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June 3, 2016

Take a poll, debate the issue: Immigration

Where do students stand on immigration policy? In this lesson plan, have students take a poll before and after they debate the issue to see if their views change.


Social studies, history, government

Estimated Time

One to two 50-minute classes

Grade Level



As a warm-up, use this interactive Kahoot survey to allow students to share their preliminary views on immigration. The teacher should go here on his or her computer and select the “Player vs. Player” mode. Each student will require a smartphone, laptop or computer and should go to the Kahoot website and enter the Game PIN that will appear on the teacher’s screen. It is the teacher’s responsibility to click to the next question once each student has answered.

[If the teacher does not wish to allow students to use their devices to participate in the survey, ask the following questions: Is U.S. immigration law too strict, just right, or not strict enough? Should undocumented immigrants be granted amnesty? Should the U.S. implement tighter border security measures?]

Have students complete the following:

  1. Visit the PBS Election Central website’s interactive map and click on “Candidates & Issues” on the bottom right of the screen. Read the section entitled “Immigration” to become familiarized with both sides of the issue.
  2. View the three remaining candidates’ quotes on immigration by selecting their names in the “Immigration” section. Does the candidate you support share your views?
  3. Debate immigration with your classmates in a Socratic Seminar (group discussion focusing on thoughtful and respectful responses in which the teacher only interjects to facilitate the conversation) using the following questions:

Grades 7-9: Watch this PBS NewsHour video story entitled ‘The growing economic power of Latinos.’  How does immigration positively or negatively affect the U.S. economy? How do you think the growing economic force of the Latino community will affect immigration policy in the future?

Grades 10-12: Watch this PBS NewsHour video story entitled ‘Supreme Court weighs scope of presidential power in immigration case.’   Do you believe that President Obama had the constitutional power to defer deportations of undocumented immigrants? What factors motivate Texas to pursue legal challenges to President Obama’s action? How does the 4-4 split of the Supreme Court affect this issue?

All age groups: Write down 3-5 bullet points defending your position after the debate once you know where you stand. Then, take the Kahoot survey above again. Did your views change? Did overall class opinion change? If so, why? Discuss as a class.

Extension Activities:

Read this PBS Teacher’s Lounge piece about how a teacher uses the hit musical Hamilton to connect with students about race and xenophobia. Does the current political atmosphere contribute to the ability of Hamilton’s pro-immigration message to resonate with so many fans? If so, why? Discuss as a class.

Read this PBS NewsHour article on how Donald Trump plans to finance the controversial border wall. What effect would impounding remittance payments have on the Mexican economy? Discuss as a class.

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  • Standards

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    Relevant National Standards:
      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1.B Follow rules for collegial discussions, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.8.1.B Follow rules for collegial discussions and decision-making, track progress toward specific goals and deadlines, and define individual roles as needed.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.9-10.1.B Work with peers to set rules for collegial discussions and decision-making (e.g., informal consensus, taking votes on key issues, presentation of alternate views), clear goals and deadlines, and individual roles as needed.

      CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.11-12.1.B Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.

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