Students in Mrs. Rhonda Church’s fourth grade ELAR (English Language Arts/Reading) class recently studied immigration and Ellis Island through a variety of activities including role playing, reading historical novels, and going on a field trip to the Texas Tech International Cultural Center to “experience” Ellis Island.
They began their unit by reading Karen Hesse’s novel, Letters from Rifka. This historical novel tells the journey of 12 year-old Rifka, a Jewish immigrant living in Russia with her family. The story is told from Rifka’s perspective as she and her family flee Russia to immigrate to America in 1919.
After studying Rifka’s experiences at Ellis Island, the students then read Children of Ellis Island. They learned about the immigrant children’s hardships and lives while migrating through Ellis Island.
Students drew names of actual immigrants and learned their histories in preparation for a two-week role playing exercise. To learn their “new identities”, the students role-played their immigrant by first getting to dress in costumes from the Theatre Department as he/she envisioned their immigrant might have dressed and wrote an “I Am” poem based on who they were, their feelings, and experiences on their journey to America.
Other fun activities included learning and listening to Neil Diamond’s “We Come to America”, as well as, enjoying foods that the European immigrants from the early 1900s had never tasted until coming to America, which included ice cream, bananas, and oranges.