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An American Tail
SUBJECTS — U.S./1865 - 1913 (immigration); Diversity; New York; Religions/Judaism;
SOCIAL-EMOTIONAL LEARNING — Patriotism;
MORAL-ETHICAL EMPHASIS — Trustworthiness; Responsibility.
Age: 9 - 10; MPAA Rating: G; Animated; 1986; 77 minutes; Color.
For children 6 - 8, check out our Guide to Talking and Playing for Growth based on this movie.
This film describes the experiences of Fievel Mousekewitz, a mouse who emigrates from Russia to the United States in 1885. An American Tail is more than just an entertaining children's cartoon. The story is derived from the experiences of immigrants who came to the U.S. from Eastern Europe (including Russia) between 1880 and 1924. The movie will introduce young viewers to the experiences encountered by many of these immigrants.
The TeachWithMovies.com Learning Guide to An American Tail will help teachers acquaint young children with the concept of immigration and the experience of immigrants from Eastern Europe to the U.S.
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An American Tail combines a history lesson about immigration to the U.S. with a cartoon so effortlessly that unless you actually point it out to children, they won't get the connection. Give students some of the additional facts described in the Learning Guide and make this animated film more than just a movie and a great basis for a lesson plan on immigration for grades 3 - 5.
Learning Guide Excerpt
To demonstrate how our Learning Guides can be used by teachers to improve lesson plans, we have set out below one of the many suggestions made in the Learning Guide to An American Tail.
The immigrant mice talk about how the streets in the U.S. are "paved with cheese." Prepare the class for this moment by telling students that in the late 1800s and early 1900s, more than a hundred hears ago, millions of people came to the United States from all across Europe. They were looking for a new life in which they would have more freedom and could earn a better living for their families. They came by boat because in those days there were no airplanes. The rumor was that the streets in America were "paved with gold." Show the class Europe, the Atlantic ocean, and the U.S. on a globe or a map. See, for example, Map of the North Atlantic. Point out some of the different countries of Europe, including Russia, Germany, France and Great Britain. Then point out the location of Minsk (where the journey started), Hamburg (port of embarkation in Europe) and New York (destination in the U.S.). Trace or draw the route taken by immigrants across the Atlantic Ocean. At the point that the mice talk about how the streets in the U.S. are "paved with cheese", stop the film and ask the class what they just heard. Most students will make the connection. Allow a student who understands the reference to describe it to the class.
The Learning Guide to the film An American Tail contains sections on Benefits of the Movie, Possible Problems, Helpful Background, Discussion Questions, Links to the Internet, and Bridges to Reading. The Discussion Questions are divided into three categories: Subject Matter, Social-Emotional Learning, and Moral-Ethical Emphasis.
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