Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Dreaming to Come to America

Diane Krapf
Collier County Schools


Students examine reasons for immigration to America, including economic, political, and religious considerations and conduct research to determine immigration history of students' families and compare reasons other groups have come to America.


The student writes notes, comments, and observations that reflect comprehension of fifth-grade or higher level content and experiences from a variety of media.

The student uses appropriate available technologies to enhance communication.

The student constructs and labels a timeline based on a historical reading (for example, about United States history).


- Lawlor, Veronica. [I Was Dreaming to Come to America]. New York: Viking Children's Books.1995
- Bunting, Eve. [How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story]. New York: Clarion Books.1998
- KWL Chart (see Associated File)
- Student and Parent Country Chart (See Associated File)
- Computers with Internet access
- Butcher paper and markers for timeline and Venn diagram
- Checklist for Participation in Two Days Lesson on Immigration (See associated file)


Day 1:
1. Locate and find an excerpt to be read aloud from [I Was Dreaming to Come to America] by Veronica Lawlor.
2. Duplicate the sheets in the associated file for students and teacher.
3. Remind students to survey parents and grandparents for immigration information based on questions formulated in class.
4. Secure materials such as books, articles, etc. for students to use in research on day 2. These can be used in the classroom or in a media center setting.
Day 2:
1. Locate and prepare to read aloud [How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story] by Eve Bunting.
2. Tape up butcher paper for timeline (have it premarked with dates that correspond to key historical eras, i.e., Revolutionary War, World War I, etc.)
3. Provide markers for students to record their survey data on the timeline.
4. Ensure computers are online for Internet research.
5. Tape up butcher paper for Venn diagram. Predraw three large circles to represent the main reasons for immigration (political, economic, religious). Use markers from timeline activity


First Day of Lesson
1. Read aloud from the book [I Was Dreaming to Come to America]by Veronica Lawlor. Students respond to the book with information and questions about immigration with a KWL (Know, Want to Know, and Learned Chart) (KWL chart in associated file.)

2. Using overhead transparency with the question, How are the immigrants coming to America like the patriots in the American Revolution? review previous study with comparison to include freedom to live in country that rules itself, freedom for individuals to worship as they choose, and opportunities for individual prosperity.

3. Class develops a chart showing how many students in the class were born in another country, how many students' parents were born in another country, and which countries are represented. (See chart in Associated File.)

4. As a group, students formulate the questions they will ask their parents about when their ancestors came to this country. (Be sure that when and why are included in the questions.) Students should do this for homework and bring in the responses the next day.

Second day of lesson
1. Read aloud from the book [How Many Days to America? A Thanksgiving Story] by Eve Bunting.

2. Students share about parents and grandparents who came to America and why.

3. Students construct a timeline on butcher paper and enter dates from the Revolutionary War to the present for families' immigration to America. As a group, students brainstorm the form of the timeline (vertical, horizontal, etc.) and each individual has an opportunity, through rotations, to add to the timeline and to label individual information. If your students are not familiar with timelines, you may need to model one on the board for them.

4. Working in groups, students research and take notes from a variety of sources to answer the following questions on reasons for immigration. They will use the Internet URLs (see Weblinks section) and a variety of reference materials and trade books provided.
What is immigration?
What were the reasons immigrants came to America?
Name three groups of immigrants and tell when they came and the country from which they came.

5. Divide students into groups of five and create Venn Diagrams on butcher paper, using notes from research to compare these reasons for coming to America Again you may need to model how to complete a Venn Diagram if students are not familiar with it. Reasons include:

6. As a group, complete the column on the KWL for what WE PREDICTED THAT WE WOULD LEARN.

7. Assess students by allowing ten minutes for them to write (narrative, expository, or poem) what they have learned about reasons for immigration.


Use the Checklist for Participation as an ongoing assessment for each student. Use the Rubric to assess the student's creative writing dealing with reasons for immigration to America. See associated file for both assessment forms.

Circulate and formatively assess students as they use the technology tools. Provide corrective and effective feedback to students throughout the process.


Provide opportunities for students to use illustrations or the written form on the timeline, the Venn Diagram, and the writing assessment. In the case of a child not living with natural parents, the child would automatically use his or her adopted family's history. For those who don't know their immigration history, estimated data based on the parent interview would be acceptable.

Web Links

Web supplement for Dreaming to Come to America
Family Tree Maker

Web supplement for Dreaming to Come to America

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