Reading Informational Text, American History
Material Type:
Lesson Plan
High School
  • EmergingCRT
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    Education Standards

    Remix of "Immigration and Americanization, 1880-1930, DPLA"


    This remix uses primary sources from the Digital Public Library of America's set, "Immigration and Americanization, 1880-1930", to have students understand the immigration experiences of the past and compare these to the current immigration situation in the United States.  Drawing inspiration from the DPLA's teaching guide, students will demonstrate their understanding of the current immigration situation by creating and performing a play.


    These primary resources from the Digital Public Library of America introduce students to the second major wave of immigration to the United States. 


    From the DPLA resource:

    Ella Howard, (2016) Immigration and Americanization, 1880-1930. Retrieved from the Digital Public Library of America,

    "Between 1880 and 1930, approximately 28 million immigrants entered the United States. In contrast to earlier waves of immigrants, most of whom had originated in western and northern Europe, this group arrived from eastern and southern Europe. As they entered through Ellis Island in New York Harbor and made their way into various new lives—in cities and rural areas coast to coast, from urban tenements to Midwestern farms to seaside towns— they encountered mixed reactions from existing Americans. They also entered into a political climate that was charged by the sweeping immigration restrictions placed on the Chinese in 1882 through the Chinese Exclusion Act. While some Americans favored immigration, many opposed it, and responded during the 1920s by pressing for a tightening of the nation’s borders. This set of photographs, plays, and primary sources allows users to immerse themselves in the debates that surrounded turn-of-the-century immigration and to consider the nature of Americanization."

    This remix will have students compare the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth century wave of immigration to the immigration wave of the early twenty-first century.


    This lesson meets the following North Carolina standards in American History 2 and ELA for 11th and 12th grades.

    AH2.H3.4  Analyze voluntary and involuntary immigration trends since Reconstruction in terms of causes, regions of origin and destination, cultural contributions, and public and governmental response (e.g., new immigrants, ports of entry, ethnic neighborhoods, settlement houses, immigration restrictions, etc.)

    AH2.H3.3  Explain the roles of various racial and ethnic groups in settlement and expansion since Reconstruction and the consequences for those groups (e.g., American Indians, African Americans, Chinese, Irish, Hispanics and Latino Americans, Asian Americans, etc.)

    AH2.H3.2  Explain how environmental, cultural and economic factors influenced the patterns of migration and settlement within the United States since the end of Reconstruction (e.g., gold rush, destruction of the buffalo, reservations, ethnic neighborhoods, etc.)

    ELA.RI.11-12.7  Integrate and evaluate multiple sources of information presented in different media or formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words in order to address a question or solve a problem

    ELA.W.11-12.6  Gather relevant information from multiple authoritative print and digital sources, using advanced searches effectively; assess the strengths and limitations of each source in terms of the task, purpose, and audience; integrate information into the text selectively to maintain the flow of ideas, avoiding plagiarism and overreliance on any one source and following a standard format for citation


    Lesson Activities

    Teachers will need to search for open-resource materials about the current immigration situation in the United States.  Searching for "migrant caravan" will yield photographs that can be analyzed.

    Lesson Essential Questions:

    How did people immigrate to the United States during the second major wave of immigration?

    How was the immigration experience different for different groups of people?

    What factors influenced the immigration process at this time?

    How does this immigration wave compare to current immigration to the United States?


    1)  Go to Immigration and Americanization, 1880-1930, DPLA to access the primary sources for the lesson.

    2)  To launch the lesson, group students in pairs or trios to examine each of the primary sources.  The student groupings will use the analysis worksheets from the National Archives.  These are found in the DPLA teaching guide as additional tools.  They are attached below.

    3)  After the groups analyze their primary source, students will present what they learned about the immigration experience.

    4)  Students will now focus more specifically on certain resources to understand the immigration process in this time period.  

    From the DPLA teaching guide:

    "Considering the two photographs, the play, the memoir, and the two postcards, how would you describe the process of immigration? What did individuals and families experience?"

    The teacher will guide students in a discussion of these primary resources to answer the questions.

    5)  In order to compare this immigration wave to the current situation with immigration to the United States, students will now examine primary sources of current immigration.  Using the same analysis worksheets from the National Archives, student pairs or trios look at photographs from recent immigrant waves.  Teachers can find photo resources from news magazine sites, for example The Atlantic.  The teacher can also show students recent news stories on immigration, refugees and migrants found at the Pulitzer Center.  The Pulitzer Center offers educators many sources linked to current events.

    6) Students will report to the class what they discovered during their analysis of primary sources focused on current immigration trends.

    7)  To record their thinking and start planning for the culminating activity/assessment, students will use a venn diagram to compare the current and past waves of immigration they have examined.

    8)  Returning to the DPLA teaching guide, students will review the DPLA source, the 1913 play about the immigrant experience.

    From the DPLA teaching guide:

    "Ask groups of three to four students to read over different portions of the play. Have each group discuss and then outline their plan for a contemporary version of such a production. Which immigrant groups would they spotlight? What aspects of their experience would they hope to capture? What broader message would they hope to convey through the production?"

    Student groups will answer the above questions to begin planning a play about the current immigrant experience.


    Student groups complete a play about the current situation of immigration to the United States.  Their plays can then be presented to the class.  Teachers can start the play festival by having one group present the 1913 play found in the primary sources from DPLA.  As an extension of their learning, students can complete journal entries about what they have learned about the waves of immigration to the United States.  In particular, students can reflect in their journals about how they see issues of power, equality, and justice affecting the immigration experience.