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US Immigration: Why did they move to America?

Tuesday 25 October 2011
by Laurence Bernard

Here are a series of activities I have done in class with lower-intermediate students, as part of a unit on US immigration.

- We first worked on the beginning of the open-source video lesson "Immigration" available at another-teacher.net. This led us to work on dates and countries and nationalities and Geography. It’s also very good to work "from... to...."
Here is what my students said after watching and discussing the video.
"This video is about the different immigration waves to America from all over the world (Eastern, Northern and Southern Europe, Asia and Africa), from 1789 to the early twentieth century (1920)."

- Students then had to find reasons why so many immigrants decided to leave their country at that time. Students turned up with something like: "many immigrants left their country because they wanted to find a better life / a job/ money, etc.

- The next step was to brainstorm vocabulary related to movement (equivalents for "left"), vocabulary related to cause - and consequence- (equivalents for "because") and vocabulary related to wishes and desires (equivalents for "wanted to...").
Once this was done, we came up with a list of vocabulary and tried rephrasing using these expressions

word or phrase related to equivalent
left their country verb of movement escaped from their homeland, moved to the USA, went/came to America,...
because cause (+ consequence) because of/ that’s why, so, thus, ..
wanted to + vb wishes and desires hope to
+ vb , dream of +Vb-ing,...

- The following activity consists in reading a series of paragraphs and identifying specific information. Students work from the "Why did they move to America?" worksheet and have to underline different elements using different colours: Green for dates, orange for people and places, blue for reasons for emigrating.
Once this is done, students have to sum-up each paragraph using the elements from the previous brainstorming activity and the words and phrases they have underlined in the texts. They can write their summary below each paragraph between the lines.
The paragraphs are taken from a longer article entitled "American History: Immigrants From Europe Seek a Better Life in a New Land" published on Voanews, 12 May 2010. From there, you can also listen to the entire article in mp3.
An alternative could be to ask students to identify main information from the 6 corresponding audio files, which you can download in the attached documents below.

- As a continuation to this activity, we will work on the Song "America", but this is another West Side Story...

- The students’ final task is to imagine the story that Maria submits more than 50 years later, on the PBS Destination America website, to contribute to their immigration archive project. Of course, students will not actually submit the story online but will work from the "Submit Maria’s story worksheet" below.