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Immigration in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

120 min


  • Students will identify what it means to be an immigrant and discover what was involved in the process of immigration.
  • Students will investigate the impact immigration had upon the United States socially and economically.
  • Students will assess the arguments given for and against the restriction of immigration.

  • Migration
  • Immigrant
  • Ancestral
  • Arduous
  • Push factor
  • Pull factor
  • New World
  • Civil Rights Act of 1866
  • 14th Amendment
  • Ellis Island
  • Familial
  • Social Darwinism
  • Nativism
  • Immigration Restriction League
  • American Protective Association
  • Chinese Exclusionary Act of 1882
  • Literacy test

  1. Use the graphic organizer in Handout A: Migration Experiment Graphic Organizer and Discussion Questions and sample questions to lead your class in a background discussion regarding immigration. Begin the discussion with general questions, transitioning to discussing themes of immigration. Try to group your students’ answers into themes fitting into the two categories.
  2. Tell your students you would like to experiment with a new seating arrangement. They have a choice of either remaining where they sit now, or moving to any seat they’d like, so long as it’s not occupied. Allow them to sit near their friends.
  3. Once they take their new seats, arbitrarily pick a few students to move.
  4. Take a few desks, and say they cannot be sat in as they are due for repairs. Make the students sitting in these chairs either stand or sit on the floor somewhere else (demonstrating push factor).
  5. Reward students who chose to sit in the front row with some sort of prize or treat. Then allow other students to come sit up front now that they know there is an incentive (demonstrating pull factor).
  6. (Optional) – Work with another teacher to swap students between two classes. Have them sit randomly amongst the students in your class.
  7. Once all the students have taken their seats, and asked a few questions – let them know they’ve all just been migrants (demonstrating tensions caused by newcomers).
  8. Let them return to their return to their seats (or classrooms) or leave them where they are, and conduct a class discussion about their impressions of the experiment.
  9. Use Handout A: Migration Experiment Graphic Organizer and Discussion Questions to lead the discussion.

Activity I » 30 minutes

  1. Have students read the Handout B: Background Essay: The New Wave – Immigration in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, and answer the critical thinking questions.
  2. Students should be prepared to discuss their responses to the critical thinking questions with the class.

Activity II » 30 minutes

  1. Divide students into groups of 3 to 5.
  2. Have them read the instructions and introduction on Handout C: The Challenges of Assimilation.
  3. Afterwards, they should read Handout D: Selections from Henry Cabot Lodge’s Speech in the Senate, March 16, 1896, and answer the review questions.
  4. Finally, they should read Handout E: Selections from the President Grover Cleveland’s veto message of the 1896 Literacy test March 2, 1897, and answer the critical thinking questions.
  5. Once all groups are finished, move on to the wrap-up activity.

  1. Pass out Handout F: Immigration in the Progressive Era and allow your students time to read the two passages.
  2. Students should be instructed to write down 5 initial reactions to the passages.
  3. Using Handout G: Class Discussion Questions as a guide, lead your class in an open discussion about immigration restriction and its impact on the United States.

  1. Have students search for three articles on immigration. One should be economically focused, one should be socially focused, and one should be politically focused.
  2. For each question, have the students answer the questions on Handout H: Immigration Today.
  3. Discuss their findings in class.

Student Handouts

Next Lesson

African Americans in the Gilded Age

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