a title and any changes that should be made. Ask: Is this time line a useful document of American immigration? Why or why not?

Time Line Checklist
Does the time line include:
  • clear and neat lines, writing, bullet points, etc?
  • information that is relevant to the questions?
  • extra historically important events that fill some of the time gaps?
  • correct grammar and spelling?

Activity 3: Research Starter: Immigration 4–6 days
Regroup as a class to discuss what students learned in exploring the activity and reading the stories. Have students reference their completed KWL Graphic Organizer (PDF). Are there more themes for the board? Are there more questions which students want to pursue?

Explain to students that they will be writing a research report on immigration to the United States and the contributions they have made to our culture and history. Using their KWL graphic organizers, the class should come up with a list of things they want to learn, and pose those "wants" as questions. Write the list of questions on the board and have students pick one of the questions to research.

Hand out the Organizer Patterns: Organizational Outline (PDF) for students to fill out as they research their activity. Direct students to start with the Immigration: Stories of Yesterday and Today but encourage them to focus on the Research Starter: Immigration, 1880–1914.

For information and tips on writing a research paper, see the Writing Workshop: Research Paper to record their findings and answer their research questions.

Allow students to use the Oral History activity as a source of information, if applicable. When students are finished with their research, they may publish their results in various ways. Here are some suggestions: write a research paper, a power-point presentation, a poster board, or an oral report for the class.

When the research reports are complete, students can present their work through an oral presentation to the rest of the class.

Extend the Lesson with these activities:

Cross Curricular Extensions

Classroom Geography
Use this activity to visually identify connections students have to other countries in the world. Display a large map of the world or create one using an overhead projector. 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. Guide students to search for biographies of the individuals using reference materials from the library or from online sources. For their Hall of Fame submission, each student should provide a photograph or other likeness of the person, identify birthplace and when he or she came to America, and explain in a paragraph his or her 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.

Social Studies
Have students investigate words, foods, sports, and fashion that have their origins in other countries.

Discussion starters:

• 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 illegal immigrant?
• What is the process of becoming a legal immigrant?
• What may happen if you are an illegal immigrant living in the United States?
• How many immigrants does the United States allow each year?
• What is the estimated population of illegal 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?

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