Exploring Young Immigrant Stories

This lesson helps students appreciate diversity among their peers and the diversity of immigrants all over the world. Through hands-on exercises, students will discover similarities and differences they share with other children.
Grade Level

  • Students will understand similarities and differences between themselves and others.
  • Students will recognize and value diversity among their peers.
  • Students will recognize and value the diverse experience of immigrants and of children from other countries.
  • Students will read and understand visual texts.
  • Enduring Understandings:
    • Learning about the lives of other people helps me build empathy, respect, understanding and connection.
    • Listening to and sharing experiences with people who are similar and different from me helps me learn about others.
    • I am affected by the people around me.
Essential Questions
  • What can I learn from hearing a personal story?
  • How can I learn more about other people?
  • How are people similar and different than me?
  • Computer (optional)
  • Internet access
  • Copies of the “Kids Around the World” handout
  • Crayons, markers and paper (optional)
  • Old magazines for collage (optional)


challenge [chal-inj] (transitive verb) something that takes great mental and physical effort to overcome or to confront

diversity [dih-vur-si-tee] (noun) a variety or range of differences (e.g., race, religion, gender, sexual orientations, age)

immigrant [im-i-gruh nt] (noun) a person who moves to a country from somewhere else

oral history [awr-uh l]  [his-tuh-ree] (noun) information about the past that is passed down through stories and word of mouth

outsider [out-sahy-der] (noun) a person who does not belong or is not accepted as a part of a group

refugee [ref-yoo-jee] (noun) a person who flees for safety, especially to a foreign country, during times of political trouble, war or other danger




  1. To prepare, create a visible line on the ground with string or tape. Arrange the classroom so there is ample space for every student to stand around the line. Separate students into two lines, facing one another on either side of the line. Students should begin by standing about a foot or two away from the line. Instruct students to complete this activity in silence, but to think about who is standing next to them after each statement. You may want to have a conversation with students ahead of time about classroom norms surrounding conversations. For ideas, refer to our Speak Up at School and Let’s Talk guides.

  2. Explain to students that in this activity you will call out a series of statements and that you want them to walk to the line if the statement is true. Use the following statement as a model: “Step to the line if you are a student.” Let students know that they don’t have to move if they feel uncomfortable.

  3. Then read the other identifiers on this list, using “Step on the line if you…” each time. Pause after each statement and notice who moved and who didn't. 

Note: If you add statements, start with low risk statements and ease in to high risk ones.

  • Have brown hair
  • Have straight hair
  • Like to play outside
  • Speak another language
  • Like the color blue
  • Have a brother or sister
  • Enjoy listening to music
  • Have blonde hair
  • Enjoy watching movies
  • Like strawberry ice cream
  • Like playing video games
  • Like playing sports
  • Have dark eyes
  • Have lived in another state
  • Have lived in another country
  • Were born in this city
  • Wear glasses  
  • Were born outside this country
  • Are an only child
  • Have more than two siblings
  • Are afraid of something
  • Have ever felt left out
  • Struggle in school sometimes
  • Sometimes don’t know what to say
  • Think about what happens at home while you are at school
  • Worry about what you look like.

    *This list can be adapted to fit your classroom’s needs.

When all descriptors have been called out, have students discuss the following:

  • How did it feel when you stepped to the line?
  • Did anything surprise you?
  • At any point during the activity did you feel alone or isolated?
  • At any point during the activity did you find you had more in common with others than you thought?
  • What did you learn about your classmates?


Assess Prior Knowledge: What Is Immigration?

  1. Assess background knowledge by asking students questions around the following:

    • What is immigration?
    • What do you know about immigration?
    • Who is an immigrant?
    • Why do people emigrate?
    • Who is a refugee? How is a refugee different from an immigrant?

  2. Create a classroom anchor chart based on student responses so that students can have a continuous reference for thinking about immigration. Additional questions may be added to make further connections. Teachers can review “10 Myths About Immigration” for your own background knowledge. Determine where additional knowledge can be built. Plan direct experiences such as a guest speaker, a virtual experience or a cultural show and tell.


Kids Around the World

  1. Next, choose which way you want your students to view images.

    • For younger students, we recommend Gabriele Galimberti’s work entitled “Toy Stories.” This website shows young kids from all over the world with their favorite toy.
    • For older students, we recommend a Youtube video of 30 different images of kids from countries all over the world.

  2. Have students form small groups and assign one image to each group, or have students watch a video together and choose an image with which they connect. Images may be viewed in a digital format on computers or may be printed out for each group.

  3. In their small groups, have each student complete the top portion of the “Kids Around the World” worksheet. Ask students to list the similarities and the differences they see between a child in the photo and themselves.

  4. Then, as a whole class, ask students to share what they discovered.

  5. Next, ask students to complete the section on the handout entitled “The World I See” with their small group. Encourage students to list what else they see about the children’s worlds based on what they see in the images. Encourage students to use context clues to help them answer these questions:

    • What is happening in this picture?
    • In what location was this picture taken?
    • What else do you see in the picture?

  6. Return to whole class setting again, and ask for student volunteers to share their group’s responses.

  7. Using a projector, share each group’s image with the whole class. Alternatively, the printed image may be held up. Ask students:

    • What are your feelings about the image?
    • What does it remind you of?
    • Which children in the images do you identify most with? Why? How?

  8. Explain that the children in the pictures are not immigrants, but many children like them from around the world come to live in the United States each year.



  1. Select one “Meet Young Immigrants” story and share it with students.
  2. Ask students to take notes about the worries, struggles and successes they hear in the narrative. Discuss notes with the whole group. Responses can be recorded on the board in three labeled columns.
  3. Next, ask students to share a time when they felt worried, had to struggle or experienced success. Record responses on the board in the same kind of chart as before.




Extension Activity

Do Something

Your Own Story: A Floating Gallery

As a take home project, have students take their own pictures of themselves with a toy or object they value. They could also take an action shot of them at play like the Youtube video, either using technology at school or home. Direct students to include a short narrative about the picture that includes what they would like others to know about the image. Affix this narrative to the back of the picture. The completed projects can be presented to the entire class or they can be displayed as a floating gallery on a bulletin board or in the classroom or both.

Your Own Story: A Digital Gallery

Using crayons, markers, collage or a digital storybook program such as zimmertwins, storybird or little bird tales, have students create a story about themselves and an object they value, or a playtime they love. Students should create a narrative about what they want others to know. Stories should be no more than two to three minutes long when read aloud. The completed stories can be shared daily with the entire class during a designated time of day. If students choose, they can create questions and answers to further explain their stoies.


Suggested Rubric

_____ Student wrote a complete narrative that connected to the selected picture or object.

_____ Work was organized.

_____ Work was neat and original.

_____ Work included all required components.

_____/4 Total Score