Houghton Mifflin Social Studies
A More Perfect Union

The Immigrant Experience

Objective: Students research the immigration experiences of different ethnic groups in the United States and create a classroom encyclopedia on immigration.

What You Need:

Suggested Time:
3-4 hours over 2 class periods

Building Background:
Immigration to the United States came in waves. At first the major source was Europe, with millions of people coming from Germany, Italy, Ireland, Austria-Hungary, Russia, and Great Britain. French-Canadians and Mexicans added to the mix, which already included a population of English, Welsh, Scotch-Irish, German, African, and Native American descent. Other large immigrant groups came from Scandinavia and the West Indies. Tell students that they will research the immigration experiences of different groups in the United States and create an encyclopedia on immigration.

What To Do:

1. Explain, if necessary, the meaning of immigration. Remind students that millions of people immigrated (settled in a country other than their country of their birth) to the United States. Ask students to use their own family history to name some places immigrants came from: such as Mexico, Lithuania, Greece, or Haiti. List the names on the board. Encourage volunteers to locate the different places on a world map.

2. Have each student choose one immigrant group to research. Print and distribute the Immigration Information worksheet. Students should visit their school or local library or use the Internet to find information about their groups and complete the worksheet. Explain that the government department responsible for immigration is the Immigration and Naturalization Service, or the INS. This department keeps track of the statistics, which can be found in various sources in the reference section of a library.

United States Immigration & Naturalization Service (INS)

This site provides information on immigration law, immigration statistics, and services.

The Blank Institute of Technology: College of Immigration & Citizenship

Visit this site for information on the citizenship exam, the citizenship application form, historical documents, and more.

3. When students have completed their worksheets, have them organize their information into an encyclopedia entry. Each entry should include the group's point of origin, peak years of immigration to the United States, and a summary of the experiences of the group upon coming to the United States. Encourage students to draw images for their entries based on photographs or paintings they may have seen during their research.

Have students organize the information they gather into a bound book that can become a library resource. You may also wish to suggest that students use computer software to set up a database for this information, which can then be shared with other classes.


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