Dreaming of America

An Ellis Island Story By: Eve Bunting


Dreaming of America tells the fictional story of Annie Moore, a fifteen year old immigrating from Ireland to Ellis Island with her two younger brothers to reunite with their parents. The journey to America is harsh and the conditions immigrants had to endure while aboard the ship are introduced. Once Annie Moore and her brothers reached America, Annie becomes the first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island, and is reunited with her parents. When she arrives to Ellis Island it is Annie's 15th birthday and her aunt gives her two rings, one representing love for her old home in Ireland and one representing love for her new home in America. While this is a fictional account of Annie's experience, Annie Moore was aboard the SS Nevada in 1892, a ship that actually took immigrants from Europe to Ellis Island in New York. The partially true story of an immigrant coming to America is a historical treasure to share with students and teach them about one of the most important locations where immigrants arrived in America, and what is was like to immigrate.

Classroom Implementation

Dreaming of America: An Ellis Island Story can be used as a read aloud in a third grade classroom. The book's reading level is at upper third grade so this book should be used in early to middle third grade. Although this book is historically heavy for younger students, the content is not too difficult for second graders to comprehend with the appropriate scaffolding. This book's activities can be very similar to activities used with Coming to America: The Story of Immigration as they both talk about the issue of immigration in the past and describe immigrants experiences when coming to America and the experiences once they reach America. Before reading this book the teacher could ask students if they have ever moved, and then ask students if they know someone who has moved from another country. Students and teacher can talk about student responses and the teacher can ask probing questions like how did this person deal with being in a new and unfamiliar country? Were they alone or with their family? How did they adjust to daily life here? Did they have support to help them to adjust and establish themselves in this new country? The teacher could then talk about how people who immigrate experience this moving from one country to another and sometimes their journey to America can be rough and difficult, as well as their experience once they get here. The teacher should talk about the word immigrate and immigrant and explain what the words mean before reading the book or even stop to talk about the word once they encounter it during reading. The teacher could say that the character in this book is an immigrant who experiences a scary journey on her way to America. Students could predict the challenges the character will encounter and how she will deal with them. The main character also has two brothers she cares for, so ask students how this could influence the challenge on the voyage to America, would it make it easier or more difficult? Does having someone to help your through a difficult transition such as moving make it easier or harder? While reading the story the teacher can have students revisit their predictions and talk about the challenged Annie experiences, and what impact her brothers had on her journey. The teacher can also discuss why Annie is immigrating to America, and talk about why her parents wanted to move their family to America. Ask students some other reasons for people immigrating. An activity to do after reading this book would be to ask students to write about the first time they did something. Since Annie was the first immigrant to be processed at Ellis Island, and it was her first time moving, and to such a different place, students could write about how they felt when they did something for the first time. Students could even compare their experience and feelings with Annie's. Did they feel scared? Anxious? Excited? Did they encounter any challenges? The teacher could provide students with sentence starters to help students begin their writing. Because the book tells the reader that Annie traveled from Ireland, the teacher could have students research how many miles away Ireland is from Ellis Island and try to find out how long different modes of transportation would take (boat, plane,) Lastly, because this story is partially true, students could research Annie Moore and her life. Students could then write a letter to Annie telling her how they felt after reading her story. Perhaps they thought she was brave or courageous. Perhaps they want to tell her about the time they did something for the first time. Students could write about multiple things. This book provides students with the chance to learn about a real experience of one of the first immigrants to reach Ellis Island, and also provides students with actual photos of real passengers aboard the SS Nevada, Annie Moore herself, and an Ellis Island immigration building. Providing students with actual evidence of the occurrence helps to make the history more meaningful for students and concrete; they can visually see the history instead of just imagining it. However, the information is provided in a context that is more engaging and interactive than a textbook, making the learning already for exciting for students. The thing that will really engage students is the fact that they are reading about a real person in a partially true story who actually experiences history. So by presenting this book to students you give them the chance to learn about the beginning of an important location once active in America (Ellis Island), and provide them an opportunity to understand the experiences of immigrants and apply that knowledge through writing in some way.
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