U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit

U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit
U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit
U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit
U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit
U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit
U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit
U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit
U.S. History PBL: Immigration & American Dream Unit
Grade Levels
Common Core Standards
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27 MB|129 pages
Product Description
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

Historical thinking skills strengthened
- 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 the DECODE method
- Utilize and organize source-based evidence to support a claim
- Plan, conduct, narrate, and reflect on own interview


Greatness is 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, helping them truly articulate their beliefs on “What is our American story?”

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 coversheet and detailed daily lesson plans from the unit hook to the final assessment
- Graphic organizer and concept definition sheet for unit-long student note taking
- Unit Hook: Analysis of Emma Lazarus’s famous poem, “The New Colossus”

4 Sub-Topics (3-5 class periods each, depending on customization)
- 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

Culminating, summative assessments
- 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

Additional Resources
- 3 Skill Sheets: Annotating a Text, DECODE Poem Source Analysis, Citing Evidence & Sourcing
- 45-slide EDITABLE Power Point of images, maps, data, links to online resources, and student directions to support your daily lessons

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
Total Pages
129 pages
Answer Key
Rubric only
Teaching Duration
1 month
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