The Life of an Immigrant

Contributor: Danielle Childers. Lesson ID: 10128

Have you ever had to move to a different home? Different town? Different country? Try it with no money, no car or plane, and living in one room! Experience the life of an immigrant over 100 years ago!


United States

learning style
Auditory, Visual
personality style
Otter, Golden Retriever
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Imagine the year is 1905, and you are a 10-year-old in Italy. You have a good life. You don’t have much money, but you are happy.

Your parents keep talking about wanting a better life for you and your siblings in this new country called America. One day, they say you are going to go; so you pack one small suitcase, board a ship, and sail across the Atlantic Ocean for four weeks.

You finally arrive in a very dirty and crowded city called New York. No one around you speaks your language, your dad has a hard time finding a job, and you live in a small apartment with three other families.

  • How do you think you would feel?
  • Would it be a hard adjustment?

Yes, for most people that life would be hard, but this was reality for millions of people in America's early history as a nation.

Looking at where we live today, it is hard for us to even imagine what life would be like in 1905, with no phones, no gaming systems, no indoor bathrooms, and not even electricity!

America had a lot of opportunities: there was plenty of land, freedom of religion, and the promise of a better life. Over 20 million people came to the U.S. between 1880 and 1920, fleeing from their country. A person coming to live permanently in a country different from where they were born is called an immigrant.

Watch Coming to America: New York's Immigrants, from Discovery Education, about New York City’s immigrants at the turn of the century. While you watch, look for the timeline in which the immigrants came to America. After watching the video, answer some questions:

  • Why did people come to America?
  • Was it an easy trip?
  • What were some difficulties immigrants ran into when they came?
  • Did children have to work?

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Now that you have a better picture of what immigrants (perhaps including your parents or grandparents) had to endure, move on to the Got It? section and tour the place they might have lived 100 years ago!

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