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Lesson Plans K-12

Created by Chris DiSalvi

Immigration Lesson Plan

Grade, Subject, Date to be Taught: 6th Grade U.S. History

Lesson Title: Introduction to Immigration.

Rationale: This lesson will help students understand the hopes, fears, and realities immigrants faced when entering the country. In spite of the common dreams of opportunity and wealth many American immigrants shared, many people encountered enormous obstacles such as new cultural practices and low-paying jobs prevented them from achieving their dreams quickly. Students can relate to the theme of immigration in three ways. First, 6th grade students are typically making the adjustment from elementary school to middle school and thus are dealing with a new school culture, meeting new students, and doing more demanding coursework. Second, at one point or another, almost all families in the United States have had ancestors that have emigrated from another country. Consequently, students in this unit will be able to analyze their family history and help them understand how their personal identity has been shaped by immigration. Finally, by having students understand the difficulties immigrants face while also recognizing that everyone at sometime becomes the “new kid,” students will treat people they consider strange with more respect.

Essential Question: Why do people of different countries come to the United States?

Primary Question/Objective: What were the thoughts, feelings, and values of American immigrants before they entered the country?

Primary Concepts: Immigration, freedom, poverty, dreams, reality, risk-taking, free-will, and initiation

Primary Generalizations: Immigrants came to America filled with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, immigrants come hoping that this new country will provide a better life for themselves, their family, and their future generations. However, upon entering the country, the immigrants had to leave behind a land and culture with which they were familiar and adjust to a new lifestyle in the U.S. Similarly, when students change schools, especially from elementary school to middle school, they experience some similar problems. By realizing that at some point all students are going to be “immigrants” to a new place or experience, students will realize that they should treat all new people with respect.

Learner Outcomes: ESWBAT (Every student will be able to) Every student will participate in a think tank to describe his/her own personal experience of moving from elementary school to a middle school to understand the concept of immigration. After doing this, each student will create a T-chart demonstrating how he/she believes middle school is similar or different from what they thought it would be. Next, every student will work in small groups to observe a photo of a Slovak immigrant family and hypothesize about the family’s feelings after arriving at Ellis Island, New Jersey. Finally, students will create a Venn diagram that represents how being “the new kid” is both different and similar to being an immigrant.

Materials: Computer, computer projector, marker, markerboard, and “Mother and Son” photograph

Developmental Sequence:

Announcements: (optional)

For the Board:

Today’s Lesson: Are immigrants “the new kid” in school?

1. Introduction: Elementary school to middle school

2. Analyze immigrant family photo.

3. Why do immigrants come to the United States?

4. Why do students switch schools?

5. Homework: Journal entry

            Anticipatory Set:  The students will describe first day at the new middle school. Each student will share his/her memories with the class. Next, the students will share what their expectations of middle school were before the first day. Finally, the students will decide which expectations were accurate and which were different after they adjusted to the new school and create a T-chart with these differences. This section should take about 10 minutes.

After that, students will look at photo of a Slovak woman and her children in traditional dress coming off the boat in Ellis Island. The students will work in groups of three, and hypothesize what the family is thinking. The students should be ready to make accurate hypotheses after reflecting on their immigration from elementary school to middle school. Additionally, each student in the group will have a specific task. First, the recorder will write down all answers that the group creates. Second, the spokesperson will share the ideas the group has with the rest of the class. Finally, the coach will encourage good answers within the group. This section should take about 10 minutes.

            Body of Lesson:  In the same small groups, students will brainstorm why students come to the United States. However, each person in the group will have a new job title. Once again, there will be one person recording the thoughts of the group. After about 5 minutes, the spokesperson will share at least one of the ideas from his/her group and the teacher will write it on the board. If the teacher feels that something significant is missing, he or she will guide to any missing answers. Students should be sharing their thoughts for about 5 minutes.

            Then, students will go back to their small groups and brainstorm how children become the “new kid” at a school. Like before, each person in the group will get a new job title. After about 5 minutes of brainstorming and recording ideas, the speaker of the group will share at least one idea with the class and the teacher will write it on the board. Like before, if the teacher feels something important is missing, he or she can guide the students to the answer. Ideally, it would take the class at least 5 minutes to allow each group to share one idea.

            Closure:  For the last 10 minutes of class, the teacher will draw a Venn diagram on the board with one circle signifying why children become the “new kid” a school and the other circle signifying why immigrants come to the United States. At the end of the lesson, students should realize that many of the reasons students switch schools are also the same reasons why immigrants come to the United States. That is to say, often, circumstances beyond the control of students and immigrants force them to leave the environment in which they are most accustomed. Students will turn in the Venn Diagrams and T-charts and the teacher will check them after class to make sure the students participated.

            Homework:  The students will write in their social studies journals their reaction to the transition to middle school. The students will write three sentences for each of the following questions: “What were my expectations coming into middle school?” and “How have I adjusted to middle school life?” After that, the students will write 5 sentences relating to the question, “How is my change from elementary school to middle school similar to the change immigrants faced when arriving in the United States. Examples could include: “Like immigrants, I get lost sometimes going to class because I am in a foreign area that I don’t know as well.” Or, “Similar to an immigrants’ experience, I have enjoyed meeting new people.” Due to the subjective nature of this assignment, this assignment’s grade will be based on completion. The responses will be used in a “Think-Pair-Share” to begin class the following day. I expect the assignment will take about 30 minutes.


            Formative: Students will have to complete the homework assignment that will get them to think about how they have become immigrants. By thinking within this context they will be prepared to understand the difficulties their families’ ancestors faced when reaching the United States.

            Summative:  Students will be assigned to groups of 5 to create a skit relating to the experience of immigrants coming to the country. The students will be assigned into groups with each group having roughly the same skill level. For example, if there are 5 gifted students in the class, they can work together on this one assignment in order for them to be inspired by one another to create something greater than they otherwise would have. Conversely, if there are about 5 lower-end students in the class, they can work together so they can have confidence knowing that they can create excellent products and do not need to depend on other students helping them.

            Each student will have worked together to create a skit that should last about 10 minutes long. In the skit, students should mention why they are coming to America, the challenges they are encountering, and how they are overcoming those challenges. Additionally, students will be graded on creating equal speaking parts and contributing equal amounts of dialogue to the skit. Finally, students will be graded on how much effort they put towards creating this skit.

            Finally, the teacher should ensure that each presentation does not disrespect anyone in the class. Given the fact that this is a presentation is based on an idea that could cause negative reactions to students, the teacher should read each skit numerous times to make sure they are free of stereotypes and that they do not make anyone feel uncomfortable.

Accommodations/Modifications: If a teacher does not feel comfortable having a student with learning disabilities in writing to be the Recorder, he or she will intervene and appoint another student as the recorder. If a student has a learning disability or is an ELL student and is the Speaker, the teacher will give a subtle hint that he or she is going to call on the student. One way to do this is by standing in front of the student before calling on him or her. Additionally, the teacher must be willing to give any additional time needed to allow these types of students enough time to think about what the delivery of what they are about to say.


Alland, Alexander. Mother and Child. n.d. University of Minnesota Immigration and History

Research Center, Minneapolis, MN.

Relevant MN and NCSS (optional) Standards:

NCSS Standard IV: Individual Development and Identity

MN Standard: Standard I: U.S. History Sub-Strand G: Reshaping the Nation and the Emergence of Modern America 1877-1916.