Immigration Debate Lesson Plan

Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

With this lesson plan, your students will learn about American immigration policies over the last century. They will use that to hold in-class debates on immigration policy.

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Synthesize major trends in the history of American immigration
  • Present major arguments for and against immigration throughout American history
  • Work in groups to prepare for and participate in a debate


2-3 class periods

Curriculum Standards


Work with peers to promote civil, democratic discussions and decision-making, set clear goals and deadlines, and establish individual roles as needed.


  • Propel conversations by posing and responding to questions that probe reasoning and evidence; ensure a hearing for a full range of positions on a topic or issue; clarify, verify, or challenge ideas and conclusions; and promote divergent and creative perspectives.

Evaluate an author's premises, claims, and evidence by corroborating or challenging them with other information.


  • Copies of the quiz
  • Access to basic research materials


  • Begin class by asking students what immigration means to them. What role do they think immigration played in US history? How do people in this country feel about immigration?
  • Begin the video lesson Immigration to the U.S. (1900-2010: Changes & Trends. Pause the video at 1:40 and discuss this information as a class.
    • Have you heard America referred to as a melting pot before? Turn to a partner and talk about what this concept means to you personally, then we'll talk about it as a class.
    • Do you think Americans always understood the concept of the melting pot in the same way? How do you think this changed over time? When were immigrants expected to fully assimilate (or melt into the pot) and when were they expected to retain some of their national or ethnic foods, holidays, and languages?
    • Why has America felt more welcoming to Europeans than other groups of immigrants? Is there such a thing as a right or wrong kind of immigrant? How would people in the past have answered this question?
  • Resume the video, pausing it at 3:28 to discuss this information.
    • What is the point of limiting immigration? What sorts of fear do you think inspired these policies?
    • Why do immigration policies change? What other cultural, political, and economic factors might encourage a change in immigration policies? What conditions do you think encourage an acceptance of legal immigration?
  • Resume and complete the video. Discuss this information as a class.
    • What does undocumented immigration mean to you? Discuss this question with a partner.
    • What are some of the issues in the debate on undocumented immigration in the USA today? Why might people feel the need to immigrate outside of legal channels?
  • Answer any remaining questions.
  • You may test student understanding with the quiz.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account