Stories of Immigration

In this unit students explore immigration by reading a series of narrative nonfiction and fiction texts that highlight the experiences of early and recent immigrants.



Unit 3

2nd Grade

Unit Summary

In this unit, students explore immigration by reading a combination of informational nonfiction, narrative nonfiction, and fiction texts that highlight the experiences of early and recent immigrants. In the first bend of the unit, students are pushed to notice and think about the different reasons people choose to leave their homes and settle in a new community or country. They will also learn about—historically and in the present day—who is allowed to come to the United States and wrestle with whether or not the system is fair.

In the second bend, students will be pushed to think about the different memories, cultural traits, goods, ideas, languages, and skills that individuals and families bring with them when they move to a new place and how these characteristics enrich the community. While students are exposed to a wide variety of immigrant experiences over the course of the unit, not every experience or feeling about immigration is captured in this unit. Because students might be first- or second-generation immigrants, it is crucial to be sensitive to and respect the varying experiences and feelings of students and families. It is our hope that this unit, in connection with others, will help students build sensitivity and empathy for varying cultures and experiences within the United States.

Fishtank Plus for ELA

Unlock features to optimize your prep time, plan engaging lessons, and monitor student progress.

Texts and Materials

Some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means that if you click and make a purchase, we receive a small portion of the proceeds, which supports our non-profit mission.

Core Materials


These assessments accompany this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

Prepare to teach this unit by immersing yourself in the texts, themes, and core standards. Unit Launches include a series of short videos, targeted readings, and opportunities for action planning.

Essential Questions

  • Why do people immigrate to the United States?
  • What challenges do people face when they are immigrating to the United States?
  • How are our communities enriched by the contributions of immigrants?

Foundational Skills

Fluency Focus Areas

  • Read with expression and volume to match interpretation of the passage.
  • Use proper intonation to show interpretation of the passage.

This unit is one of the only units in the science and social studies sequence where the majority of texts are Read Aloud to students. Therefore, the focus of this unit is on modeling reading aloud with prosody. This involves reading with expression, timing, phrasing, emphasis, and intonation in a way that supports comprehension and meaning-making. In later units and during independent reading, students will have multiple opportunities to practice fluent reading in grade-level texts.

Writing Focus Areas

Sentence-Level Focus Areas

  • Combine simple sentences to make longer, more interesting sentences.

At this point in the year, students have mastered writing complete sentences and have also learned how to use the conjunctions "because," "but," and "so" to make their sentences more interesting. In this unit, they will learn how to combine, or put together, two or more sentences so that their writing is clear and interesting for their readers.

Informational Writing Focus Areas

  • Participate in shared research and writing projects
  • Brainstorm and outline using a Single Paragraph Outline
  • Introduce the topic to a reader

In this unit, students build on the research skills they started to develop in Unit 2 and research a culture in their community. They then focus on writing strong topic sentences that introduce the topic to the reader.

Opinion Writing Focus Areas

  • State an opinion
  • Include reasons to support an opinion
  • Choose strong evidence to support an opinion
  • Use linking words to connect opinion and reasons
  • Write a strong concluding statement

Students write three different opinion pieces in this unit: one letter to a community member explaining why they admire them, another letter to a child whose family is about to immigrate, giving advice, and the final writing defending why and how immigrants enrich a community. In each project, students state an opinion and include reasons to support that opinion. The other focus areas vary, depending on the project.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

  • Build on others' talk in conversations by linking their comments to the remarks of others 
  • Ask for clarification and further explanation as needed about topics and texts under discussion 
  • Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation in order to provide requested detail or clarification. 

In this unit, students continue to work on engaging with the thinking of others. Students continue to focus on building on others' talk in conversations, with an emphasis on asking for clarification and further explanation as needed. The focus areas and discourse in this unit align with Tier 2 of the three tiers of academic discourse and all rows of the Academic Discourse Rubric (K-2). See the Teacher Tool on Tiers of Academic Discourse to help support students with the focus areas for this unit. 



"chimed in" "word got around" admit amnesty appeal ashamed authorities begged bilingual bitter border citizen clenching compass collage defeat descendant denied deported dreading dreadful examine familiar flourish forsaken green card hastily hardship humiliation identification card immigrant interrogation interpreter limit merchant nursery official opportunities poverty provide reunite relief refugee regulate settle settler speechless steerage stern stealthy steamship unite


-ful -less de- in- re-

To see all the vocabulary for Unit 3, view our 2nd Grade Vocabulary Glossary.

Content Knowledge and Connections

  • People immigrate to a new country for many reasons: Some are looking for a better life (push); others are fleeing poverty, violence, or persecution in their home country (pull). Others live in a place that is not safe and need to leave to live in a safer place. Enslaved people did not get to choose—they were forced here without their consent.
  • Refugees are people who leave their country because it is unsafe.
  • People migrate, or move, in order to solve a problem, such as moving closer to relatives and friends, to be safe, to find a less expensive, healthier, or better life, to find work or education, to be free to practice religion.
  • It is not easy to come to a new country. Sometimes the new country only lets certain people come in. Other times, the journey itself is dangerous. Even though it is difficult, people come because they are desperate to move to the United States.
  • Immigrants make their communities even richer. They bring memories, cultural traits, goods, ideas, and languages or ways of speaking when they move to a different place that makes the community more beautiful.
  • A person’s immigration journey is a major transition that involves a long process of moving to another country and establishing a new life. Not everyone wants to immigrate, but needs to for a better life for themselves and their family.
  • People experience an enormous transition and adjustment in moving to another country. Experiences vary based on how different their new home is, why they left their old home, and if they have support in the new community.

Supporting All Students

In order to ensure that all students are able to access the texts and tasks in this unit, it is incredibly important to intellectually prepare to teach the unit prior to launching the unit. Use the intellectual preparation protocol and the Unit Launch to determine which support students will need. To learn more, visit the Supporting all Students teacher tool.

Lesson Map

Common Core Standards

Core Standards


Supporting Standards

icon/arrow/right/large copy

Unit 2

Exploring Habitats


Unit 4

People Who Changed the World