Ellis Island—The “Golden Door” to America

This Ellis Island—The “Golden Door” to America lesson plan also includes:

Are you one of the 100 million Americans whose ancestors passed through the doors of Ellis Island? Learn about the historic entry point for immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with an informative reading passage. After answering five discussion questions, high schoolers write narrative stories from the point of view of an incoming immigrant at Ellis Island, or describing the day in the life of an immigration inspector.

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CCSS: Adaptable
Instructional Ideas
  • Assign the reading for homework before working on the writing and discussion questions in class
  • Have learners research their own family's arrival in America, whether it was hundreds of years ago or last year
  • Expand the fifth discussion question into a longer persuasive essay or formal debate for learners to argue their positions
  • Include scenes from various movies that depict entrance to Ellis Island, including An American Tail and The Godfather II
  • Encourage pairs to create immigrant/immigrant inspector characters together, and have each person write about the same scene from a different character's perspective
Classroom Considerations
  • The third part of a 10-lesson series on immigration
  • Narrative writing assignment may require more research
  • Discussion questions address a variety of reading skills
  • Provides a few images from the time period
  • Attached teacher reference guide comes with helpful tips for discussing controversial topics in the classroom
  • None