Immigration into the United States
Lesson 2--Why do people emigrate?

Submitted by Kathy Walcott


Students will...

  • begin to develop an understanding of why people leave their homeland to live in another country.
  • identify Latin American countries from which recent immigrants have come 
  • demonstrate an understanding of  letter writing skills in order to gather information as to why recent immigrants have emmigrated from Latin American countries into the United States
  • begin to understand the concept of directions using North, South, East, and West
  • understand the methods and manners that one uses to emmigrate into the United States from a Latin American country


Language: Content Obligatory
Students will...

  • use the present, preterite and imperfect tenses (2nd per/singular) in order to write letters to recent immigrants.  (See Vocabulary list for Lesson #2 in Attachments)
  • use past tense 3rd person singular of the verbs llegar, mudar, and emigrar and preposition de in order to identify the countries from which recent immigrants have come with words/phrases such as llegó  de ______, llegaron de _______, mudó de __________
  • use present tense (1st person singular) of the verbs in verb list in order to write letters to recent immigrant (see vocabulary list for Lesson #2 in Attachments)
  • use question words to conduct interviews of recent immigrants using: cómo, cuándo, porqué, dónde
  • use the verb viajar (3rd person singular) in order to give directions using: norte, oeste, sur, este

Language: Content Compatible
Students will...

  • use 3rd person singular (usted --formal) of the verbs listed in the vocabulary list for Lesson #2 in order to complete  interviews 
  • formulate questions (present and past) in order to ask questions about each other's penpals in their cooperative groups
  • use present tense to ask for clarification with phrases like: còmo, que dijiste, ¿Lo puedes repitir?
  • use present tense to give positive responses while sharing in cooperative groups.  Vocabulary such as:  que bueno, que interesante, Me gusta que, es algo bueno que, que bonito, muy bien, trabajaste duro.

Learning Strategies / Social and Skills Development:
Students will...

  • activate prior knowledge about the topic of  immigration in order to write letters learning about why a person has emmigrated into the United States
  • summarize information and answers from letters and interviews  in order to create a list of reasons why a person has immigrated into The United States
  • use resources such as an atlas in order to locate the Latin American country from which the immigrant has come
  • work in cooperative groups in order to plan a trip from a Latin American country  to Michigan

Time Frame:

This lesson will take approximately 8 45-minute sessions over a period of 3-4 weeks

Materials Needed:

1. Letter writing materials
2.  Maps on which to locate the homeland of the immigrant student
3.  Bulletin Board with a map of Central America
4.  Overhead transperency maps of Central America
5.  Interview question handout
6.  Computers and access to MapQuest
7.  Video of Newscast with interviews


Description of Assessment (Performance Project):

This lesson is a series of letter writing sessions in which the students will be writing letters to immigrants and also conducting an interview of a recent immigrant.  Each letter written has a different focus and purpose. The oral interview is conducted with many of the same objectives, with the exception of introducing students to the 3rd person singular formal (usted).   

These sessions should be completed over a period of time to allow for students to read and respond to letters. 

Between the letter writing sessions, students will be receiving letters from their penpals.  As students receive letters from penpals they will read the letters and reflect both in groups and in journals what they have learned. 

After students receive a letter from their pen pal have them write a journal entry based on the topic of the letter. The journal entry should give information related to the topic of the letter. Notes and journal entries should be saved for use in the Unit Assessment. 

Preparation for Letter Writing Sessions:

Pre-arrange pen pals with a group of recent immigrants.   In this situation the teacher has located a local high school with a number of Latin American Immigrants. 

This could also be done through e-pals which are available through Scholastic.   

At the end of the letter writing sessions, students will choose 2 of the 4 letters that have been written to be assessed. Prior to sending the letters to pen pals make copies of the letters for assessment. 

Assess the letters using the Letter Writing Rubric listed in Attachments for this lesson.

** Session 1 **

Teacher will begin the lesson by writing a letter to a friend  from another country. Teacher will model appropriate grammar and format for letter writing. 

Next teacher will assign students an "immigrant" that will be their pen pal for the next 4 weeks. Explain that they will write a series of letters to the same "immigrant" and each letter will have a different focus.

It is suggested that a poster of the correct grammatical structures for asking questions be posted in order to help students write letters.

During - task:
Students will write a letter to an immigrant students. This letter will be an introductory letter in which the student introduces himself/herself to his/her pen pal.  Students will use the friendly letter writing format while writing this letter.  Teacher will facilitate delivery of the letters.

** Session 2 **

Teacher will discuss with students that the purpose of the next letter is to find out why their pen pal has immigranted into the United States. 

Review the question stems and verb usage appropriate to this letter. List the questions on the board for reference while writing letters.  Focus should be on verbs listed in attachment for Lesson #2.

Students will write a letter to their penpal.  In this letter students will dialogue with Pen Pals and ask specific questions as to why he/she has immigrated to the U.S. Students will use the friendly letter format.

** Session 3 **

Teacher will review letter writing and grammar skills with students. 

As a class generate a list of possible methods of transportation or methods that one might use to emmigrate.  List these on the board.

In this discussion also list questions that could be used in the letter.  Question such as  Cómo viajó?, Cómo llegó? Cuál fue la manera de llegar a Los Estados Unidos?  should be posted for students to reference as they are writing the next letter.

Students will write this letter with the purpose of finding out the method/manner that their penpal used to immigrate to the United States.

Have students write a letter to pen pals with the focus being on how their penpal arrived or traveled to the United States.

** Session 4 **

Teacher will direct students to write a letter to their penpal to find out about feelings of immigration

Teacher will brainstorm with students vocabulary and structures that should be used in order to write these letters. This should be kept on a chart for students to use a reference when writing their letters.


Students will write letters to penpals using vocabulary necessary to find out their pen pal's feeling about their immigration.   

** Session 5 ** 

Cooperative group sharing

  1. Prior to having students share in cooperative groups the teacher should review with students the language necessary to use in cooperative groups.  (These were previously taught as part of Lesson #1)  A list of  positive statements such as---que interesante, esto es algo nuevo, quiero aprender mas, gracias por compartir con nostros etc. should be generated.  Post these statements for use during other cooperative group setting.  Teacher and students should also create a list of words/statements that can be used for clarification while sharing in cooperative groups such as--còmo, que dijiste, lo puedes repitir, otra vez por favor etc.  
  2. Have students share information about how, why, from where, and pen pals feelings with their group. This information will come from notes and journal entries. 
  3. It may be necessary to guide students through this sharing time.  If necessary, give students a format to follow so that all main points are covered.  

Suggestions for Group Sharing:

  • List on the board the different topics that need to be discussed in the group.
  • Give groups time to answer one question and then give them the next question to answer
  • Hand out a check list to each group in which you have listed the questions that need to be answered and what topics you want discussed
  • Use Talking Chips (see directions below) as a strategy to facilitate equal sharing. 

Talking Chips: 

    • In this strategy each student is given 4 bingo chips.  
    • When a student shares he/she must put a chip in the middle of the table.
    • The next person to share must put a chip in the middle of the table. 
    • This continues until all have used all of their chips.  

Country Labeling:  
Complete this activity in cooperative groups. 

  • Have students create a list of countries from which their penpals have immigrated.
  • Have students generate a list of reasons why their penpals have immigrated.
  • Have students label on a map the country from which their pen pal has immigrated. 

4.  Collect maps and lists for assessment.

5.  Have students label on a Bulletin Board map where their pen pal is from.

** Session 7 **

Map Quest:

Gather transperency maps of different Latin American countries. Show the transparencies to students on the overhead projector pointing out a variety of land forms, roads, bodies of water, cities etc.   Be sure to use directional terms such as oeste, este, norte, and sur.

Have students create a MapQuest of a road trip from their pen pal's homeland address to the address of the school. 

After the Map Quest is created, students will share with a partner the map.  Have students focus on using directional terms norte, oeste, sur, and este.  Encourage students to use phrases such as: ____ viajó de ____, ____ viajó al ____.

Assessment of the MapQuest activity will be based on the MapQuest Checklist (see Attachments). 

Students will also be required to write a descriptive paragraph about their pen pal. In this paragraph the students will describe their pen pal and give information about their immigration. 

** Session 8 **

Introduce to the students the concept of an interview.  Show them a video tape of a number of interviews.  

Have the class brainstorm a list of important traits in a interview. Note with the class that interviews contain some of the following aspects:  questions and answers, microphones, tape recorders, and notes.

Review with the students that Spanish has two different ways of addressing people.  Remind them that the more formal or usted is used when addressing adults and persons of authority. Explain the difference between and usted.  Make a chart of kinds of situations in which the different registers are used. 

Brainstorm what kinds of questions they would ask a person that they are interviewing. Remind them again that since the interviews will be of adults and persons less familiar to them that usted should be used while conducting the interviews.

Students will conduct interviews with recent immigrants from Latin America.  Schedule interviews for students. In this case interviews will be done of staff members that are recent immigrants.  Parents of students have also been asked to be part of the interviews.

In pairs the students will conduct the interviews. Students may use tape recorders and video cameras if they wish.  Have students take notes on handout. (See attachment labeled Interview Handout)   

Students will round table/summarize the information that they learned from their interviews. 

Have students share the answers that were given during the interview. 

Students will summarize the information in a journal entry.

The interview activity will be assessed on participation in group sharing, completion of journal entry and involvment in the actual interview. 


For these lessons the following assessments should be used:

1.  Letter Writing Rubric (see attachments)

2.  Map Quest Checklist (see attachments)

3.  Involvement, completion and journal entry of Interview 

References and Resources:



NOTE: some attachments are in PDF form (get Acrobat Reader)

1.  Interview Handout

2.  Letter Writing Rubric-- Letter writing rubric.htm, Letter writing Rubric.xls (two versions of the same thing)

3.  Checklist for Map Quest

Vocabulary List for Lesson #2