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Lesson Plans
What was Behind the Golden Door?
OverviewProcedure for teachersStudent Resources and Materials
Prep for Teachers

Prior to teaching this lesson, bookmark the Web sites used in the lesson on each computer in your classroom. Download the Realplayer media player (available free at http://www.real.com/) onto each computer as well.
Prepare the hands-on portion of the lesson by:
Photocopying the Immigrant Profile Sheet so that there is one profile for each male and female student, respectively. Cut the sheet into strips along perforation and divide the strips into two piles based on gender.

Print and copy Immigrant Experience worksheet, one for each student.


CUE the video to the appropriate starting point, which is at a photograph of immigrants (shown from the back) and a sign "Emigranti."

When using media, provide students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, a specific task to complete and/or information to identify during or after viewing of vido segments, Web sites, or other multimedia elements.

Introductory Activities: Setting the Stage

Step 1

Explain to your students that they will be learning about immigrants who left their homes to live in the United States. Ask them why someone would leave the country where he or she lived to live in the USA. Create a mind map on the board, with the central word "Immigration" circled and centered. Spend a few moments asking your students why people immigrate to the USA. For each response offered, draw a line emanating from the central word and write the response at the end of that line. If students offer general responses (freedom) write the word on the board and then elicit more specific ideas. When more specific responses (religious and political) are offered or suggested, draw a line emanating from "freedom" and include these subcategories.

Step 2

Explain to your students that they will be studying a place called Ellis Island. Tap prior knowledge by asking students if have heard of this place and what they know about it. Tell them that Ellis Island is located in New York harbor, close to the Statue of Liberty. Explain that Ellis Island was the first place immigrants stopped before they were allowed to enter the United States. Set your students up for historical context by asking them how they think people got to Ellis Island from their homelands. (Answers will vary and probably include airplanes and ships.) Explain to your students that immigrants did not arrive on planes because planes were not used to transport people across the ocean yet. In addition, most immigrants to America were very poor and had to travel the cheapest way.

Step 3

Creating a Historical Context
Explain to your students that Ellis Island opened in 1892. Ask them to calculate how long ago that was. Using the blackboard, have students help you subtract 1892 from 2004. Ask them what things weren't in existence 102 years ago. (Answers will vary and include televisions, computers, video games.) Remind them that everyday household appliances such as, electric refrigerators, electric and gas ovens, and cordless phones did not yet exist.

Step 4

Using a pull-down map of the world or an overhead projection of a map of the world, elicit from your students the location of New York City, Europe, and Russia. Tell them that much of the immigration that happened between 1892 and 1924 came from southern Europe, eastern Europe, and Russia. Invite students to locate these places on the map. Show your students the distance immigrants had to travel to get from their country to Ellis Island. Ask them to identify the major ocean they had to cross (the Atlantic). Ask them to estimate the length of the Atlantic from New York to Europe (approximately 3,000). Ask them how long they think it took ship to travel this distance. (Accept all answers. The journey took anywhere from one to several weeks.)

Step 5

Tell your students to imagine it is April 17, 1907 and that they are a young boy or girl leaving his or her homeland to come to the United States. Tell them that April 17, 1907 was a special day because it was the busiest day in Ellis Island's history. 11,747 people passed through Ellis Island on that day, and approximately 1.2 million people passed through in that year. Explain to them that they will stay in the role of this boy or girl for the rest of the lesson. To develop their note-taking skills, write this information on the board and have students copy it into their notebooks.

Step 6

Divide the students into groups of four or five. Distribute one immigrant profile strip to each male and female student, respectively. Give your students a few moments to read their profile and introduce themselves to their group mates. Explain to them that they will create a group scrapbook depicting the following aspects of their journey to Ellis Island (Write these on the board and have students copy into their notebooks) (Each item should be one page per student, except for the cover page):

  • Cover page with name of all immigrants, countries of origin, and year of arrival (1907).
  • Why you and your family left your country to come to America.
  • Your experience on the ship and the emotions you felt when you first saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in N.Y. Harbor.
  • Your experiences on Ellis Island.
  • Your hopes and dreams for yourself and your family in America.
Students will be gathering information for their scrapbooks over the whole scope and sequence of activities.

Explain to them that their scrapbooks should also include pictures (some of which are primary documents downloaded and printed). They can also use some clip art, print pictures from Web sites, and/or draw pictures.


Learning Activities

Step 1

Tell your students that they will visit a map of the way Europe looked in the year 1900. Have them log on to the Periodical Historical Atlas at http://www.euratlas.com/big/1900big.jpg Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to locate the country they have come from. (Remind them that they are in the role of the boy or girl they have been assigned.) Once they have identified the country, ask them to answer the following questions in their notebooks:
What is the exact name of your country? (It may be different from its modern name.)
What is to the to the north? south? east? west?
Where is the nearest body of water?

Step 2

Ask your students what the saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words" means. (Elicit from your students that a picture can give you a message in a moment.) Tell your students that they will be viewing six photos of newly arrived immigrants and of Ellis Island. They will use the pictures to help them imagine what life was like for the immigrant child that they are portraying. Instruct them to keep their notebooks open during this activity so they can jot down ideas for their scrapbook. Ask them to log on to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at http://www.archives.gov/media_desk/press_kits/
picturing_the_century_photo_gallery/immigrant_children_ellis_island.jpg
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to move the scroll bar right and left and examine the children, paying particular attention to the way they are dressed and the expression on their faces. Check for student comprehension, and ask your students what they noticed about the children's clothing and facial expressions.
(Accept all reasonable answers, which should include clothes that are worn and practical. Girls are in dresses. Boys are in heavy suits. Everyone wears lace-up boots. Their facial expressions combine excitement, uncertainty, fear, alertness, fatigue.)

Give students a few moments to jot down ideas for their scrapbooks. Remind them to look at the scrapbook criteria written on the board for guidance.

Prod their thinking by saying, "You are one of those children in the picture. What are you thinking? How do you feel?" Remind them that they should respond in the voice of the immigrant child they selected. Hear a couple of responses, as ideas from peers often spur the thinking process of other students

Step 3

Tell your students that they will be viewing a second picture portraying an immigrant family. Tell your students to log on to the Katonah-Lewisboro site at
http://www.klschools.org/www/klsd/site/hosting/WebActivities/Fourth/journal.jpg
Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to identify what they family is looking at and imagine what they are feeling.

(The Statue of Liberty. Accept all reasonable answers, including hope, excitement, fear, anticipation.)

Give students a few moments to jot down ideas for their scrapbooks. Remind them to look at the scrapbook criteria written on the board for guidance.

Prod their thinking by asking, "What did you experience when you first saw the Statue of Liberty?" Hear a couple of responses.

Step 4

Tell your students that they will be viewing a third picture portraying immigrants waiting in the Great Hall. Tell them to log on to the New York Public Library site at
http://www.nypl.org/permissions/page3new.html. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to notice the white sheets on people's clothing and speculate what it was used for.

(The Great Hall, also known as the Registry Room, was where immigrants waited to be interviewed and processed. On those white sheets were numbers and letters assigned to each passenger. Sometimes people waited for hours before they were called, sitting on hard benches or standing. When an immigrant's number and letter were called, he or she would undergo a medical examination and was asked a lot of questions.) Ask students to speculate what kind of questions the examiners asked the immigrants.

(Some examples are "What is your name?" "Do you have mental illness?" "Have you ever been in prison?" "Do you have a job?" "How much money do you have?" "Are you an anarchist?") Tell students to record "anarchist" on their Ellis Island Vocabulary list.
(Someone who believes people should live free from government rules.)


Ask your students why immigrants had to undergo a physical examination before they were allowed into the country? (To make sure they were healthy enough to work and not become a public burden. To make sure they had nothing contagious.)

Give students a few moments to jot down ideas for their scrapbooks. Remind them to look at the scrapbook criteria written on the board for guidance.

Prod their thinking by asking, "How did you feel when you were in the Great Hall?" Hear a couple of responses.

Step 5

Tell them they will be looking at a list of the chalk marks placed on people's clothes, showing the types of conditions people were checked for. Ask your students to log on to the WW. Norton site at http://www.wwnorton.com/college/titles/history/
inv/preview/media/Chalk_Markings.jpg

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to read each condition and speculate why each condition was given an abbreviation.
(If an immigrant was suspected of having one or more of these conditions, the letter of the condition was written in chalk on their clothing and many were sent into quarantine.)
Ask student to enter "quarantine" on their Ellis Island Vocabulary list (a period of time when a person is kept away from others so that a disease can not spread.) Ask your students what they think happened to some people who were diagnosed with these conditions?
(Many immigrants were sent back to their countries, even though they may have been temporarily sick from the long journey.)
If students are not familiar with other conditions on the chart (i.e. senility, goiter, conjunctivitis, lameness), initiate a brief discussion and have students enter words on vocabulary list.

Give students a few moments to jot down ideas for their scrapbooks. Remind them to look at the scrapbook criteria written on the board for guidance.

Prod their thinking by asking, "What happened to you and your family during the physical examination?" Hear a couple of responses

Step 6

Tell your students they will be viewing a final picture of Ellis Island today. Explain to them that it is a museum open to the public. Tell them to log on to W.W. Norton and Co. site at http://www.wwnorton.com/college/titles/history/inv/
preview/media/Main_Building_Looking_North.jpg
Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to think of words and phrases that describe the building. (Elicit from your students that many immigrants probably have never seen a building so big, mysterious, and official-looking. The site of it probably frightened many people.)

Give students a few moments to jot down ideas for their scrapbooks. Remind them to look at the scrapbook criteria written on the board for guidance.

Prod their thinking by asking, "What went through your mind as you caught a glimpse of this huge place?" Hear a couple of responses.

Step 7

Ask your students if one event can be both happy and sad at the same time, and ask them for examples. (Students will probably say a wedding, since parents are happy but also sad that their children are leaving. They may also offer moving to a different place, because it is exciting as well as frightening.)

Step 8

Explain to your students that immigrants felt many different emotions at the same time when they first came to Ellis Island. Explain to them that they will now watch a piece of video with no sound to get impressions of how people felt about their new lives in America.

Step 9

Insert New York: The Power and the People, Episode 4 into the VCR. Make sure the sound is off. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to speculate what life on the ship must have been like during the journey. START the tape at a photograph of immigrants (shown from the back) and a sign "Emigranti." PAUSE the tape at a photograph of many immigrants on the deck of a ship. (Accept all reasonable responses. Answers will vary and may include, crowded and unsanitary conditions, sickness, boredom, personal safety, sea sickness.)

Explain to them that first and second-class passengers did not have to stop at Ellis Island, but the poorer passengers spent their entire journey in the worst part of the ship with the poorest accommodations. They were called "steerage passengers." (Write this word on the board and have students copy it with its definition as it was explained in the section of their notebooks entitled "Ellis Island Vocabulary".)

Give students a few moments to jot down ideas for their scrapbooks. Remind them to write in the voice of the immigrant child they are portraying. Prod their thinking by asking, "What was your experience on the ship?" Hear a couple of responses.

Step 10

Ask your students what would make somebody go through all those hardships. (Answers will probably include hope for a better life.) Explain to your students that people from all over the world had heard that anything was possible in America, and they came here hoping that their dreams would come true. Explain to your students that they will be viewing a section of video that shows people who have just arrived at Ellis Island. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to imagine the conversation the men are having with each other. PLAY the tape at four men sitting down. PAUSE the tape a few seconds into the segment. Give your students a few moments to work in pairs or individually, jotting down some dialogue the men might be having. Solicit a few volunteers to read.

Ask your students how they decided what the men in the picture would say. (Answers will vary and include the optimistic expressions on their faces and relaxed physical demeanor.)

Step 11

Ask your students what their parents want for their children. (Students will probably say a good education, a good job, to be happy, to have a family of their own.) Explain to your students that they will be looking a clip of a new immigrant and his infant. Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to imagine what the father wants the baby to grow up and become. START the tape at a man holding and infant and waving an American flag. PAUSE the tape a few seconds into it. Ask for volunteers share. (Possible answers include a doctor, a lawyer, a business owner.)

Step 12

Explain to your students that before an immigrant ship reached Ellis Island, it passed the Statue of Liberty. Explain to your students that they will be viewing a clip of immigrants looking at the Statue of Liberty for the first time. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them how people reacted with they fist saw the Statue of Liberty. PLAY this portion of the tape with the sound ON. START the tape at a photo of immigrants gathered on one side of a ship, looking at the Statue of Liberty. PAUSE the tape when the narrator says, "but nobody would move." Check for comprehension. (The immigrants were so excited that they all crowded to one side of the ship to get a better look at the Statue of Liberty.)

Step 13

Ask your students to make a prediction. Do they think people's feelings changed once they got to Ellis Island? (Answers will vary.) Explain to your students that the next clip they watch will express a different feeling. Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to check their predictions against what they hear in the segment. PLAY the tape at a picture of modern-day Ellis Island. PAUSE the tape when Joseph Telese says, "I hope they're not going to send me back." Check for comprehension. Were their predictions true?

Step 14

Ask your students why Joseph Telese worries that he will be sent back to his country. (Answers will vary.) Explain to your students that although some people were sent back because of physical or mental illness and other reasons (1 in 50), most people were allowed to stay in the United States.

Step 15

Distribute an Ellis Island Interactive Tour worksheet to each student. Explain to the students that they will be taking the tour and answering the questions on the sheet. Read the directions on the sheet with the students. (If headphones are not available, students can complete the worksheet without the audio component and related questions.) Ask your students to read the items following "Stop 1: The Arrival." Tell students to log on to the Scholastic Web site at http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/tour/stop1.htm Provide a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to study the picture, read the caption, and click on and read the underlined "Ellis Island." Ask them what happened to the original main building. Check for comprehension. (The original main building burned down in 1897. In 1900, a new building was constructed.)

Step 16

Tell your students they will take the rest of the tour of Ellis Island on their own. Distribute "Ellis Island Interactive Tour Chart." Tell them that the tour consists of eight stops. They should stop and examine every stop by:
  1. Reading the text and studying the picture.
  2. Clicking on any words or phrases that are underlined.
  3. Clicking on the audio, video, and photo icons on the left and read any text that pops up.
When they are done, ask them to choose the four stops they found the most interesting to revisit and fill out the chart based on those stops.

Step 17

When students are finished, reconvene groups and have students discuss their findings and support their choices. Circulate to clarify information and elicit correct information through strategic questioning.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

Step 1

Explain to students that they will now go back to their original groups and create one scrapbook, with a section devoted to each immigrant child. Provide scrapbook materials and allow students time to compile their individual contributions.

Remind them of the scrapbook contents. Each item should be one page per student, except for the cover page:
  • Cover page with names of immigrant, countries of origin, and year of arrival (1907).
  • Why you and your family left your country to come to America.
  • Your experience on the ship and the emotions you felt when you first saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island in N.Y. Harbor.
  • Your experiences on Ellis Island.
  • Your hopes and dreams for yourself and your family in America.
Remind them that they are writing as if they are an immigrant child and create a personality for their child. Remind them to consult their notebooks and chart for ideas. Finally, review with them the different tones that are appropriate for their writing. (excited, nervous, hopeful, joyous, frightened, melancholy, etc.)

Ask your students to log on to any of the following Web sites

Clip Art:
http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx
http://www.clipart.com/en/index
http://www.flamingtext.com/

Authentic photographs and prints:
http://www.huntingtoncounty.com/immigrants03.htm
http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/070_immi.html
http://www.history.ohio-state.edu/projects/Immigration/AmericansintheRaw/

Provide your students with a FOCUS FOR MEDIA INTERACTION, asking them to log on to various clip art and Web sites containing photos to include in their scrapbooks.

Step 2

Ask children to share the component of their scrapbooks with their group mates. The group should design a cover and a table of contents. When all contributions have been submitted, the scrapbook should be bound.


Cross-Curricilar Extensions

LANGUAGE ARTS
Write about something that you would be certain to take with you if you were leaving your home to come to the United States. What would be the one object you couldn't leave behind?

Read one or more of the following fictional accounts of immigrant children at Ellis Island:
Annushka's Voyage by Edith Tarbescu. Clarion Books, 1998. ISBN: 039564366X
The Cat Who Escaped from Steerage by Evelyn Wilde Mayerson. Scott Foresman, 1990. ISBN: 0684192098
Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story by Eve Bunting. Troll Association, 2000.
ISBN: 0816765200


MATHEMATICS
Create your own immigration chart or graph by surveying the ethnicities of students in your class. Log on to the Scholastic Web site at http://teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/facts.htm

SCIENCE
Reseach one of the diseases or conditions that you heard about when learning about the reasons immigrants were sent back to their homelands. Write a report about the causes, symptoms, and, if any, cure for the disease or condition.


Community Connections
  • Invite an immigrant into class to discuss how the immigration process has changed and reasons for coming to America have changes over the years.
  • Investigate the culture of an immigrant group in your neighborhood. Gather data and conduct interviews. Include your findings in an oral and visual report for your class.