Lesson Plan

Checking In

Black and white image of immigrants and officials in the Great Hall
Immigrants (center and right) and Legal Inspectors (left) in the Registry Room for the Legal Inspection.

NPS Photo

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Seventh Grade
History, Social Studies
30-35 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 36
in the park


After arriving at Ellis Island, immigrants endured a medical inspection, then waited often hours nervously to begin a legal examination.  The legal examination in the Registry Room represented the greatest challenge at Ellis Island. Immigrants needed to remember the information they had submitted weeks earlier to the clerk in the port where they began their trip.  In this activity, students will play the role of immigrants being questioned by legal inspectors.


By the end of this activity, students will be able to:

• Describe some of the difficulties immigrants faced when processed at Ellis Island.
• Identify with some of the hopes and reservations (feelings) of immigrants arriving to the United States.
• Discuss some of the reasons why the American government questioned immigrants to be granted entry.



Manifest Record:
Before immigrants got on board, the shipping company clerks recorded information from passengers that will be verified when arriving at Ellis Island. This extensive survey asked immigrants a list of approximately thirty different questions, ranging from a person's birth and occupation, to whether the passengers declared themselves to be insane or anarchists. Immigrant officials at Ellis Island referred to the responses of the manifest records for verification, often speed-firing nine-to-ten questions in sixty-seconds. Based on the answers, immigrants will either be admitted or be detained (held) for further questioning.

View actual manifests at http://www.ellisisland.org/.

A blank manifest record, resembling one that immigrant officials used at Ellis Island is available as part of this lesson and on the "For Teachers" page on the Ellis Island website.


  • Pencils
  • Paper
  • Blank Manifest Record



Legal Inspection