Lesson Plan


Students perform at Museum of Work and Culture

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Grade Level:
Middle School: Sixth Grade through Eighth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
6.RI.7, 6.RI.8, 7.RI.8, 8.RI.8
State Standards:
Massachusetts. History. 6th to 12th grade.
Economic Skills 14.

Massachusetts. History. 6th to 12th grade.
US History I28.B
Thinking Skills:
Understanding: Understand the main idea of material heard, viewed, or read. Interpret or summarize the ideas in own words. Applying: Apply an abstract idea in a concrete situation to solve a problem or relate it to a prior experience. Creating: Bring together parts (elements, compounds) of knowledge to form a whole and build relationships for NEW situations. Evaluating: Make informed judgements about the value of ideas or materials. Use standards and criteria to support opinions and views.


Immigration involves making the difficult decision to leave the homeland and adapt to a new life in a new location. What conditions influenced people to emigrate from their homeland in Quebec, and how were their lives changed by their relocation to Woonsocket, Rhode Island?

Explain how people and communities weighed the benefits and costs of emigrating.
Explain how new opportunities for work in the textile industry drew immigrants to settle in New England.


The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor commemorates the birth of the American Industrial Revolution, how it changed the landscape of the valley, and how it transformed life in America. The Blackstone River Valley, its people, and its history serve as a case study for the history of the American Industrial Revolution. In the 1850s, when textile manufacturing had become well established in the valley and further growth required a larger labor force, agents for mill owners went to Canada to recruit new workers. This lesson explores the immigration experience of the French Canadians, or Quebecois, who left Quebec in the late 1800s and early 1900s for the industrial town of Woonsocket, Rhode Island. The lesson addresses some of the reasons people emigrate, the challenges they face, the opportunities they discover, and the ways their lives are changed by their new environment.


*Print off the Immigration Photos on an overhead transparency.

* Print a copy of the labeled map for each student, and make sure that each student has access to a ruler.

*Print off a class set of the “Letters” and “Decision to Leave Play” per student

*Print off one copy of “Travel Backpack” for each student. 


Download Immigration Photos, Maps, “Decision to Leave” play script, letters.

Lesson Hook/Preview

  1. Explain to students: “With the immigration of many Quebecois to the United States, life changed both for the immigrants and for those who remained behind. To explore some of these changes, we will use historic photographs to examine the differences between life in Quebec and life in the industrial city of Woonsocket.”
  2. Show the following photos on the overhead: 1) a Quebec scene and 2) a Woonsocket scene.
  3. Ask students to write down the differences and similarities between the two communities, based on what they can see in the photographs.
  4. Have students hypothesize: What conditions influenced people to emigrate from their homeland in Quebec, and how were their lives changed by their relocation to Woonsocket, Rhode Island? Write these hypotheses on the board. 


1)   Explain to students that to understand the choices and realities of those who chose to leave their homes and move to a new life in America, students will also need to explore the understandings and expectations of the immigrants.

2)   Do the following mapping activity to set the scene for the play, Decision to Leave. This mapping activity has been designed to give students a sense of the geographic “place” or setting for the action in the play and its relation in space to the family’s proposed destination, including the distances that immigrants had to travel.

3)   Tell students they can work on their own or in pairs. Give each student or pair of students a copy of the labeled map. Using a ruler and the scale on the map, ask students to calculate (in miles) the distances between Quebec City and Woonsocket, and Montreal and Woonsocket. Assuming that a family could travel fifteen miles per day on foot with one horse and wagon to carry heavy items, have student calculate the number of days it would take to travel between these cities. Ask students to imagine and describe the difficulties and challenges the families might have encountered along the way.

4)   Tell students that they are moving on to the second part of this exploration. Pass out copies of the play Decision to Leave and the letters Losing the French Language and A Son in Woonsocket to His Mother in Quebec to each student. Read the play and then the letters aloud in class, having students take turns.

5)   Then ask students, in their pairs, to discuss the following questions. What is life in Quebec like during the time period of the play? What sources of information about the experience of emigrating do the sisters have? What do Simone and Louise fear they will lose if they leave Quebec? How do the letters support Simone’s and Louise’s concerns? What would the writers of the letters say to the girls if they could advise them?

Take a vote: Once students have discussed in pairs, poll class – who would go and who would stay? Ask individual students to explain which side’s arguments s/he found most compelling and why. 


Immigration – moving to a new country or location to live permanently.

Emigration – leaving a country or location for another to live permanently.

Assessment Materials

Travel Backpack

This assessment will be started in groups and finished individually.

Travel Backpack

Download Assessment

Supports for Struggling Learners

  • Plan mixed-ability groups.
  • Give highlighted copies of the play and letters to students.
  • Let students work on the entire assessment in groups

Enrichment Activities

  • Allow students to complete entire assessment individually.
  • Ask students to create their own letter from a son or daughter who has immigrated to Woonsocket to his/her parent in Quebec. 

Related Lessons or Education Materials

This lesson plan was produced in partnership with the Rhode Island Historical Society through their Museum of Work and Culture. The Museum of Work and Culture exhibits the culture of the French-Canadian residents of the area, the broad story of the other ethnic communities of the Valley, and the role that work and organized labor played in the shaping of these Rhode Islanders' lives. The museum features hands-on experiences for visitors of all ages, as well as films, photographic and Catholic school archives. 

For information about setting up a field trip to the Museum, please call (401) 769-9675 or visit the Museum's website.

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Last updated: May 21, 2015