© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
 
Teaching Guide

Teaching Immigration: Era of Open Borders

Oh say can you teach?

GO TO STUDENT LEARNING GUIDE

Unless you or your students are Native Americans, you're all immigrants or descendants of immigrants. It's easy to forget that. It's also easy to forget that you can teach this concept without having to dress up as the Statue of Liberty (hope you saved the receipt for all that gray-green paint).

In this guide you will find

  • activities analyzing images, documents, and quotes of the era.
  • modern connections to show how the heated immigration debate still rages on.
  • discussion questions looking at immigration through lenses of politics, race, economy, and more.

You can't go wrong with this teaching guide.

What's Inside Shmoop's History Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring history to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop’s teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

Objective: Immigration is (and long has been) a hot topic, and people continue to debate whether the U.S. should have an open or closed door policy when it comes to allowing people to immigrate to America. 

Whether we're talking about people crossing the border from Mexico into the southwestern U.S. or those who are fleeing oppressive conditions in SyriaSomalia, or Iraq, the issues raised tend to be similar. While some people feel the U.S. must keep its borders open, especially to help those in need, others argue that limited resources require a tougher stance on immigration policy.

Today, your students will be linking present day discussions regarding immigration to historical discussions around the issue, specifically as it pertains to Irish immigrants who came to America during the potato famine of the mid-19th century.

Irish immigrants may have encountered hostility in America, but they were willing to endure it in order to escape the desperate conditions produced by the potato famine in their homeland. 

In this exercise, your students will read a first-hand account of conditions in Ireland in 1847. Then they will consider the manner in which foreign economic and social crises of this sort should influence American immigration policies.

Length of Lesson: 1-2 class periods

Materials Needed:

NOTE: This page has a TON of information on the famine. We're sending your students directly to the subheading "Migrants and Economic Refugees." That's the section they should focus on. If you have extra class time, feel free to assign more of the page for reading, but they should be able to find enough material for their debate right here.

Step One: First, assign everyone to one side of the debate—either in favor of or opposed to the motion below.

The United States should open its doors to Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine.

You can have students count off, let them choose a side and then tweak the numbers if necessary—the approach is up to you. We do suggest, however that you remind them that they don't necessarily have to agree with the position they're arguing—they just have to argue it.

Step Two: If they're going to debate, they need to be informed. Have your students visit this site, and read the "Migrants and Economic Refugees Section," in which they'll find a first-hand account of the famine.

As they read this section, they should take notes and be prepared to use what they find here to support their position on the motion—either an open or closed door policy regarding Irish immigration.

Step Three: Give students 15-20 minutes to get together with the others assigned to their side of the motion and prepare for the debate. During this time, they should talk with their teammates to solidify their points and make sure they have ample arguments—and counterarguments—to make their case. 

Re: those counterarguments... Remind students that it's always helpful to anticipate what arguments the other side might raise and be ready to swat them down. Respectfully, of course. 

Step Four: Take a quick poll. Regardless of which side they're arguing, ask students to weigh in on what they actually believe. Which is it? Doors open or closed? Have them raise their hands high so you can record the initial count on the board.

Step Five: Debate time! This doesn't need to be a formal debate with opening and closing arguments or anything. Just shoot for 20-25 minutes of healthy back and forth on the issue and see where public opinion lands when all is said and done. 

Flip a coin to see who gets to make the first point and then continue from there, offering the opposing side a chance to counter or make a new argument. Keep the back and forth going until it seems like everything has been said.

Step Six: After the debate, take a second poll to see if any opinions have changed. Is the count identical? Did people shift their positions at all? If so, take a few minutes to discuss what inspired them to change their minds.  

Instructions for Your Students

Immigration is (and long has been) a hot topic, and people continue to debate whether the U.S. should have an open or closed door policy when it comes to allowing people to immigrate to America. 

Whether we're talking about people crossing the border from Mexico into the southwestern U.S. or those who are fleeing oppressive conditions in Syria, Somalia, or Iraq, the issues raised tend to be similar. While some people feel the U.S. must keep its borders open, especially to help those in need, others argue that limited resources require a tougher stance on immigration policy.

Today, you'll be linking those current discussions regarding immigration to historical discussions around the issue, specifically as it pertains to Irish immigrants who came to America during the potato famine of the mid-19th century. 

You'll take one of two positions—either that the U.S. should have an open door policy or a closed door policy concerning Irish immigration—and debate it with your classmates to see which side will prevail... in today's class, that is. 

Step One: First, your teacher will assign you to one side of the debate. Here's the motion you'll be debating.

The United States should open its doors to Irish immigrants fleeing the potato famine.

If you're on the pro side, you'll be arguing in favor of the motion. If you're on the con side, you'll be arguing against it (a.k.a., the U.S. should close its doors to the Irish immigrants and place harsh restrictions on immigration).

Don't worry which side you're assigned to. You don't necessarily have to agree with the position you're arguing—you just have to argue it.

Step Two: If you're going to debate, you need to be informed. Visit this site, where you can read a first-hand account of the famine. 

NOTE: This page has a TON of information on the famine. We're sending you directly to the subheading "Migrants and Economic Refugees." That's the section you should focus on. If you have extra time, by all means, go ahead and peruse more of the site, but you should be able to find a fair amount of material for the debate right here. 

As you read this section, take notes and be prepared to use what you find here to support your position on the motion—either an open or closed door policy regarding Irish immigration.

Step Three: Get together with the other people assigned to your side of the motion and prepare for the debate. Talk with the rest of your team to solidify your points and make sure you have ample arguments—and counterarguments—to make your case. 

Re: those counterarguments... It's always helpful to anticipate what arguments the other side might raise and be ready to swat them down. Respectfully, of course. 

Step Four: Take a quick poll. Regardless of which side you're arguing, weigh in on what you actually believe. What is it? Doors open or closed? Raise those hands high and record the count on the board.

Step Five: Debate time! This won't be a formal debate with opening and closing arguments or anything. We're just going to have some healthy back and forth on the issue and see where public opinion lands when all is said and done. 

Flip a coin to see who gets to make the first point and then continue from there, offering the opposing side a chance to counter or make a new argument. Keep the back and forth going until it seems like everything has been said.

Step Six: Take a second poll to see if any opinions have changed. Is the count identical? Did people shift their positions at all? If so, take a few minutes to discuss what inspired them to change their minds.  

WANT MORE HELP TEACHING IMMIGRATION: ERA OF OPEN BORDERS?

Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    
back to top