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.

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Texts and Materials

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Core Materials


This assessment accompanies this unit and should be given on the suggested assessment day or after completing the unit.

Unit Prep

Intellectual Prep

Unit Launch

To learn more about how to prepare a unit, internalize a lesson, and understand the different components of a Fishtank ELA lesson, visit our Preparing to Teach Fishtank ELA Teacher Tool.

Essential Questions

  • Why do people immigrate to the United States?
    People immigrate to the United States for many reasons. Some come for the opportunities. They may think that they can get a better job or a better education here. Others are pushed to leave their home country because of war, violence, or persecution. Other people did not get a choice, and were brought here without consent.
  • What challenges do people face when they are immigrating to the United States?People face many challenges when they immigrate to the United States. Sometimes the journey itself is challenging. Alfredo and his father made a dangerous trip across a river and through a desert to find a better life. Amada had to wait for many months without her father as her family waited for their green cards to enter. In the 1900s, Chinese immigrants at Angel Island had to wait for months before they were even let into the country! Sometimes, these challenges are emotional. It is hard to move to a new place because you miss your home country and your life there.
  • How are our communities enriched by the contributions of immigrants?
    All of our communities are enriched by the contributions of immigrants. For example, immigrants bring their customs and traditions for everyone to enjoy. Xochitl’s family loved flowers and brought them to their new neighborhood in San Francisco. Pura Belpre made sure that Puerto Ricans were included at the library. Immigrants also teach their communities about their culture. Kanzi taught her class that Arabic is beautiful and it united them. (Other potential answers: share memories of their home country, speak different languages, create neighborhoods that highlight the culture of their home community for others to enjoy, open stores or businesses to help share talents and customs, participate in community events, etc.)

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.

Opinion Writing Focus Areas

  • Choose strong evidence to support an opinion

In Units 1 and 2, students generated evidence and brainstormed strong topic sentences that are supported by this evidence. In this unit, students will practice using strong evidence to support an opinion. Rather than adding every single fact as evidence, students will weigh which is most important and why.

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.

Speaking and Listening Focus Areas

Academic Conversations Focus

  • Speaks in complete sentences
  • Uses multiple sentences to answer a question
  • Uses key vocabulary words in answer

Building Language Proficiency

  • Recount/Explain:
    • Identifies key details from a text Read Aloud
    • Elaborates on the causes of events
  • Argue/Discuss:
    • Expresses own ideas and support others
    • Challenges others’ ideas respectfully
    • Asks clarifying questions



"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


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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

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Unit 2

Exploring Habitats


Unit 4

People Who Changed the World

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