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The Northern Migration
Push and Pull Factors Lesson Plan: Tug O' War
The narrative The Northern Migration (along with The Great Migration, The Second Great Migration; and The Return South Migration) provides examples of push and pull factors and their roles in immigration and migration. Push and Pull Factors: Tug O' War is best used with the narrative to introduce or reinforce the concepts of push and pull factors and to help tactile learners see a concrete expression of push-pull through physical activity. Students will define the concepts and create a list of push and pull factors for the narrative (or all four narratives to cover the North, South, and West). Each distinct factor will be written up on index cards labeled "Push" or "Pull," and students will draw cards. With the Physical Education teachers, get a rope and have a Tug O' War contest between push factors and pull factors; students should analyze whether the results of their contest matched history, and if not, why.
Grade Levels:Middle school, grades 6-8
For use with:The Northern Migration
Concentration Area:Social Studies
Concentration Area:History: U.S.
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The following standards have been taken from the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) standards.
Students will understand

  • How slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g., the cotton gin and the opening of new lands in the South and West led to increased demands for slaves; differences in the lives of plantation owners, poor free black and white families and slaves; methods of passive and active resistance to slavery; escaped slaves and the Underground Railroad).
  • Different economic, cultural, and social characteristics of slavery after 1800 (e.g., the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the ending of the Atlantic slave trade, how slaves forged their own culture in the face of oppression, the role of the plantation system in shaping slaveholders and the enslaved, the experiences of escaped slaves).
  • The social and cultural influences of former slaves in cities of the North (e.g., their leadership of African-American communities, how they advanced the rights and interests of African Americans).
Time required
One 50-minute class period if students complete reading outside of class
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Define for students "push factors" and "pull factors" in the context of immigration and migration.
  2. Ask students to read the narrative The Northern Migration. Have students take notes under two columns: Pull Factors for the North and Push Factors for the South.
  3. Discuss the roles of economic factors, family ties, cultural attractions, security against violence, segregation, discrimination, political opportunity, educational opportunity, and the prospect of work in the professions and crafts rather than manual labor. Record the pull factors and push factors on the board, a flipchart, or an overhead transparency. Then, ask students if there were any pull factors for the South and any push factors for the North. Record these as well.

  1. Provide each student with an index card and designate one factor for him or her to copy. The student should label the top of the card with one of four categories: Push-North, Push-South, Pull-North, Pull-South. (If students have also read narratives about the West, they may add Push-West and Pull-West.)
  2. Coordinate with the Physical Education instructors to use a Tug O' War rope and to review safety rules and guidelines. Safety pin the index cards to students and direct them to the appropriate ends of the rope: Pull-North and Push-South will work one end of the rope, while Push-North and Pull-South will work the other end of the rope. (If students have also read narratives about the West, they may pull the rope against the winner of the North-South contest. The line-up will have Pull-West and Push-"Winner" on one end of the rope opposing Push-West and Pull-"Winner" at the opposite end.)
  3. Once the contest is over, ask students whether the outcome of their Tug O' War was the same as what happened historically. If it was, they should decide what factors contributed to reaching the same outcome. If it did not, they should decide what factors caused the outcome to be different. (The physical strength and size of students may be enough to thwart a historically accurate outcome, although, in most cases, the greater number of push-pull factors stacked against the South should result in victories by the North or West.) Have students write their evaluations in a journal entry or paragraph.

1. Ask students to write a paragraph stating whether the outcome of their Tug O' War agreed with history and explaining how the number of push-pull factors or physical strength of the team caused either a similar outcome or a different outcome from history.

2. Evaluate on a point scale (which may be weighted) or five letter-grade rubric as follows:

Grading Elements Points/Grade
No response 0/F
Response may omit specific statement of result, may not fully or accurately explain what contributed to the result; shows little insight, offers few very general ideas; and has many technical problems (spelling, grammar, punctuation) 1/D
Response references result but does not clearly or with full accuracy explain what contributed to the result, shows some insight, provides only general answers, and has some technical problems (spelling, grammar, punctuation) 2/C
Response references result and partially explains what contributed to the result, shows some insight, provides some specific answers and some general ones, and demonstrates most technical elements of good writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation) 3/B
Response references result and explains what contributed to the result, shows originality and insight, provides specifics, and demonstrates technical elements of good writing (spelling, grammar, punctuation) 4/A

Interdisciplinary Links

  • Physical Education: Ask students to create a different game or physical test that would illustrate push-pull factors and might be used in future illustrations. Depending on the types of equipment available and policies of the school system and physical education department, weights or football blocking sleds might be used.
  • Mathematics: Collaborate with the math teacher to take the four sets of information and convert them into a mathematical expression. For example, if students have seven Pull-North, five Push-South, three Push-North, and two Pull-South factors, it might be expressed as 7n + 5s > 3n + 2s. Examine equations used in physics and/or engineering to express pressure and motion.
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