Framing Soo Hoo Lem Kong


  • Students will examine immigration documents and interviews in order to describe the experience of Chinese immigrants entering California in the 1900s.
  • Students will use depth and complexity icons as tools to develop higher-level thinking skills.


Aim/Essential Question

How can immigration documents from the early 1900s help us understand the Chinese immigrant's experience when entering the United States?

Background Inform​ation

From 1882 to 1943, the United States government cut back on the number of Chinese immigrants allowed in the U.S. Concern over the large number of immigrants and competition with American workers resulted in the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of May 6, 1882. Enacted by the Forty-seventh Congress, this law suspended immigration of Chinese laborers for ten years. The law created a "Section 6" exempt status for teachers, students, merchants, and travelers, which allowed Chinese people in these classes admission to the United States if they could present a certificate from the Chinese government. (Chinese people who were already in the United States as of November 17, 1880 were allowed to stay, and to travel to other countries and return to the U.S.)


Day 1

Students will read Soo Hoo Lem Kong's Declaration of Nonimmigrant Alien document and learn how to use depth and complexity icons. Students will use the icons to identify details, ethical issues, big ideas, and unanswered questions in the text.

Day 2

Students will apply depth and complexity icons to Soo Hoo Lem Kong's Interview to Enter the U.S. Reader's Theater (a script of his interview). Using the icons, they will identify details, ethical issues, big ideas, and unanswered questions about Soo Hoo Lem Kong's experience and record them on Soo Hoo Lem Kong's frame.


Ask your students to define "immigration." Explain that when immigrants came to the United States, they were required to have papers to enter the country and be interviewed by government officials. Ask students what questions they feel would be important to ask a person immigrating to the United States.


Day 1

  1. Introduce the four depth and complexity icons and their meanings. Have each student fold an 8½ by 11 inch piece of paper into four squares. Have students follow you on the overhead. In the top left squares, have them draw the Details icon and then ask them to define "Details." Then have them draw the Ethics icon in the bottom left squares, and ask them to define "ethics." (You may have to help them define "ethics" by giving an example of an ethical issue.) Continue in the same manner for Big Ideas and Unanswered Questions.Some sample definitions are:

    Details: facts, features, clues

    Big Ideas: main idea, summary, conclusion

    Ethics: biases, controversies, dilemmas traits

    Unanswered Questions: puzzles, unknowns, something unexplained, missing information

  2. Introduce Soo Hoo Lem Kong's Declaration of Nonimmigrant Alien document. Explain that this document was required for entrance into the United States.
  3. Read the document together. As you are reading, stop as you come to information that relates to details, ethics, big ideas, and unanswered questions. Have students record this information in the correct icon squares on their papers.


Ask the students to identify:

  • details about Chinese immigration that they found in the text.
  • one ethical issue about Chinese immigration found in the text.
  • a big idea about Chinese immigration found in the text.
  • one unanswered question found in the text.

Ask each student to pair with a neighbor.

Ask the two students in the pair to share what they've learned with one another and to be prepared to share with the class.

Day 2

  1. Inform students that they will continue looking for details, ethical issues, big ideas, and unanswered questions, this time by examining Soo Hoo Lem Kong's Interview to Enter the U.S.
    Inform students that this time they will record their information on Soo Hoo Lem Kong's Frame (link to Frames.pdf)

Group Work

  1. Divide students into groups of four.
  2. Review class procedures for group work.
  3. Explain that each group will be reading Soo Hoo Lem Kong's Interview to Enter the U.S. as a reader's theater. As they read, they will be looking for details, ethical issues, big ideas and unanswered questions.
  4. Pass out the reader's theater and have each group assign parts.
  5. Give students five minutes to practice their parts and ask questions concerning any unfamiliar vocabulary.
  6. When all groups have finished, have each group share one new idea that they have added to Soo Hoo Lem Kong's frame. Continue asking groups to do this until all ideas have been shared.



  1. How does looking at Soo Hoo Lem Kong's immigration documents help you understand his experience immigrating to the United States? Record student responses.
  2. If you had been the immigration official, would you have admitted Soo Hoo Lem Kong into the U.S.? Explain.


  • Have students locate on a map of China the locations that are described in the documents.
  • Write an expository essay using the depth and complexity icons to determine the topic sentence for each paragraph.
  • Decorate Soo Hoo Lem Kong's frame with Chinese and U.S. Symbols.
  • Research "paper sons" and "mail-order brides".
  • Have students write a reader's theater using Tang Suey Jin's Application and Interview to Enter the U.S. (National Archives
  • Have students visit the Angel Island web-site to analyze pictures of immigrants and the Angel Island Immigration Station.

Suggested Books

  • Bunting, Eve, Day's Work
  • Bunting, Eve, How Many Days to America?
  • Cech, John, My Grandmother's Journey
  • Currier, Katrina Saltonstall, Kai's Journey to Gold Mountain
  • Lai, Him Mark, Genny Lim, and Judy Yung. Island, Poetry and History of Immigrants Detained on Angel Island, 1910 -1940.
  • Levinson, Riki, Watch the Stars Come Out
  • Say, Allen, Grandfather's Journey