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immigration: activity ideas

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  1. Tracking Immigration Trends

    Grade Level: 3-5
    Subject: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts

    In this activity students will gather statistics from the last two out of three periods of immigration and compare results.

    There were three waves of migration to the United States. Because the first period happened a long time ago, between 1600-1800, the exact number of actual immigrants is difficult to determine. Estimates range as high as 5 million people. The second wave of migration occurred in 1820-1920, and the most recent wave began in 1960 and is still present today.

    Ask your students to research immigration trends during the 20th century. Ask them to find out how many people came to the United States in the two eras or allow them to create any other table or graph proving some numerical aspect of immigration to the United States. For example, they might want to find the number of European immigrants vs. Asian immigrants, or how many women vs. men migrated. Find out what interests the students then let them create their own summary of statistics about that immigration-related topic. They might create graphs by hand first then transfer their information onto charts or tables created on a computer. Make sure the graphs/charts your students create demonstrate trends in immigration. Ask them to explain the statistics based on the political, social or economic situation of the time.

    Conclude with the students sharing the results to the class.

    Online Resources

    NewsHour Online: Immigration Reform:
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june04/immigration_reform_02-04.html

    The City/La Cuidad:
    http://www.pbs.org/itvs/thecity

    Immigration Statistics By State:
    http://www.gcir.org/about_immigration/usmap.htm

    Office of Immigration Statistics:
    http://www.dhs.gov/ximgtn/statistics/

    U.S. Census Bureau:
    http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/immigration.html

    Print Resources

    Bound For America: The Story of the European Immigrants by Milton Meltzer
    Immigrants by Martin Sandler
    Coming to America: The Story of Immigration by Betsy Maestro and Susannah Ryan

    More Recommended Resources


  2. To Leave or Not to Leave

    Grade Level: 3-5
    Subject: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; The Arts

    What motivates someone to make the momentous decision to leave their country permanently and come to the United States?

    Provide the students with resources such as Bound For America by Milton Meltzer or Immigrants by Martin W. Sandler.

    Give them time to look over these materials, which will perhaps open the door to more learning and encourage further inquiry.

    In this lesson, tell students to visualize living in another country and then ask them to discuss and share reasons as to why they would immigrate to America. (Reasons will most likely include jobs, harsh political rule, religious reasons, or education.) After sharing possible reasons, have them work in pairs and further research real stories of immigrants. Re-group again and let the pairs give a mini-presentation, incorporating drama and role-playing. Have them act out a situation they researched making sure they include the reasons as to why these people left their country. Allow them to create props using the information they gathered.

    Online Resources

    In Our Own Voices, Stories of Immigration:
    http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0212700/final_website/sitemap.html?tqskip1=1

    The Immigrant Experience:
    http://www.ellisisland.org/Immexp/index.asp

    The New Americans:
    http://www.pbs.org/newamericans

    Print Resources

    Bound For America: The Story of the European Immigrants by Milton Meltzer
    Immigrants by Martin Sandler
    Maggie's Doorby Patricia Reilly Giff
    The Color of Home by by Mary Hoffman and Karin Littlewood

    More Recommended Resources


  3. Where in the World?

    Grade Levels: 3-5
    Subjects: Reading & Language Arts; Social Studies; Math

    In this activity, students will find out where in the world immigrants originated from by playing a game using a question and answer format like the quiz show "Jeopardy."

    Ask the children where they think immigrants originate from. Ask them for the names of the countries. Independently, let them find factual information on different cultural groups that immigrated to America. Narrow the list down to the four groups. Perhaps, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, and China.

    Next, have them write at least one question and answer on a strip of paper. The answer should always be a group of people (Italian, Irish, Mexican, and East Asian). For example, a child may come up with this question: Which group of people immigrated to America in the mid 1800's to escape famine? Answer: The Irish.

    After the students are finished writing a couple questions apiece, divide them into teams, read their questions and keep score to see which team wins.

    Online Resources

    In the Mix: Teen Immigrants:
    http://www.pbs.org/inthemix/shows/show_teen_immigrants3.html

    The New Americans:
    http://www.pbs.org/newamericans

    The Immigrant Experience:
    http://www.ellisisland.org/Immexp/index.asp

    World Almanac For Kids:
    http://www.worldalmanacforkids.com/explore/population5.html

    Close Up Foundation: Immigration:
    http://www.closeup.org/immigrat.htm

    Print Resources

    Going Home, Coming Home by Troung Tran and An Phong

    More Recommended Resources


  4. Once Upon Arrival

    Grade Level: 3-5
    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts; The Arts; Science & Technology

    Oral histories provide a rich collection of immigrant voices and experiences. There are so many stories and memoirs written by immigrants available. Introduce this lesson by reading a selection of from a immigrant's memoir. Give the students a couple days to find stories on their own and more time to create a presentation. In addition, allow time to research and re-write their stories in class. Emphasize the use of cue cards to help with remembering their facts. Let the students choose which form of media they would like to use to present their stories. Options may include a video presentation, a tape recording, or a presentation that includes a timeline and photos.

    Make sure they include why the immigrant decided to leave their country, how this person got to his/her final destination, what happened to the immigrant once he/she arrived, problems they encountered and emotions they expressed.

    You may want to invite any students in the class who are recent immigrants to offer their own perspectives and experiences to the class. The students can also serve food from the country their case study originated from. Discuss all the presentations with the class and encourage them to ask eachother questions.

    Online Resources

    The New Americans:
    http://www.pbs.org/newamericans

    Becoming American: The Chinese Experience:
    http://www.pbs.org/becomingamerican/index.html

    In the Mix: Teen Immigrants:
    http://www.pbs.org/inthemix/shows/show_teen_immigrants3.html

    Taxi Dreams: Meet the Cabbies:
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/taxidreams/meet/index.html

    Coming To America in Search of the American Dream: Immigrant Voices:
    http://library.thinkquest.org/CR0212700/final_website/Euro_interviews.html

    The Immigrant Experience as Seen Through the Eyes of NYC Youth:
    http://www.tenement.org/immigrantexperience/lalutta.htm

    Ellis Island: The Immigrant Experience:
    http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/Immexp/index.asp

    Print Resources

    Going Home, Coming Home by Troung Tran and An Phong

    More Recommended Resources


  5. The Other Side Of Immigration...or Two Sides To Every Story

    Grade Level: 3-5; 6-8
    Subjects: Social Studies; Reading & Language Arts

    In this activity, students will understand that countries also need to plan for the arrival of immigrants and that there is more than one solution to any issue.

    Using the the United States as an example, describe a couple scenarios that may happen if a country doesn't prepare itself to take in an increasing number of immigrants.

    Ask the students to think about some of the following challenges the country may face in welcoming newcomers to this country. Where are the immigrants going to live? What if the immigrants don't speak English, how will they learn and who will teach them? What can the government do to help new immigrants adjust to life here?

    Aside from economic considerations, ask students how we can address the intolerance some people have toward newcomers to this country. Remind students that the United States is a nation of immigrants and the many contributions immigrants make.

    Divide the children into groups and distribute chart paper. First, have all the groups work on the exact same problem. Maker sure they write down the challenge the country faces and then have them record as many solutions as they can. Designate one person to be the spokesperson for each group and share their solutions with the class. This exercise will help the children see that there can be more than one solution to a problem.

    After this same challenge is discussed with all the children, an extension may include letting the children pick another challenge a country may face due to increased numbers of immigrants. This time all the groups are working on various challenges, not the same one. Regroup and share information as a whole class.

    Online Resources

    The New Americans:
    http://www.pbs.org/newamericans

    NewsHour Online: Immigration Reform:
    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/business/jan-june04/immigration_reform_02-04.html

    Center for Immigration Studies:
    http://www.cis.org

    More Recommended Resources


  6. Hall of Fame

    Grade Level: 6-8; 9-12
    Subjects: Reading & Language Arts; Social Studies; The Arts

    Introduce your students to the wealth of contributions new Americans make to the United States by asking them to choose a famous immigrant to research. Using encyclopedias, library books, magazines and biography based Internet sites, students will get answers that will explain who the immigrant is and what contributions he or she has made to the United States. (You may ask students to focus on notable immigrants that live locally so they can use local archives and historical societies for their research.)

    Each student should write a report using information gathered from his or her research. The report should consist of three parts: an opening, the body of the paper, and a summary or closing. The opening should contain one to two paragraphs about why they have chosen this person for their report. In this section, students could address the following questions:

    • How was he/she treated after upon arrival to the US? How did his/her ideas about the US change after coming here?
    • What barriers did this person overcome?
    • What role did education play, or not, in his or her life? Did this person's education and/or profession change his or her socioeconomic status or class? How did this person's ethnicity, race and gender affect this person's ambition?
    • Have you or someone you know been affected by this person's accomplishments? If so, how?
    • What did you want to learn about this person and/or the contributions he/she made that might shed light on the topic of immigration?

    Have the students create a memorial to their chosen subject by making a class quilt as a group project. This can be easily done by cutting out equal sized pieces of poster board, hole punching them, and sewing them together with yarn. Each individual must decide how they want their person to be memorialized, by creating a symbolic portrayal of the person, his or her name, the contribution they made and a caption that signifies the importance of the contribution.

    Online Resources

    Library of Congress:
    http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/immig/immigration_set1.html

    Digital History: Ethnic America:
    http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/historyonline/ethnic_am.cfm

    National Immigration Forum:
    http://www.immigrationforum.org

    Ellis Island: The Immigrant Experience:
    http://www.ellisislandrecords.org/Immexp/index.asp

    American Immigration Law Foundation: Celebrity Immigrants:
    http://www.ailf.org/notable/famous.htm

    Print Resources

    Anna May Wong: From Laundryman's Daughter to Hollywood Legend by Graham Russell Gao Hodges

    More Recommended Resources


  7. Projecting Trends

    Grade Level: 9-12
    Subjects: Math; Social Studies

    Provide students with a printout of the charts found at the U.S. Census Bureau's Web site. The chart is called "Region and Country or Area of Birth of the Foreign-Born Population: 1960 to 1990" and details how the foreign-born population of the United States has grown over a thirty-year period and what their country of origin was.

    Have students review the data and make sure they understand the general trends the numbers indicate. Ask a few questions such as:

    • In 1980, where (continent and country) did the greatest number of immigrants come from?
    • what percentage did the total number of immigrants increase from 1960 to 1990?

    Ask students to then choose a continent and create data based on the numbers in the chart. Ask them to calculate the percentage change from decade to decade on the number of immigrants from that part of the world. Based on the statistics and the trend lines, ask them to make an informed guess as to what percentage of foreign-born residents came from that continent in 2000. (The answer can be found at http://www.census.gov/prod/2003pubs/c2kbr-34.pdf The Nation's Foreign Born Population: 2000) They can present their projections on a chart or graph.

    For those continents/countries that produce a high number of immigrants, ask students to research why those places are ahead of all others in the number of immigrants. What geographic, cultural and political conditions play a role in how many people choose to leave and come to the United States? What U.S. immigration policies affect the number of immigrants from a specific region?

    Online Resources

    The First Measured Century:
    http://www.pbs.org/fmc/timeline/eimmigration.htm

    Office of Immigration Statistics:
    http://www.dhs.gov/ximgtn/statistics/

    U.S. Census Bureau:
    http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/immigration.html

    U.S. Census Bureau: Foreign Born Population:
    http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/foreign.html

    Immigration Statistics By State:
    http://www.gcir.org/about_immigration/usmap.htm

    Print Resources

    Coming to America (Second Edition) : A History of Immigration and Ethnicity in American Life by Roger Daniels

    More Recommended Resources

Published: March 2004