Home > Group A Workspace > Learning Activity 5-D-1

[RS 27464, Chin Quan Chan; Seattle District, Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, Applications to Reenter, c. 1892-1900]: Chin Quan Chan Family,  Chinese Exclusion Act Case File, circa 1911,
[RS 27464, Chin Quan Chan; Seattle District, Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files, Applications to Reenter, c. 1892-1900]: Chin Quan Chan Family, Chinese Exclusion Act Case File, circa 1911,

My Family and U.S. Immigration

A Multidisciplinary Unit

[Scottish boys.]
[Scottish boys.]

Unrestricted, From New York Public Library,
William Williams papers / Series 1. Ellis Island, 1902-1914, 1939, n.d. / Augustus Sherman photographs, ca. 1905-1914
Accessed July 21, 2012
Unrestricted photo from US Archives. Accessed July 21, 2012

Lesson Introduction
As students explore immigration in our country, it is important for them to delve into their own family history for first hand accounts of how their family came to this country. This interdisciplinary, multimedia lesson will require students to conduct and record a podcast interview with an older family member to create an “oral history” of how their family came to this country. If a student does not have a family member to interview, he or she can interview a neighbor or acquaintance about their family history. Students will research topics in U.S. immigration, record and transcribe their interviews, and create immigration bar graphs that provide historical statistics. They will share their podcasts with classmates as a culmination of the project. Students will also respond to a blog post about illegal immigration and to the posts of other students.

Grade Level: 8th-10th

Subject: Interdisciplinary: Math, Social Studies (U.S. History), Language Arts

Students will be able to:
  • Define oral history and formulate questions about U. S. immigration.
  • Research U.S. immigration statistics and select topics.
  • Analyze, interpret, and conduct research using oral histories.
  • Use oral history interview techniques to gather information about family history and/or immigration.
  • Create and upload a podcast recording of ancestor interview.
  • Transcribe an interview into a written transcript.
  • Create a bar chart (or similar graph) revealing immigration statistics.
  • Contrast qualitative and quantitative data.
  • Summarize articles by using supporting evidence.
  • Describe how historical events impacted immigration patterns for their family.
  • Analyze quantitative and qualitative data to propose policy recommendations.

Equity Note: There are some students for whom it will be difficult or impossible to interview family or identify their immigrant ancestors. For example, foster children, adopted children, Native Americans, many African Americans, even students from single parent families or those that have moved frequently and have few family ties may have a very different view of immigration in the United States. In those cases, students should be allowed to select another family to interview - a neighbor, someone at school, etc. Another option would be to interview residents of a local senior center. Alternatively, students could be assigned to work in partners and select only one family to interview. Yet another option could be to study a combination of family and community immigration patterns and letting the students volunteer whether they want to interview a family member or a community member. Bottom line is that the teacher will need to know their students well enough to anticipate potential problem situations, be flexible with alternative assignments, communicate openly with students' families, and prepared to help students deal with issues that might arise. Having a class that can really look at the different immigration pathways, including slavery, refugees, adoption, etc. can be a very powerful and valuable learning experience but requires a teacher who has prepared their students to deal with such issues in an open-minded and compassionate way.


1. Explain the project and begin by asking the students and exploring: what is an “oral history”?
2. Definition according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:tape-recorded historical information obtained in interviews concerning personal experiences and recollections; also : the study of such information; a written work based on oral history
3. Students will explore the following sites for information about formulating questions for an oral history:
4. Students will investigate the immigration policies of the United States government and identify those policies that are most controversial.
5. Students will read several articles about the current U.S. immigration policy; The Great Immigration Debate, The Debate Over Immigration: 200 Years & Counting, Raised in the U.S., But Still Illegal. For each article, students will provide a summary which includes several of the major points of the article.
6. Students will the respond to a blog post defending whether they agree or disagree with allowing illegal immigrants to become citizens of the United States. The blog post needs to clearly state the student's opinion and then must be supported with at least 2-3 reasons. Students must reply to at least two blog posts of other students in a school appropriate manner.
7. Students will interview an older family member to create an “oral history” of how their family came to this country. They will record the interview using laptop computer with built in microphones that they can check out from the school. For aid in creating their podcast, students can access the following video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-hrBbczS9I0
8. Once the interview is complete, students will listen to their podcast recording and transcribe their interview. They must use word for word dialogue, including the name and the interviewer and interviewee in the question and answer format. The format is MLA, single-spaced, Times New Roman, 12 pt. This will be handed in to the teacher on the same day the podcast is due.
9. Students can upload their podcast to : http://www.podbean.com/.
The site is free and has easy-to-follow directions for upload. Podcasts will be linked to our class wiki.
10. Each student will listen to the podcast or read the transcription of at least two other students, preferably people they don't know as well.

Math Component

  1. While students are working on the project they will be learning from what country their ancestors have immigrated from.
  2. Through the use of a Google Doc (Excel spreadsheet) students will each contribute to their country of origin by increasing the number in the appropriate total column. If their country is not listed students are to add their country alphabetically by continent. Students may have ancestors from more than one country for example, German-Irish. Students would account for both countries.
  3. Once this Excel spreadsheet has been completed by all students a bar chart can be created.
  4. Students will watch a demonstration screencast of How to Create a Bar Chart using excel.
  5. Bar charts will vary in style but all data should reflect the same information.
  6. Bar charts can be printed and handed-in or can saved then linked to a blog or the class wiki.

The Google Doc Spread sheet will first appear as follows:

Integration of the Components:

Depending on the issues that come up in the oral histories and research, there are some excellent data sets and analysis of immigration patterns and trends at the Migration Policy Institute's Data Hub. Some of these can be used as part of the math component. Others provide a narrative description, such as Who's Where in the United States which uses 2000 Census data to show patterns in specific states by country of origin. Students can use this to identify their own family's country of origin and read an analysis of that nationality in the state in which they currently live or in the state to which their family originally immigrated.

Possible Reflection Questions:
1. If current U.S. immigration policy had been in effect at the time when your family immigrated, what might have been the impact on them?
2. Look at the Migration Policy Institute's graph entitled "Legal Immigration to the United States: Fiscal Years 1820 to 2010"or the interactive map, the New York Times' Immigration Explorer. Look at the data for the year(s) your family immigrated. From what you learned in your oral history interview, how does your family history fit with national trends?
3. Nearly everyone agrees that the current U.S. immigration policy needs to be changed. Based on what you have learned, what changes or new policies would you recommend? Why? Support your answer with evidence and sources.