Does History Matter?



Students will understand key terms and ideas related to immigration

Students will be able to analyze the history and patterns of immigration to better understand our current divide in the United States immigration policies

Students will be able to analyze primary sources and articles to contextualize immigration throughout different points of U.S. History

Students will apply their knowledge to create a skit or two voice poem that depicts the various perspectives, both positive and negative, of immigration in the United States.

Throughout the modules students will be gathering research and ideas to create their own immigration policy that is backed by data, analysis, and fact.  

Introduction (About 45 minutes):

Have students arranged in groups of 4.

Accommodation: Provide each person at the table a role (quiet captain, gatekeeper (ensures everyone shares), fact checker, recorder).

Warm up (5 minutes)

Write your own definition(s) for immigrant and immigration. Draw picture representing each term as well.

Immigration and Immigrant Warm Up

Digital copy of warm up activity

PART A (20 minutes)  

As a class show students a series of images and ask how they all relate to the words immigration and immigrant.

Have student groups discuss at their tables after each image

Have students share at their table. Randomly select one person at each table to share out with the class (use a spinner and have students either numbered off 1-4 or lettered off A-D). 

PART B (15 minutes)

Jot Thoughts ~ 45 seconds

“What do you think of when you think of the history of immigration and immigrants.

(have question on screen in case students need to reference it again)

Jot Thoughts Instructions: Students will be given a pile of torn up small pieces of paper. They will write down one thing at a time and then put it in the middle. All students will be participating at the same time. Instruct students to try to not have repeating ideas. For example, if one student puts down Ellis Island then another student at that table should not put down Ellis Island. Remind students it is important to say the words of the items out loud as they put them in the middle.


Have tables share out their answers. If you want, use wordle or tagxedo to create a word cloud of their responses. Save word cloud and display throughout the unit.

Exit Ticket (5 minutes)

Using Flipgrid, think about the images we looked at and discussed in class today.

Which image impacted you the most? Why? Do you think images can influence a story? Why or why not?

Accommodation: If a student does not want to have their face recorded they could put a sticky note over the camera so it is just their voice. They could also write their response.


Looking for context and making predictions (around 60 minutes)

Warm up (5 minutes)

Study the timeline at your table.

In your notebooks, create a KWL chart in reference to the timeline

Accommodation:  Print out a KWL chart for students

(20 minutes) Using your prior knowledge and context clues, what predictions can you make about… (Each table has a different time period to analyze, envelope of pictures and primary sources to go with each time period)

Where people most likely immigrated from during the stated time periods?

Why people were immigrating to the United States?

How immigrants were treated coming into the country/how immigrants were able to gain citizenship?

Do you think everyone was welcome? Were some groups excluded?

Justify your responses

Time periods:

  • 1600s – 1775 (briefly discuss as class)
  • 1820s – 1870s
  • 1880s – 1920s
  • 1965 – Today
(30 minutes) After each table has analyzed their time period, have students jigsaw with the other tables. Find a fun way (closest birthday) to choose a representative from each table to move to the table “next door”. Students complete handout during jigsaw activity – students will need to rotate several times. Possible Kagan strategy, one stray?

Timeline Organizer

Exit ticket (5 minutes)

By comparing at least two of the time periods you learned about today,

how are immigration policies shaped by previous immigration policies and world events?

Possible accommodation(s):

Break up the timeline so each student gets a different time period at the table

Have students work in partners of 2 and then share with the other 2 at their group.

Direct Instruction (approximately 80 minutes)

(20 minutes) Create handout or Google Slides presentation of background information on history of immigration (organized using same time periods as handout for jigsaw activity)


Watch video (50 minutes)

First view (optional): Watch video without stopping. Have students take notes on ideas they feel are the most important.

Students should use the focused note taking strategy. They may take written notes or sketchnotes.


Second view (first view if teacher chooses to skip practicing note taking skills): Provide students with handout that accompanies video

Stop and discuss points (Chunking when to stop video):

First Stop of Video (Stop at 6:00)

  • 3:40: Do we still regularly honor our ancestors? Do we honor and celebrate all immigrants?


  • 5:30: Why did the “Great Wave” crease issues surrounding our perception of immigration? Compare that to immigration today.


  • 5:55: U.S. is a nation based on an idea – what is this idea? Has this idea changed over time? Explain your answer.



At table, discuss question for 3:40 mark. Have a student representative from each table share out.

Sticky notes: Each students get 2 sticky notes. There will be images blown up and posted around the room showing the “Great Wave” and one that says –

“The U.S. is a nation based on an idea, what is that idea.”?

Students will use their sticky notes to reflect on what they see in the image and to come up with what the idea of America is. Have at least 3 images of each up to avoid the area becoming over crowded.

Second stop of video (Stop at 12:00 mark)

  • 7:20: Ellis Island, Centerpiece for European Immigration (possibly show scene from Brooklyn when Saorise Ronan’s character is explaining to the other girl how to behave when going through Ellis Island). Ask students if they know of anyone from their family that immigrated through Ellis Island.


  • 7:52: Why do you think the Chinese were abolished from entering the United States in 1882? What could have been going on that influenced that policy? Why would the Federal government add more groups to the restricted groups.


  • 8:45: 1890s, literacy test – What would be the purpose of creating a literacy test for incoming immigrants? Do you think this is fair or not?


  • 9:30: National Origins System – what does the name of this system imply?


  • 10:51: The Story of the Statue of Liberty, how can objects symbolism and representation change over time? (Possibly show clip of Jon Stewart’s monologue from his first day back to The Daily Show after 9/11 – really strong statement about the Statue of Liberty at the end).


  • 11:39: What do the laws and torch represent on the Statue of Liberty? (current event connection – the woman who protested children being separated from the border and climbed the Statue of Liberty – why would she choose the Statue of Liberty? What did it represent to her?)

At table students discuss questions at 7:52, 8:45, and 9:30 mark. Students will use sticky notes again for images with Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty

Third Stop (End of video)

    • 12:03 – have students analyze chart

Screenshot and print out the chart and have students analyze it at their table.

Exit Ticket (5 minutes)

Different perspectives on immigration

Immigration Four Perspectives Document


Assessment/Final Project Ideas

(At least 3 class periods – 2 to create and perform skits or two voice poem. 1 to have students start gathering research for larger PBL topic)

Prior to assigning this project revisit classroom norms regarding respectful actions and attitudes towards all people. Preview work prior to it being presented.

Working in small groups create a skit that represents immigration in the United States and how it has evolved over time (or give each student group a specific time period or place depending on age and maturity).

Characters: immigrant, immigration official, American worker scared of losing their job to an immigrant, government official creating the laws on immigration policy

Skit should discuss policies, perspectives of viewpoints on immigration, challenges of immigration for both immigrants and the country, benefits of immigration for both immigrants and country.

2 Voice Poem

Students work in pairs. One student write a poem about the benefits of immigration and one student writes about the challenges of policies. Together they perform their poem.

Students answer the essential question:

What Should our Immigration Policy Be?

Create your own immigration policy that is founded on research, data, and facts.

Students will have several options to present

Overarching question for all modules. Students could work on large extensive project over the course of a semester on this. #WSOIPB

Immigration Research Graphic Organizer
Graphic organizer for students to complete while gathering their research. Students will be given a digital file and can build on this throughout the units.
for students to support their research

Essential Vocabulary and Topics covered in this video

Create a World Wall in the classroom for the vocabulary and main ideas

  • American Dream
  • Immigration/Immigrant
  • “Great Wave”
  • President Johnson, 1965
  • Holland, MI
  • Ottawa County, MI
  • Ellis Island
  • Naturalization Ceremony
  • Dearborn, MI
  • Human right
  • Traditions
  • Asylum
  • Equality
  • Freedom
  • Federal Government
  • Veto
  • Literacy
  • National Origins System