Grade Levels: 3-5, 6-8

This lesson plan, adaptable for grades 5-8, features a game called Immigration Nation. This game challenges students to use information they’re provided to determine whether newcomers to America are eligible to live in the U.S., and if so which immigration rule applies to them. In the process, students learn about naturalization requirements and eventual path to citizenship. 

Lesson Plan Common Core State Standards Alignments

Students will:

  1. Identify eligibility requirements for legal U.S. residence.
  2. Use citizenship to distinguish those who are already citizens from those who are not.
  3. Describe time requirements for legal residents to become eligible to apply for citizenship.


  • Computers or other devices with Internet access
  • Interactive whiteboard


This lesson plan features a game called Immigration Nation developed by our partner, iCivics, in which players determine if a newcomer to America is eligible to live in the U.S. As they play, they’ll learn about the various paths immigrants take when they enter the U.S.

Review the Immigration Nation Game Guide for step by step directions on how to play the game. Then, preview and play Cast Your Vote to plan how you will adapt it to your students’ needs. If students will be playing in small groups, review tips on Setting Cooperative Gaming Expectations.

For ideas on how to use SnapThought with this game and for specific prompts to provide students with during game play, read Immigration Nation: SnapThought Prompts for My BrainPOP.

Build background knowledge or reinforce topics with these BrainPOP movies: Immigration, U.S. Constitution, Citizenship, Thanksgiving, Democracy, Political Beliefs, and Geography Themes

Lesson Procedure:

  1. Begin the lesson with a discussion about immigrants and immigration to assess how much students already know about this topic. Ask the following questions to spark the discussion:  
    • What is an immigrant?
    • What does it mean to immigrate?
    • Why do people immigrate?
    • Why rules do countries, such as the U.S., have about who can immigrate there? Why are there rules?
  2. After everyone has had a chance to share their ideas, show the BrainPOP movie Immigration on the whiteboard or other display. After watching, ask students to recall the reasons for why people immigrate to America. Invite students to share where they’re families are from originally and why they came here if they know.
  3. Now display Immigration Nation on the whiteboard. Tell students that in this game, they will learn about immigration laws and paths to citizenship in the U.S. as they determine which newcomers are eligible to live in America. Draw their attention to the game’s Harbor Guide, which provides information they will need about U.S. immigration laws in order to successfully guide newcomers to the correct harbors.
  4. Have students play the game in pairs at their own computers. Allow students 15-20 minutes to play. Circulate, listening in to students’ discussions and decision-making, providing support as needed.
  5. If students have individual logins through My BrainPOP, encourage them to use the SnapThought® tool to take snapshots during the debate and after. Review Immigration Nation: SnapThought Prompts for My BrainPOP for suggested prompts.
  6. After students have each cast at least one vote, come together as a class to discuss. Ask the following post-game questions:  
    • What helped you decide whether or not someone was eligible to live in the U.S.?
    • Which, if any, of the newcomers’ stories did you find challenging?
    • Why do you think countries have rules about citizenship and who can be a resident?

Extension Activities:

  • Invite recent immigrants from your community to share their experiences with your class.
  • Play Mission US: City of Immigrants a game up game in which players take on the role of a 14-year-old Jewish immigrant from Russia navigating New York’s Lower East Side.