Immigration Journals…Creating Characters!

OK…my class is on the tail end of one of my FAVORITE units of the year.  I haven’t been blogging about it much because I did do some blogging about the unit last year but…

I have to share this.  We have immersed ourselves in immigration…we have read novels.  We have read informational texts.  We have viewed primary sources.  We have read picture books.  We know a LOT!  The fun is about to begin!  Today our entire fourth grade participates in a simulation where we immigrate through Ellis Island.  We set up our community room as Ellis Island, we get parent volunteers who help serve as doctors, inspectors, commissioners, and so on.  The students come in costume, bring a suitcase, and prepare for the adventure!

To prepare for this amazing learning experience, I put my students into “families” from countries that sent a lot of immigrants to our part of the country.  I have a family from Ireland–the O’Leary family…the Monelli family from Italy…the Botskova family from Russia and so on.  Each family is given the names and ages of the family members and one other fact.  For example, the Monellis are tomato farmers…the Botskovas are shop owners, and so on.  From that limited information, the students work together to “invent” their family story. What town are they from?  Who are the other family members?  Why are they leaving their homeland?

Together they brainstorm and come up with their ideas.  Some of them pulled out atlases to study their homeland to pick their home town…
Others used iPads to get more detail or to learn a little more about what was happening in that era in that country.
All of this preparation served to get the students SO excited for our big day.  BUT WAIT!  There is MORE!  This “family planning” (hehe) is serving a much bigger purpose–our next writing task!  We are going to be writing immigrant diaries–from the point of view of their new character!  This is SUCH a great writing assignment–always my students’ favorite as they can be creative, apply so much of what w have learned this year, and can put as much work into it as they wish.  The expectations are simple:
1.  You must have at least three diary entries–one while still in their homeland, one while aboard their ship, and one at Ellis Island. They are free to do as many more as they wish.
2.  They must write from their character’s point of view and stay true to it.
3.  They must show what they have learned about “elaboration” as they write.  Here is the anchor chart we are using to guide our writing:
We started off in the computer lab today with our first entry…and the kids were having a blast writing, conferring with their family members, dashing back to their computers and so on.  I L-O-V-E Google Docs!  Tons of kids were super excited to go home and add more to their immigrant tales.  Cross your fingers that none of us are deported!  Have a great day!