Lesson 3: ​Immigrant Experiences ​of Korean Americans: ​The Sammy Lee Story
Activity 3.1: Who is Sammy Lee? What was the Immigrant Experience of his Family? 

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Students explore the life of Sammy Lee and his experiences as an immigrant to the United States.  They identify similarities and differences in immigrant experiences and consider ways that Sammy Lee and other immigrants have contributed to the United States. 

Sammy Lee in costume and on a photographer's pony, circa 1928. (Source: Courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library)

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Activity Questions

  • What does it mean to be an immigrant to the United States? How does immigrant status affect experience?

  • Who is Sammy Lee? What was the immigrant experience of his family?

  • What issues did Sammy Lee face as an immigrant? How did he overcome them?

  • What are similarities and differences in the experiences of immigrants and their families?

  • How have Sammy Lee and other immigrants contributed to the United States?​


Instructional Strategies​

  • To support this lesson, use the Lesson 3 Teachers' Guide and Lesson 3 Presentation found under Lesson 3.

​Quick Write

  • Provide students with the following prompt and allow them five minutes to quick-write their response. Call on student volunteers to share their reflections, including any examples of Korean Americans. NOTE: Students will use these quick-writes as their rough drafts for the Summative Assessment.

    • Write for 5 minutes about someone who is or was an immigrant to the United States.  This may be someone famous, someone you know, or even a character from a book, movie, or TV show. Use these questions to guide your response:
      • Who are they?
      • Where did they come from and when?
      • Why did they immigrate?
      • Were they alone or with their families?
      • What difficulties did they have becoming part of American society? 

Introduction to Immigrant Experiences

  • Introduce the differences between citizens and immigrants. Ask students to share whether immigrants in your story become permanent residents or citizens.

  • Introduce issues faced by immigrants and ask students which issues were faced by the immigrants in their stories.

  • Have students add a few sentences to their Quick Write response regarding immigrant status and issues faced.

Introduction to Sammy Lee

  • Briefly introduce Sammy Lee and engage students in the story of his early years through one of the following options:

    • Direct students to the website, A Life Well Lived: The Story of Sammy Lee, and have students take notes on important life events and issues encountered by Sammy and his family members because of their immigration status. 

    • Read or have students view the narration of the children's book, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds​ (or read the book aloud) and take notes on take notes on important life events and issues encountered by Sammy and his family members because of their immigration status. Note: Consider having students narrate a children's book. See Lesson 3 Literature Extension for more information.

  • Distribute the handout, "A Biographical Overview of Dr. Sammy Lee" (download below). Have students mark the text to note important life events and issues encountered by Sammy and his family members because of their immigration status. They may use information on the slide, Top Issues Faced by Immigrants, to identify and make note of which issues were encountered.

  • Have students share their findings with a partner or small group.

Identification of Similarities and Differences

  • Have students return to their Quick Write Response and identify at least two similarities and two differences between Sammy Lee and the immigrant they wrote about.

  • Have them organize their ideas in a Venn Diagram.

  • NOTE:  These activities are important prewriting activities for the Summative Assessment Comparison/Contrast Essay (see Lesson 3 Assessments).

Closing the Activity

  • End class with review and discussion of the activity questions.​

  • NOTE:  Have students save their Quick Write responses, annotation of Sammy Lee's biography, and Venn Diagrams for their Summative Assessment Comparison/Contrast Essay.​

 

Resources​​

A Biographical Overview of Dr. Sammy Lee (PDF)

Video: Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds (YouTube)

Narrated by Martha Alborn, Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds (Paula Yoo, 2005) is a childrens' book about the early live of Sammy Lee. (14:54 minutes)