Coming to America

Social Studies Lesson Plan

Students will become familiar with the many reasons people immigrated to the United States. They will also learn about how and why their ancestors came.

Coming to America by Eve Bunting, butcher paper


  1. Have your class consider what was being celebrated on the first Thanksgiving, where the immigrants came from, and why they left their homeland. If your students are not familiar with these ideas yet, use The First Thanksgiving by Elizabeth Craighead George as a means of introduction.
  2. In groups, have students brainstorm motives for which people left their homeland to come to America. For example, they could have been forced into slavery, wanted a better education or job, or experienced religious persecution. List all of the ideas on the board.
  3. Read Coming to America to your class. This is a story about a family forced from their island home by the military and it narrates their difficult trip to America and the celebration of their arrival.
  4. Have your students reflect on the story and summarize the reason for the family leaving their home. Add this to the list of motives.
  5. As a homework assignment, have your students talk to their parents to find out why their ancestors came to the United States. Encourage them to obtain as many details as possible and to summarize their finding in writing.
  6. Have students share their stores with the class.
  7. Make a simple chart with which students may record their findings and compare their with the rest of the class. A simple bar graph would work well with all of the motives for emigration listed along the bottom. Then students will write their name in the appropriate column.

Have students discuss what can be learned from the graph. They should be able to see what are the most/least common reasons for leaving one’s country. Ask students to think about why people celebrate Thanksgiving. Have them reflect on why they celebrate Thanksgiving and how this new knowledge about their ancestors might change the way they think about it.

Were your students able to think of reasons why people leave their homeland? Were they aware of what the first Thanksgiving celebrated? Did they comprehend Coming to America and were they able to sympathize with the characters? How do your kids tell their own stories to the rest of the class? Are your students able to read the graph correctly? Do they understand why Thanksgiving is celebrated?

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