Build a strong core of evidence-supported writing and understanding of the main ingredient to America’s world renown success, the immigrant, with this project-based unit that introduces your students to three major waves of 1900s immigrant- the Ellis Island “new” immigrant, the Great Migration African American, and the Vietnamese American refugee.
Voices heard in this unit:
- Poetic words of Emma Lazarus, Langston Hughes, and up-and-comer, Ocean Vuong
- Oral histories of surviving Ellis Island immigrants
- Narratives of African Americans’ harrowing escape from the South
- Interviews of thriving Vietnamese American business owners
By the end of this unit, your students will be able to:
- Annotate and analyze written, oral, and statistical primary sources for quantitative and qualitative evidence
- Assess and compare the strengths and limitations of various types of primary sources
- Annotate and analyze poems using a simple analytical method
- Utilize and organize source-based evidence to support a claim
- Plan, conduct, narrate, and reflect on own interview
balancing the individual story with the overarching statistics for effective persuasion.
America is nation like no other, for many reasons, but perhaps most so for its perennial storyline of the one-part-hopeful, one-part-determined immigrant citizen. Faceless souls who make up the swelled statistics of census data reports; poignant stories of mothers and fathers and children wanting nothing more than what we all want: self-determination. Both tell the rich and patriotic stories of the convergence of our dearest American values: hard work, opportunity, and equality.
Introduce your students to various Americans of three major 1900s immigrant waves with a careful examination of statistical, personal narrative, and artistic expression, helping them truly articulate their beliefs on “What is our American story?” in a culminating DBQ essay.
Leave the boring chronological textbook behind and head straight to the compelling sources that make this question central to our pride and identity as Americans, and engage your students to create their own oral history!
The beauty of a thematic unit is your freedom to mix-and-match, add-and-subtract: each activity is self-contained, allowing for complete customization to meet local standards, time restraints, and interests.
This unit can be done well in anywhere from 3 to 6 weeks.
Included in this complete unit:
- Unit Overview & 8 pages of Daily Lesson Plans from the unit hook to the final assessment
- Answer keys and rubrics (both CCSS-aligned and generic)
- 100-slide editable PowerPoint slideshow with images, links, and student directions
Student Materials & Activities
- Graphic Organizer & Concept Definition
for students’ unit-long note taking
- Unit Hook
analysis of Emma Lazarus’s famous poem, “The New Colossus”
- Current Day
collaborative quote and data graph activity exploring present-day demographics & analysis of interviews with recent naturalized citizens
- Ellis Island
oral history interview and statistical analysis
- Great Migration
literary non-fiction, poem, and statistical analysis
- Vietnamese Refugees
documentary, poem and statistical analysis
- Skill Sheets
Annotating a Text, DECODE Poem Source Analysis, Citing Evidence & Sourcing
- Document-Based Essay
supported by outline template, sentence stems, and rubrics (CCSS-aligned and generic), answering the not-so-simple question, “What is our American story?”
- Oral History Interview
supported by step-by-step planning guide, rubrics (CCSS-aligned and generic), exploring the diversity and opportunity that make up the American Dream
NOTE: The Great Migration section of this unit relies on excerpts from the fantastic book, The Warmth of Other Suns,
by Isbael Wilkerson, easily available at your local library or for purchase on Amazon
Just want part of this unit?
Mini PBL Unit: Ellis Island Immigrants
great way to round out your Gilded Age or Progressive Era unit
Mini PBL Unit: African American Great Migration
great way to round out your 1920s, WWII, or Civil Rights Movement unit
Want just the project?
Interview Narrative Project
use this universal writing project pack to make almost any unit into a PBL unit!
Want more U.S. History PBL Units?
Six Degrees of Separation:
kick off a study of our country’s political and physical features with a “Flat Stanley” style project
1600-1800s American Values:
explore the founders of America, from the Puritans to the Nez Perce, and their core values in order to develop one’s own goal and motivational plan of action for the school year
1900s Protest Movements:
be inspired by Silent Sentinels to Alcatraz Occupiers to develop one’s own statement of protest or support
1900s American Heroes:
explore what it means to be a hero from Madam CJ Walker to John Glenn in order to nominate one’s own hero for recognition