Each year, our 5th grade studies immigration and Ellis Island as a part of their social studies standards. For these standards, the teachers work together to prepare students for an Ellis Island simulation experience that takes place across the first half of a school day. A lot of preparation goes into this event, and I’m excited that the library was able to be a part of the project.
Before the actual simulation, each student was assigned an immigrant to become for the day. They received a folder with a short description of where their person was coming from, what he/she was bringing, and possibly a bit about why this person was traveling to America. This was all prepared by the Social Studies teacher, Ms. Olin.
The teachers and I shared a Google Doc where we started putting links to sites that we thought would be helpful for students as they researched the immigrant experience for immigrants coming to America from their assigned country. I took these links and made a research Symbaloo for students to use.
In the library, I introduced students to this Symbaloo and they each received their folder from Ms. Olin. The Symbaloo link was shared with all students in Google Classroom so that they could easily find it again. In addition to a few details about the immigrant, the folder contained a graphic organizer with some details that students needed to gather in order to construct a letter of introduction for Ellis Island. Students used the organizer and Symbaloo for an hour in the library and then continued their research in social studies and language arts.
In writing, students constructed their letters of introduction and Ms. Olin printed a copy of each letter to put in student folders. Students returned to the library a couple of days before the simulation. They had time to finish letters, and when they were ready, they used Flipgrid to practice reading their letters. In the past, we’ve found that some students were a bit nervous on the day of the simulation or took some time to get into their character. Our hope was that the Flipgrid would give students a chance to get comfortable with their character and practice speaking from that perspective before being thrown into the simulation. The Flipgrid also gave them a chance to listen to one another’s stories and research since they don’t have a lot of time to do that on the simulation day.
Here’s a look at how their practice turned out:
On the day of the simulation students rotated through many experiences to take on the role of an immigrant coming to America. Many dressed in costume, carried props, and practiced talking in an accent. They carried their folders that we had worked on throughout the project. Parent and community volunteers came in to help lead the stations so that students were able to go through health inspections, written tests, and legal inspections. Many were questioned multiple times about their health or documents. Many students were sent away to search for missing pieces of their documentation or were held in quarantine for various reasons.
When students finally passed through all of the experiences, they took an oath and had a meager celebration of bread and cheese. During this time of eating, students once again used Flipgrid. We brought them back into this century and asked them to think about their experience. They didn’t have a script for this. We just wanted their initial reaction after completing the simulation. There are some interesting stories of how it felt to be questioned so much or be detained. You can see their reactions here.
The addition of Flipgrid this year really helped to prepare students for the simulation, to learn from one another’s stories, and also for us to hear a student perspective of going through the simulation that we might not normally here. Each student had a chance to share his/her voice and many spoke up when they might not have spoken up in front of the whole class. I keep thinking of new ways to use Flipgrid in my teaching. I love how versatile it is and want to continue to push the limits of how the tool is used.