Student Activities

Finding a Home Immigration Activity

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies


As immigrants finished processing at Ellis Island, many waited with hopes, fears, and anticipation about where they chose to settle. Some preferred the comforts of immigrant communities nearby, whereas others hoped to find better job opportunities outside the greater New York area. Finding a Home simulates the experience of being a newly-arrived immigrant excited to take their next steps in America. 


  • Pencils or pens
  • Paper
  • Location descriptions (located in Step 2)


Part 1:

Inform students that immigrants encountered very difficult choices when deciding where to go next. Mutual-aid societies persuaded them to go one way, whereas the lure of labor and opportunity to own land enticed them to go elsewhere. Split the class into groups of three or four and inform them that they will act as their own mock family from Poland about to make the same decisions as immigrants a century ago.

Part 2:

Distribute family profile and advertisements/classifieds for each desired location. The descriptions depict three locations (revealed at the end of the lesson), each offering a distinct advantage to relocating to that area. As immigrants from Poland, Location A offers a large ethnic community but the employment prospects remain uncertain. Location B promotes ample farming opportunities (and opportunity to own land). The area has vast farmland, but very few people of your ethnic culture, and features little of what your family was used to. As someone who specializes in building the railroads, Location C offers the greatest employment that matches your skill set, but the train tickets are the most costly.

Part 3: 

For each part of the description read, the groups, as newly-processed immigrants, will determine the benefits and drawbacks of each proposed destination. Explain to the groups that they will have a fifty-dollar budget to make their decisions. Inform students that they will have about ten minutes to determine the best destination for their families, backing up their decisions with well-supported facts.

Things to consider:

  • Is it more important to have readily-available employment or a job that matches your skill-set but is more expensive to get to travel to?
  • What advantages do you think, you as a newly-arrived immigrant family, would find in your own ethnic community?
  • What are the advantages of running your own business?

After all the groups have made their decisions, a discussion will follow providing a detailed analysis to why students decided to settle in that area. 

  • Why do you think having people from the same country (a sense of community) is important for newly-arrived immigrants?
  • How do you think the decisions immigrants made in the past compares to the choices immigrants make today?

Part 4:

After the discussion, inform the groups of their elected destinations:

  • Location A indicates that the group has decided to relocate to Chicago, Illinois.
  • Location B reveals that the lure of economic opportunity has driven them to Sioux Falls, North Dakota.
  • Location C showcases a family that will make the cross-country trek to San Francisco, California.



Download Finding a Home Immigration Activity

Last updated: May 1, 2018