Thirteen Ed Online
Lesson Plans
Irish-Americans: Work and Song
Overview Procedures for Teachers Organizers for Students

Irish immigrants came to the United States in search of work and a better life for their families. When they arrived, they faced discrimination and found that their job opportunities were limited. In this lesson, students will use video and web-based primary and secondary source documents to examine the experiences of Irish immigrant workers who helped build America’s railroads.

Grade Level:
Grades 6 to 8

Time Allotment:
Three 45-minute periods

Subject Matter:
History, Social Studies

Learning Objectives

Students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the experiences of Irish immigrants who worked to build the railroads in this country.
  • Analyze primary source documents to gather information.
  • Demonstrate note-taking skills.
  • Synthesize information from primary and secondary source documents to create an artistic piece.


National Standards:
From the National Standards of Social Studies
3. Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of people, places, and environments.

McREL Standards:

Historical Understanding SubjectID=3&StandardID=2
Level III, Benchmark 6
Knows different types of primary and secondary sources and the motives, interests, and bias expressed in them (e.g., eyewitness accounts, letters, diaries, artifacts, photos; magazine articles, newspaper accounts, hearsay)

United States History Era 4 SubjectID=5&StandardID=10
Level III, Benchmark 1
Understands how immigration affected American society in the antebellum period (e.g., the connection between industrialization and immigration, how immigration intensified ethnic and cultural conflict and complicated the forging of a national identity)

Unites States History, Era 6 SubjectID=5&StandardID=18
Level III, Benchmark 1
Understands the conditions affecting employment and labor in the late 19th century (e.g., the change from workshop to factory in different regions; how working conditions changed and how workers responded to new industrial conditions)

This lesson was prepared by: Adrienne J. Kupper.