Teacher's Guide to Celebrate German-American Day, October 6

Teacher's Guide Video Checklist Extra Credit Projects Quiz

This teaching unit was designed to celebrate German-American Day, October 6. It consists of brief biographical sketches about well-known Americans of German descent, and their contributions to the American way of life. It is based on the video: Off to New Shores: 300 Years of German Immigration to North America, which was produced to celebrate the tricentennial of German immigration in 1983. We suggest that this unit be used on or around German-American Day.

In 1987 Congress enacted Public Law 100-104 designating October 6 as German-American Day. A proclamation was issued by President Reagan in a Rose Garden Ceremony calling on the American people to observe this day with appropriate celebrations and activities. The date was chosen because on October 6, 1683 the first group of Germans sailed into Philadelphia Harbor on the Concord. Individually Germans had arrived before that date.

TIME: 2 class periods

TARGET GROUP: Grades 9-12

SUBJECT AREAS: Social Studies and German


OBJECTIVES: Students will learn about German-American Day and become familiar with some of the best known Americans of German descent, their contributions to the cultural diversity of the nation and the forming of the mainstream culture. It will foster interest in, and an understanding of, the multicultural make-up of the nation and its historical roots in other cultures and histories.

GOING BEYOND: Suggested topics for extra credit projects are provided, which at the teacher's discretion, could serve for an optional third day of classroom discussion at a later date.

EVALUATION: Students checklist and quiz are supplied.

VHS video Off To New Shores: 300 Years of German Immigration to North America, 46 minutes, directed by Walter Koch, $10.00 plus $5.00 shipping, available from:

Note: The second feature on the videotape on German Immigrant Artists is not used in this unit.

MATERIALS PROVIDED: Student materials to be duplicated from masters provided in this packet:



The nation's German heritage is part of the pattern which makes up the rich tapestry we call the United States of America and the American way of life. However, as we would with a rich tapestry or a fine painting, to fully appreciate the total fabric of American culture, there is a need to identify and also focus on the parts. If we can appreciate individual and group contributions we can better appreciate the whole. In understanding one culture, we can better appreciate others, and recognize that human needs, although universal and shared by all, are expressed in culture specific ways.

Next to the English-speaking settlers (incl. the Irish and Scots) the second-largest group were the German-speaking (abbr.=Germans). While collectively different from the former, the Germans did not constitute a totally homogeneous group either. Still, they tended to settle with others of similar (German-language) background which led to the creation of culture islands. One group, still using the German language are the Amish; however, they are maintaining an identity primarily based on their religious beliefs.

The mass immigration of the 19th century from the German-speaking countries, especially to the Midwest, contributed significantly to the formation of American mainstream culture, which, in feedback fashion, transformed the newcomers as well. Even as they learned English, interacted with members of other culture groups, and became socially integrated, they clung to their accustomed ways, that were nurtured by German churches, schools, clubs, and a strong German language press. Traditions provided continuity and a sense of stability. Values, customs, things we share, have something to do with feeling comfortable with one another.



  1. Prior preparation: (a) set up the VCR and TV monitors in the classroom, and (b) duplicate a copy of the video checklist for each student in the class.
  2. Preliminary classroom activities: (a) announce to students that they will be viewing a video on German-Americans to commemorate German-American Day, (b) distribute the video checklist to each student and suggest that they put a check mark next to each name as it is mentioned in the film, (c) mention that the narrator tends to use German pronunciation of proper names, such as the cities Frankfurt (fronk furt) and Krefeld (cray felt), and (d) mention the follow-up discussion and quiz on this material.
  3. The video: It begins in Frankfurt, Germany by showing pictures of typically American things, now part and parcel of modern German life. It then proceeds to discuss a number of German immigrants to the United States, their contributions, and in many cases their reasons for leaving Germany.
    The video is 46 minutes and can be shown in its entirety in a class period. If more time is desired for student questions, the last four minutes can be eliminated without compromising the material. (In this event stop the tape when the discussion turns to the Steuben Parade held every year in New York City.)
  4. The end of class: Mention again that there will be a discussion on German-Americans and a quiz on the following day. Ask students to prepare by studying the brief biographical sketches on the video checklist.


  1. Prior teacher preparation:
  2. Teacher-led discussion: About two-thirds of this class period should be devoted to a discussion of German-American contributions to the American way of life. Perhaps it would be interesting at the outset to ask how many students know their ethnic background and how many are of German or part German descent. It is important to point out that "German-Americans" are persons who came from German-speaking regions. This includes not only Germany today, but also Austria, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and other parts of Europe, including even Russia.
  3. The quiz: Approximately 15 minutes at the end of class should be reserved for the quiz.
  4. End of class: If you are so inclined, announce before dismissing students that those interested may earn extra credit by preparing either an oral or a written report related to the German-American immigration. Distribute the handout to interested students, but be sure to mention that students are free to come up with their own topic for a report with teacher approval.


Part I:

Part II:

Note: We suggest that teachers assign grades to this quiz based on the grading scales they normally use.


If teachers are willing, the sheet containing topics for extra credit should be duplicated and made available to interested students. We suggest granting extra credit for projects associated with this module on German-American immigrants in the same way you typically grant extra credit in your classes.

Please refer students to any appropriate works you may know about. If time permits, some class time could be reserved at a later date so that students can present their reports orally and discuss their findings as a group. Otherwise, extra credit reports may be prepared in writing only and submitted to the teacher for evaluation.

CHECKLIST: Instructions to the Student.

Explain to the students that on the Checklist there are the names of 38 of the German-Americans mentioned in the video which they are about to see. Each of these persons made a significant contribution to the development of the United States.

The names are listed in the order in which they appear in the video. Students need to keep a pen or pencil handy, and check off each name as it is mentioned. This activity will help them prepare for the follow-up discussion and quiz.

Teacher's Guide Video Checklist Extra Credit Projects Quiz

Updated: 16 November 2007, BAS
Comments to: IUPUI Max Kade German-American Center, mkgac@iupui.edu
This page sponsored and maintained by IUPUI University Libraries.
URL: http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/kade/g_immigr.html

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