Strengthen your Gilded Age or Progressive Era unit with an exploration of the Ellis Island immigrant’s experience. Read the moving poetic words of Emma Lazarus, hear the retelling of memories by living immigrants, and examine the massive statistics each of these 12 million American Dreamers helped create. Culminate your students’ understanding with an interview oral history project of their own!
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
- Annotate and analyze poetry using the DECODE method
- Plan, conduct, narrate, and reflect on own interview in an oral history narrative essay project
learning to really listen and learn from others’ experiences.
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 a sampling of Americans who help make up the Ellis Island immigrant story, guiding them truly articulate their beliefs on “What is the American dream?”
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 & 4 pages of Daily Lesson Plans from the unit hook to the project assessment
- Rubrics, both CCSS-aligned and generic
- 23-slide editable PowerPoint slideshow with images, links, and student directions
Student Materials & Activities
- Concept Definition
for students’ unit-long note taking
- Poem Analysis
of Emma Lazarus’s famous work, “The New Colossus”
- Current Day
Recent naturalized citizens and current immigration data analysis
- Ellis Island Oral History
interviews annotating and analysis
- By the Numbers
- Artistic Analysis
of short film “Ellis” analysis
- 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
- 2 Skill Sheets
Annotating a Text, DECODE Poem Source Analysis
Want to make this into a whole unit?
What is Our American Story: Immigration & the American Dream PBL Unit
explore Ellis Island, the Great Migration, and Vietnamese Americans in this complete thematic 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