American Migrations Timeline

Author: Sara Chavarria
Editor: Stephanie Nardei

Time: 6 Class Periods
Make double sided copies of Handout 1
Materials: Handout 1
Important Migrations List
Computer Room


In order to answer the question of whether the United States is a country of migrants or immigrants, students will compile a list of migrations in America. From this list they will be expected to conduct individual research for a particular episode of migration and address push and pull factors with their political, economic, social, and environmental influences.

Purpose: In this Explore and Explain lesson students will understand U.S. history is a rich story of migration--both voluntary and involuntary. A new perspective on how we define the make-up of this country will be reached. It will no longer be a country of immigrants.

Students will be able to:
i. Create a list of migrations in America applying prior knowledge and textbook research.
ii. Conduct individual research of a particular migration episode and write a two-page essay on their findings.
iii. Compile a matrix of research from their presentations.

Historical Thinking Standards

  • Standard 4B: Obtain historical data.
  • Standard 4C: Interrogate historical data.
  • Standard 5A: Identify issues and problems in the past.

United States History Standards

  • Era 2 Standard 1: Why the Americas attracted Europeans, why they brought enslaved Africans to their colonies, and how Europeans struggled for control of North America and the Caribbean.

Teacher Background
If Applicable.

Resource Websites

History of International Migration: http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/history/migration/chapter52.html
Immigration to the U.S. on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_to_the_United_States
EDSITEment: http://edsitement.neh.gov/tab_lesson.asp?subjectArea=3&subcategory=24
Regents Prep: http://regentsprep.org/regents/ushisgov/themes/immigration/index.htm



Day 1
1. Ponder Question for the day (to be displayed on board or overhead):
Is the United States a country of immigrants or migrants?

2. Discuss the ponder question and begin the investigatory task. (5 minutes)

3. Divide class into two groups. They will not work as a group, but will be assigned different topic tasks:

  • Group 1: Research migrations in America before 1860
  • Group 2: Research migrations in America after 1860.

4. Have students go through textbooks and on a sheet of paper identify movements or migrations for their time period and the dates. (15-20 minutes)

5. Have them exchange sheets with another student from the other group.

6. As a class, have students share their findings. Start by determining what is the earliest movement or migration date. .Continue to ask for additional movements by date to create a timeline. Write these movements and dates on an overhead or chalkboard while students take notes.

7. When done, include those students may not have identified. See Important Migrations list for ideas.

8. Students will be assigned an individual migration movement to investigate.

Days 2-4
9. The student will compile the following additional data. They will write a two-page essay relating all information collected, including the map with all pertinent information. Students will have two days of research. One at the library and one in the computer room to type up their essay and work on their map.

  1. Data set 1
    i. Was the migration voluntary or forced?
    ii. Was the migration internal or international?
  2. Data set 2
    i. Where did the migrants come from?
    *List and explain the push factors in their home country or location.
    ii. Where did the migrants settle?
    *List and explain the pull factors that led them to the new location.
  3. Data set 3
    Draw or fill in a map with the following criteria:
    1. If the movement is internal a U.S. map of the period will suffice. If the movement is international a world map is required.
    2. Using arrows to show direction of the migration, identifying starting and ending points.
    3. Name the area(s) where these migrants started and settled.
  4. Data set 4
    Address how this group of migrants contributed to American society. Identify what ideas, foods, arts, traditions, etc. they brought with them.

Days 5-6
10. Students present a portion of the data they compiled as required by Handout 1. As students present for 2-4 minutes, the class fills out Handout 1.

11. On paper, have students answer the following statement and questions to be turned in.

List the top three reasons people moved? Were they economic, political, social, and/or environmental?

For the same instances, list the pull factor that determined where they settled? Were they economic, political, social and/or environmental?

The map and two-page essay can be worked on at home, especially if they have not finished it during class.

Embedded Assessment
Individual student sheet lists on migration movements can be assessed for depth of research.
Student’s timeline notes can be assessed as a note-taking activity.

The two-page essay can be assessed for content.
Handout 1 can be assessed for completion.

The final statement and questions can be assessed for accuracy.


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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