Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
Oh, California

Understanding Primary Sources:
The Chinese Experience at Angel Island

Objective: Students read and analyze a poem written on the wall of the Angel Island Immigration Station in California by an unknown Chinese immigrant, then research to learn more about the place where the poem was written.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
5-6 hours over 3-4 days

Building Background:
Tell students they will study a poem written by a Chinese immigrant who came to California in the 1800s. First they will read the poem and use the worksheet to analyze it. Then they will learn more about the place where the poem was written.

What To Do:

1. Distribute the Poem from Angel Island and the Reading the Poem worksheet to each student. Have students read the poem silently. Then read the poem aloud and answer any questions about unknown words.

2. Have students work individually to analyze the poem and answer the questions in the Reading the Poem worksheet. When they have finished, review their answers and discuss. Ask students to speculate about the mood of the writer. What does the poet feel and why?

3. Ask students to speculate about the conditions under which this poem was written. Explain to students what Angel Island Immigration Station was. Tell them that some people waited there for many months or even a year. After it had closed, many poems were found on the walls, including the one they just read. These poems were written by immigrants who were waiting to either go home or be allowed into the United States.

4. Tell students you want them to learn more about the Angel Island Immigration Station. Have them find out who was held in Angel Island, for how long, and under what conditions. Have students use the school or public library to do their research.

Immigration Station History
This Web site narrates the experiences of immigrants who passed through Angel Island.

5. When students have finished their research, ask them to re-read the poem. Do they understand it differently? Discuss their reaction to the poem in light of what they have learned about the Angel Island Station.

6. Ask each student to write his or her own poem, about the same length as the one they studied, about the Angel Island experience in the late 1800s. Encourage them to include what they learned about Angel Island in their response. Their poems should show how they feel about the immigants and the conditions at Angel Island.

Have students read their poems aloud. Encourage questions and discussion of what the writer was working to express.


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