Ellis Island Project

access, analyze, create, reflect

Pre-Production Plan

The purpose of this lesson is to teach my students the importance of Ellis Island and why it is important in American history.

The audience is 5th-grade students.

The message we want to share is American history and the melting pot of the United States.

The key content will be students sharing the process of people coming to America and how hard it was to get to America for some of them. Why immigrants came to here? Did they have troubles in their journey? Why were some sent back to their original countries? What does it mean to be an American?

The value will be communicated through image, language and sound.

The creative techniques will be the student’s videos.

Let's Begin By Watching the "Deconstructing History - Ellis Island" Video.

This video will give general background information about Ellis Island and the process immigrants endured while trying to become Americans. This video will help guide students when they are making their own personal stories.
Deconstructing History - Ellis Island

Digital Literacy Instructional Plan


5th-grade students


Media Specialist creator of this Project Based Inquiry lesson


Writing personal narrative and storytelling


Elementary school in Fulton County, Georgia


This lesson is designed to teach students how to inform, entertain and describe the process of coming to America through Ellis Island. Students will be making an iMovie video or Photostory3 video. Skills needed to do this project based inquiry lesson: writing a personal narrative, aware of primary sources, increase critical thinking skills and extended learning beyond the classroom lesson.

Students will be able to to the following during this lesson:

  • learn how to use iMovie or Photostory3
  • record their voice


Georgia Standards:

Social Studies

SS5H3 The student will describe how life changed in America at the turn of the 20th century.

  • d. Describe the reasons people emigrated to the United States, from where they emigrated, and where they settled.

Language Arts

ELACC5RL1: Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

ISTE Standards:

  1. Creativity and innovation Students demonstrate creative thinking, construct knowledge, and develop innovative products and processes using technology.
  2. Research and information fluency: Students apply digital tools to gather, evaluate, and use information. a. Plan strategies to guide inquiry, b. Locate, organize, analyze, evaluate, synthesize, and ethically use information from a variety of sources and media, and c.
    1. Evaluate and select information sources and digital tools based on the appropriateness to specific tasks.

Standards for the 21st-Century Learners (AASL)

1. Inquire, think critically and gain knowledge

2. Draw conclusions, make informed decisions, apply knowledge to new situations, and create new knowledge.


Students are working on a video describing how it felt coming to America through Ellis Island.

Prior knowledge:

This project is in conjunction with the classroom social studies teacher. Students will have some prior knowledge about Ellis Island and the iMovie app or Photostory3 before the media/technology lesson. I have designed a Storify with all the links for the students to refer to. https://storify.com/dlocke/coming-to-america-immigration This project-based inquiry project will take several weeks to complete.

Activities students must complete:

1. Students will watch the Scholastic Ellis Island Video in the media center with the media specialist. After the students watch the video they will discuss what they viewed the video it by using Matthew Bowker’s techniques where students generate questions and discover the answers in the process. They will need to analyze, evaluate, and synthesize what information in order to complete the assignment.


2. Students will research on the Scholastic Ellis Island Website to explore the website and view the primary sources.

3. Students must select a country they are emigrating from. Students will research their countries by using eBritannica Database. To access the eBritannica have the students log into their MackinVia accounts. They must write details in their journals on why they are leaving their country and the travel plans on how to get to America. We will discuss what it would be like to leave you home and travel to some place you never been to before.

a. Example questions: What would you need on this journey? Students will discuss in small groups what would be needed to take a long voyage.

b. Students can be grouped if they wish.

c. Google Maps/Earth will be introduced so the students can visually see where the immigrants came from. The media specialist will demonstrate on the Smartboard Google Maps/Earth website. Students will be able to come to the Smartboard to interact and explore with the website.

4. The media specialist will demonstrate how to locate and use the Digital Public Library of America Website, Library of Congress and the New York Public Library Archives. Students will research Ellis Island on the DPLA Website. They will select which photos or images they would like to use and download them to the server. We will discuss the importance of copyright issues during this process.

5. Students will be introduced to the 10 steps that it took to make it through the Ellis Island Station. They will need to decide what they were thinking, feeling, and observing during this process. They will write the information in their journals they will use when writing their script or dialogue. They will need to select 10 images that would demonstrate what they were thinking, feeling or observing during the process. Students can refer back to the Scholastic Ellis Island video found on the Storify for extra help.

6. iMovie. I will demonstrate and review how to use iMovie. I will have a handout giving instructions. At my school, most of the students are already familiar with iMovie. Those who are not will be paired with someone who does. Photostory3. I will demonstrate and review how to use Photostory3.

Click here for iMovie and Photostory3 instructions

7. During their morning journal writing work, students will be working on their reflections about their character. Once they have gathered enough information about their character and country they can begin to work on their script. Google Document for script.

8. Students will match their 10 selected images to their script and download them into iMovie or Photostory3. See Google Document for script ideas.

9. Students will begin to work on their videos and start recording their script. They can make adjustments as they proceed through the project.

10. Small peer groups will help students evaluate their work making suggestions as needed.

11. Once the students finish their videos, I will post them on the school blog. http://moenew.blogspot.com/

Student Writing Examples

Students Working



Students will watch an example video off of the Scholastic Ellis Island Website. This is an excellent video which will give the students an idea of the story development.


iPads or computers:

iMovie or Photostory3

Computers to Internet access:

1. Storify

2. Scholastic Ellis Island Station

3. DPLA Primary Sources, Library of Congress & NYC Public Library Archives

4. eBritannica

5. Google Maps


Instructional Strategies:

Lecture, class discussions, small group collaborations, guided discovery, Project Based Learning, modeling, collaborative learning, and peer reviewing.


Example of Student Project

Ms. Ochacher #1


Immigration Story of Yesterday and Today. Scholastic. www.teacher.scholastic.com/activities/immigration/tour/.

Selected Images of Ellis Island and Immigration, ca. 1880-1920. DPLA.

Smith, Jamie. Microsoft Photo Story 3 Tutorial. http://www.teachertube.com/video/microsoft-photo-story-3-tutorial-75267.