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Human Migration #1: When Jessie Came Across the Sea, by Amy Hest

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Lesson Overview:

In this lesson, children come to understand a bit of the immigrant experience by seeing it through the eyes of the main character.  The text is a bit lengthy for young children, so I sometimes paraphrase in places.  But, this is a powerful story, beautifully written, and encompasses much of the Unites States immigrant experience.  To make it more meaningful, bring an artifact or two from an ancestor.

Lesson Plan:

Suggested Grades:



To better understand the immigrant experience.  (Unit of Inquiry Lesson, Literature Link)

Suggested Time:

35-45 minutes

Success Criteria:

Students will capture Jessie’s feelings and challenges by making notes on the text to show their understanding.

Lesson Outline:

1. Introduction:

Ask the students about their new unit of inquiry.   Show the book.  Explain how the librarian has a personal connection to the story.  Pass out clipboards and ask students to think about the questions as the story is read and discussion.

2. Main:

Read/paraphrase When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest.  Check understanding as we go along.  Be sure that challenging vocabulary such as “rabbi” and “widow” are clear.

Share any personal, family item you may have brought.  It is very powerful if you have a photo of your grandmother or something your grandmother has made for you.

3. Conclusion:

Review answers to the questions together.   Give students enough time to fill out their story capture sheets.

  1. When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest.
  2. Copies of Student Handout
  3. Pencils
  4. Clipboards or Tables
  5. Family artifacts, especially anything made by a grandmother!

This lesson is deeply personal for me because I was exceptionally close to one of my grandmothers.  I never get through it without crying and, even though I’d rather not cry in front of the chlldren, my emotion always makes an impression.

If you don’t connect with this story, choose another that you do connect with.  Most of us do have immigrant stories or grandmother stories we can share.  Kids may have their own stories to share as well.  The power of this lesson is that it makes the immigrant story personal in a beautiful and understandable way for children.

Recommended Books for this Lesson:

When Jessie Came Across the Sea by Amy Hest

Key Terms:

Immigration, Immigrant, Ellis Island, Journeys, Grandmothers, Seamstresses, Language Learners, Opportunity, Challenge

Student Handout, When Jessie Came Across the Sea