Online Lesson Plan
Immigration, Where Do We Go From Here?

Since the early 1600s, millions of people have come to America from all over the world. At that time Native Americans inhabited the land but they too had come from elsewhere some 30,000 years earlier. Why did they come and what was their arrival like?

Lesson Plan by John LeFeber, Curriculum & Instructional Developer, National Council on Economic Education.



Suggested grade level: 3rd-5th. The student will:

  • Describe the difference between immigration and emigration.
  • Summarize the impact that immigration and emigration has on a community.



During the Dust Bowl years, the weather destroyed nearly all the crops farmers tried to grow on the Great Plains. What few crops did survive sold at such low prices that farmers could not earn a living. Farmers who rented the land and farmhouse couldn’t pay rent, and farmers who owned their land couldn’t make payments. Parents packed up their children and belongings and moved west. Most Nebraskans moved to California, hoping to start a new life. Each year during the 1930s, the number of children starting first grade went down. The 1940 government census showed that about 65,000 people had moved out of Nebraska during the “Dirty 30s.”

The Resources

Links from within the Wessels Living History Farm site. [Note that clicking on these links will open a new browser window. Just close it and you’ll be back to this page.] Direct the students to these pages to learn more about migration and immigration.

The Process

Begin the lesson by using the K.W.L. Form (“What I Know,” “What I Want to Know,” “What I Have Learned”) activity. Print out the activity and have the students work with a partner.

They will be recording information in two columns:

  • Everything they know (or think they know) about immigration
  • Things about immigration they would like to learn more about.

After they have completed the first two columns, have them share their responses with the class. This part of the activity is designed to be modified brainstorming session, so no judgments should be made on responses at this point.

And then at the end of the lesson they will complete the third column:

  • List things that they have learned about immigration.

This can be facilitated by having the students share what they have learned so far.

  • Have them review the original items they listed in the first two columns.
  • Were any items incorrect?
  • Did they learn more about the items listed in column two?
  • What questions or topics are still unanswered?
  • Do they have anything to add to the second column, now that they have read more about the topic?

Using a wall map or an online map of the United States have your students identify where they and their family have lived. This activity may need to be modified to reflect the geographical diversity or lack of diversity among your students. A good online source for United States maps is InfoPlease: United States at

Have your students talk with a family member about a move or major trip that that family member has made. Use the following starter questions:

  1. How old was the person?
  2. Where was the person living?
  3. What actually happened?
  4. Why was this move or major trip made or taken?
  5. What were the person’s feelings about the event at the time?
  6. What are the person’s feelings about the event now?

Have your students turn this information into a typed report to be handed in. The report must be at least one page long, but no longer than two. Advise your students that the report must conclude by them sharing their thoughts about how they felt getting this story or information or just talking with the family member.

Have your students go to the Wessels web site and read the interviews that are provided there. Then have your students create a timeline showing what a family in the 1930’s might have gone through. Display the timelines and then have your students look at the different timelines and record the similarities and differences that they notice in the individual timelines.

Bring the class together and discuss what it must have been like for those that had to leave their homes and go somewhere else to live.


Learning Advice

Be prepared to adjust the lesson based on the experiences of your students. Prepare your map activity ahead of time so that you have the appropriate maps available for the students. NOTE: this lesson provides a great opportunity for you to have a guest speaker come and visit with your students. You might consider having someone who has immigrated to the area that you are and your students live in.


Conclusion of the Lesson

After the lesson has been presented have your students complete their K.W.L. activity. Have them answer the third question on the activity sheet. You can either have the students turn in their K.W.L activity sheet for you to read and possibly grade or discuss their comments with the class. Your students will have developed and understanding of what it means to immigrate from one area to another.


Assessment Activity

Have your students write a letter to a historical figure. Have them write the letter as if they were in that time period and have them ask questions that would pertain to their move.

Use the remaining section of the K.W.L. activity as an assessment tool.


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