Lesson Plan


Students perform at Museum of Work and Culture

Overall Rating

Add your review
Grade Level:
High School: Ninth Grade through Twelfth Grade
Social Studies
Lesson Duration:
90 Minutes
Common Core Standards:
State Standards:
State: Massachusetts         
Subject: History          
Grade Level: 6th -12th
State Standards: Economic Skills 14

State: Massachusetts          Subject: History           Grade Level: 6th -12th
State Standards: 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.
In this lesson, students will answer the following essential question: What conditions influenced people to emigrate from their homeland in Quebec, and how were their lives changed by their relocation to Woonsocket, Rhode Island?


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.


If the teacher wishes, put students in groups of four. The other option is to allow students to create own groups.

Print off one set of Immigration Photos per group.

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

Print off one copy of “Exploration Activities” and “Travel Backpack” for each student.


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


 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, students will use historic photographs to examine the differences between life in Quebec and life in the industrial city of Woonsocket. Now, you will work in groups of 4 to study photographs and then present your findings to the class.”

2. Give each small group two photographs: 1) a Quebec scene and 2) a Woonsocket scene.

3. Ask each group to list the differences and similarities between the two communities, based on what they can see in the photographs.

4. Follow with a class discussion asking each group to present the top two similarities and the top two differences, in turn.

5. Ask groups if they have additional items on their lists to add to the discussion.

6. Draw some hypotheses for further exploration as the lesson continues to answer the question: 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.

7. 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

Exploration Activity #1: Mapping

  1. This mapping activity sets the scene for the play, Decision to Leave, in Exploration Activity #2. 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.
  2. Tell students they can work on their own or in pairs. Give each student or pair of students an unlabeled map. You may take out a labeled map as an answer key for yourself.
  3. Hand out the “Exploration Activities” directions to each student.
  4. Ask students to complete Exploration Activity One.
  5. In a class discussion, ask students to share answers to the reflection questions by describing the difficulties and challenges the families might have encountered along the way.

Exploration Activity #2: Decision to Leave.

  1. Tell students that they will be completing the Exploration Activity 2. While they complete this next activity, assign for each half of the student groups to advocate for different characters points of view: half of the group will advocate for Simone’s point of view and the other half for Louise’s point of view.
  2. 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. P
  3. Read the play and then the letters aloud in class, having students take turns. While the play and letters are read, ask the students to complete the “While Listening” section.  
  4. Then, ask the small groups of students to complete the “Thinking About the Play” and “Thinking About the Letters” sections of Exploration Activity 2.
  5. After the small-group discussions, bring the class together to share their answers.
  6. Take a Vote: Once all the arguments have been recorded, poll the students – who would go and who would stay? Ask individual students to explain which side’s arguments he/she 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. Make the entire assessment activity group-work.

Enrichment Activities

Allow students to complete entire assessment individually.

Ask students to create their own letter from a Son or Daughter in Woonsocket to A Parent in Quebec.

Contact Information

Email us about this lesson plan

Last updated: May 21, 2015