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Images of Ellis Island: The Immigrant Experience

Created by:
Kevin Throckmorton
Galloway Township

George Wood
Hamilton Township

19th Century Immigration

Grade Level:
6 to 8


Students will demonstrate knowledge of the 19th century immigration experience by using multimedia (PowerPoint, PhotoStory)to trace the processing procedure at Ellis Island and list contributions made by various ethnic groups.

Historical Context

Ellis Island opened as an immigration processing center in 1892. On January 1, 1892, a 15 year old Irish girl named Annie Moore became the first immigrant to be processed at the new structure. From 1892-1954 over 12 million immigrants entered the United States through Ellis Island. During the peak years of operation up to 10,000 people passed through each day.

In the beginning of Ellis Island immigration to America was changing. More people were coming from Eastern and Southern Europe and less from Western and Northern Europe. This new wave of immigration included Jews, Italians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Serbs, Slovaks, and Greeks. The reasons they left their homes for America were war, famine, poverty, religious persecution, and greater opportunities. Most immigrants would complete the process in three to five hours. Some with problems stayed at Ellis Island for days, weeks, or months. Those that passed the medical and legal inspection boarded the ferry to New Jersey or Manhattan to begin their new life in America. Only two percent of the arrivals were denied entry. Despite the reputation of the "Island of Tears," the majority of people were treated fairly and with respect.


immigration, customs, ethnicity, cultural diversity

Goals and Objectives:

Following this activity, students will be able to:

1. Create a multimedia presentation documenting the Ellis Island immigration experience.

2. Explain the push-pull factors of immigration.

3. Identify what an objects and customs an immigrant would likely bring with them America.

4. Discuss the processing procedures of the U.S. Immigration Department at Ellis Island.

5. Identify important American symbols of freedom such as the Statue of Liberty.

6. Appreciate the contributions immigrants have made to American society.


6.1 (Social Studies Skills)Use critical thinking skills to interpret events, recognize bias, point of view, and context.

6.1 (Social Studies Skills)Analyze data in order to see persons and events in context.

6.1 (Social Studies Skills)Use effective strategies for locating information.

6.1 (Social Studies Skills)Summarize information in written, graphic, and oral formats.

6.4 (United States and New Jersey History)Discuss the reasons why various groups, voluntarily and involuntarily, immigrated to America and New Jersey and describe the problems they encountered.

6.4 (United States and New Jersey History)Explain that Americans have come from different parts of the world and have a common American heritage, in addition to the heritage of the countries of origin.

6.4 (United States and New Jersey History)Discuss the experiences of immigrants who came to the United States and New Jersey, including reasons for immigrating, experiences at Ellis Island, and working and living conditions in America.

Equipment, materials and other technology needed:

Computers with internet access and multimedia software PowerPoint, PhotoStory)

Details of Activity

It is recommended to introduce students to immigration vocabulary terms and show the documentary "Island of Hope - Island of Tears" prior to implementing this lesson plan. Vocabulary terms and the documentary is available on YouTube and the URL is linked in the web resources below.

Day 1:

1. Introduce the Ellis Island immigration experience through use of graphic images of Ellis Island.

2. Discuss reasons why people left their country of origin and why they chose to live in the United States.

3. Provide students with internet sites that will be used to locate images of immigrants' Ellis Island experiences.

Day 2

4. Students will create a multimedia presentation which will include the following images:(1)immigrants leaving their homeland, (2)Statue of Liberty from immigrants' perspective,(3)map of New York harbor showing location of Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty, (4)arrival at Ellis Island, (5)Main building, (6)Families, (7) immigrants carrying their possessions, (8)the Great Hall, (9)medical and legal inspections, (10)quarters for detainees, (11) money exchange, and(12)the "kissing post".

5. Students add captions and narration to the multimedia presentation for each image.

Practice and Reinforcement

Students choose an immigrant that passed through Ellis Island during the late 19th century (from a teacher-provided list)and research the contributions made to American society by that individual.


Coan, Peter M. Ellis Island Interviews: in their own words. New York:Facts on File, Inc., 1997.

Moreno, Barry.Images of America: Ellis Island. Charleston SC:Arcadia Publishing, 2003.

Web Links:
Ellis Island Images Slideshow from Teaching Americ

An interactive tour of Ellis Island created by Sch

Immigrant experience and Ellis Island history from

Images of Ellis Island from the Library of Congres

Black and white photographs of early Ellis Island

Ellis Island National Monument

Video and image gallery from the History Channel

Video showing immigrants arriving at Ellis Island

Immigration Vocabulary terms list

Island of Hope - Island of Tears documentary

For more information about the Teaching American History Program click here