Library of Congress

TPS Quarterly

The Library of Congress > Teachers > TPS Program > TPS Quarterly > Learning Activity (Sec.)

Understanding Immigration Through Popular Culture


This activity is intended to introduce a project-based learning unit on the history of U.S. immigration. Students analyze sheet music published in 1916 and a historic sound recording of the same song to discover one perspective on immigration from this time period. Students then analyze a variety of immigration-themed primary sources from the early nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. They compare and synthesize evidence from these primary sources to better understand how immigration created new social patterns, conflicts and ideas of national unity and to generate related research questions.

Project-based learning extension ideas include students researching an immigration-related question or topic both in a time period of their choice and in current times.


After completing this learning activity, students will be able to:

  • examine purpose of music;
  • analyze a primary source;
  • compare findings from a variety of primary sources; and,
  • generate research questions based on evidence from primary sources.

Time Required

One to two 45-minute class periods; activity extension ideas require additional class periods.

Recommended Grade Range



Immigration, American Expansion; Performing Arts, Music


U.S. History


Standards & Benchmarks

Historical Understanding

Standard 2. Understands the historical perspective


Standard 7. Understands the relationship between music and history and culture

United States History

Standard 17. Understands massive immigration after 1870 and how new social patterns, conflicts, and ideas of national unity developed amid growing cultural diversity

Download this Learning Activity (PDF, 68 KB)

To view PDFs Acrobat Reader