1.  Draw on personal experiences and stories about migration.

Write the following prompt on the board: Why do people move? Describe a time that you, someone you know, or your ancestors moved. Where did they move from, and where did they move to? Why did they choose to move? Ask students to take a few minutes to write their responses. Have students share their answers with the class. As students share, write on the board some of the reasons people chose to move. 


2.  Define push and pull factors.

Explain to students that human migration is often analyzed in terms of push and pull factors. Ask: What is a “push factor”? What is a “pull factor”? After collecting some student answers, summarize by explaining that a “push factor” is something that causes a person to leave their homeland. A “pull factor“ is something that draws that person to the new place. Draw a T chart on the board. Label one column “push factors” and the other column “pull factors”. Have students look over the list of reasons for movement that they generated based on their quick writes. Ask: Which of these reasons are push factors? Which are pull factors? List student responses in the T chart as students decide the column in which each factor should be placed. Explain to students that they will read about the Saints and Strangers, the two groups of people who traveled aboard the Mayflower. Using the information they gather, students will identify the push and pull factors that influenced their move from Europe to North America.


3.  Analyze readings about why the Saints and Strangers migrated from Europe to North America.

Distribute the worksheet From Europe to North America: The Saints to half of the students in the class. Distribute From Europe to North America: The Strangers to the other half of the class. Ask students to work individually to complete the reading and highlight and annotate the text to answer the question: Why did the Saints (or Strangers) immigrate to North America? Once students complete their individual reading, divide students into groups of four, with two students who read about the Saints and two who read about the Strangers. Have students summarize the key points they identified from their reading for their group.


4.  Identify push and pull factors and provide evidence.

Distribute the Saints and Strangers Graphic Organizer and one set of Push & Pull Factor Cards to each group. Read the instructions on the Graphic Organizer to the class, and then give students time to work together in their groups of four to complete the organizer. Encourage students to discuss how each card applies to the story of the Strangers or the Saints or both. Students should include multiple pieces of evidence whenever possible. They can also write evidence on the back of the Push & Pull Factor Card. 


After students have completed the Graphic Organizer, lead students in a discussion about each of the six boxes on the Graphic Organizer. Encourage students to share their results by asking questions such as: 

  • Which cards did you identify as a push factor for the Saints?
  • What push or pull factors did the Saints and Strangers have in common?
  • How did the two groups differ in their reasons for moving to North America?

When students respond, follow up with questions such as: 

  • Do other groups agree? 
  • Can you point to evidence from the reading that supports your claim? 
  • Did anyone find a different quote that provides additional evidence for how this push or pull factor applies to the Saints or Strangers? 

5. Write a historical narrative as a Saint or a Stranger.

Distribute the Historical Narrative Writing Assignment & Rubric. Invite a volunteer to read aloud the directions to the class. Ask students to think about the motivations for immigration that they have identified for the Saints and Strangers. They will now use that information to compose a letter from a Saint or a Stranger (their choice) to someone back in England. In their letter they must clearly articulate some of the reasons they chose to immigrate to North America. Point out the rubric for the writing assignment, and emphasize that well-chosen historical details and clear writing will be keys to success for this assignment.

Alternative Assessment

  • Formatively assess students’ completion of the Saints and Strangers Graphic Organizer during group work. Students should provide evidence from the readings to support each decision of how a Push & Pull Factor Card applies. 
  • Collect students’ historical narratives and assess their work using the rubric.

Extending the Learning

  • Have students use the Push & Pull Factor Cards to analyze periods of immigration throughout U.S. history. For example, which cards help explain push and pull factors for Irish and German immigrants during the mid-19th century, or for Southern and Eastern European immigrants during the late 19th and 20th centuries?
  • Give students excerpts from Jeff Libman’s An Immigrant Class, and have them identify some patterns between early immigrants to North America and immigrants who come to America today. What are some ways these two groups’ push and pull factors are the same? How are they different? What does America represent to immigrants who come here today? Does this representation seem to have changed since the 17th century? 

Subjects & Disciplines

  • Social Studies
    • U.S. History

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • explain the push and pull factors that motivated the Saints and the Strangers aboard the Mayflower to immigrate to North America
  • use evidence from secondary texts to defend claims about the motivations of the Saints and Strangers to immigrate to North America
  • develop the imagined experience of being a Saint or Stranger traveling to North America

Teaching Approach

  • Learning-for-use

Teaching Methods

  • Cooperative learning
  • Discussions
  • Information organization
  • Reading
  • Writing

Skills Summary

This activity targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

  • Theme 3:  People, Places, and Environments
  • Theme 5:  Individuals, Groups, and Institutions
  • Theme 9:  Global Connections

National Geography Standards

  • Standard 12:  The processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
  • Standard 9:  The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy

  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.1:  Cite specific textual evidence to support analysis of primary and secondary sources, connecting insights gained from specific details to an understanding of the text as a whole.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RH.11-12.10:  By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend history/social studies texts in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.11-12.3:  Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.

The College, Career & Civic Life (C3) Framework for Social Studies State Standards

  • D2.Geo.7.9-12.:  Analyze the reciprocal nature of how historical events and the spatial diffusion of ideas, technologies, and cultural practices have influenced migration patterns and the distribution of human population.
  • D2.His.4.9-12.:  Analyze complex and interacting factors that influenced the perspectives of people during different historical eras.

What You’ll Need

Materials You Provide

  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Pens

Physical Space

  • Classroom


  • Jigsaw grouping

Background Information

In 1620, the Mayflower set sail to bring 102 men, women, and children from England to North America. On board the ship were two groups, religious separatists who called themselves the “Saints,” and many individuals whom the Saints deemed “Strangers." Each group had different motivations for immigrating to North America. The Saints immigrated to find a land where they could practice their Separatist religion freely, create a pious society, and lead prosperous lives. The Strangers immigrated for a variety of reasons including adventure, a chance to escape the poor economic conditions in England, and the possibility to create wealth in the new colonies.

Prior Knowledge

  • Basic understanding of the term “immigration” and its causes
  • Ability to analyze secondary sources
  • Basic knowledge of early British colonization of North America
  • Basic knowledge of Mayflower voyage and settling of Plymouth

Recommended Prior Activities

  • None



having to do with the Church of England.


type of Christian religion loyal to the Roman Catholic Church and the leader of that church, the Pope.


people and land separated by distance or culture from the government that controls them.


having to do with money.


area surrounded by a wall, fence, or other physical boundary.


identification of certain actions or items as having greater or lesser relative impacts.

indentured servant

person under contract to work for another over a period of time.


to move from one place or activity to another.


process of discriminating against and, often, violently confronting a group of people based on their ethnicity, religion, or beliefs.


Christian who is not a follower of Catholic or Orthodox faiths.


member of a strict Protestant religious and political group that originated in England in the 1500s.


person who withdraws, or secedes, from an established order or church.


to stop flowing.