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Tenement Life

Students examine a set of primary source documents related to the life of an immigrant girl in order to investigate what life might have been like at the turn of the century.

lithograph, the Confino family, Elementary Confino Primary Source Activity Lesso

The Tenement Museum website provides engaging and entertaining ways to introduce young students to primary sources. The “Elementary School Lesson” found under “Primary Source Activities” uses a family photo, a postcard, a report card, and a passport to examine the life of Victoria Confino, an immigrant girl at the turn of the 20th century. Because these sources are mostly visual, they allow easier access for young students and English language learners than text-dense sources. The lesson provides useful guiding questions for the teacher when helping students examine the documents. After students have discussed the sources, they are asked to write a paragraph about Victoria’s life.

The Tenement Museum website also includes a variety of other fun and educational activities for students. By choosing “Play” from the menu bar on the home page, students can play the immigration game in which they figure out how to get to America, or complete a virtual tour of a tenement building. They could also mix a folk song or, for older students, explore the webcomics of a modern immigrant.

Teachinghistory.org Lesson Plan Rubric
Field Criteria Comments
Historical Content Is historically accurate?


Includes historical background?


Requires students to read and write?

Students “read” visual sources that contain minimal text. They write about the life of an immigrant girl using evidence from these sources.

Analytic Thinking Requires students to analyze or construct interpretations using evidence


Requires close reading and attention to source information?

The lesson includes questions to prompt students to look at specific details in the documents, but teachers need to add questions about the origins of the documents.

Scaffolding Is appropriate for stated audience?


Includes materials and strategies for scaffolding and supporting student thinking?

Suggested questions are provided for each source. The teacher could use the questions to develop a graphic organizer.

Lesson Structure Includes assessment criteria and strategies that focus on historical understanding?

Students are asked to write about Victoria’s life using the historical evidence. There are no assessment criteria included and teachers will need to develop their own.

Defines clear learning goals and progresses logically?


Includes clear directions and is realistic in normal classroom settings?


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