Molly's Pilgrim

Grade Level: 3rd Grade

Sunshine State Standards:

View all Sunshine State Standards

Goal: The overall goal of the third grade unit is to acquaint students with the multi-ethnic nature of America's citizens and to help them appreciate the feelings of someone who is different than themselves. This unit may be used with an entire class or with individual reading groups.

Activities: Day One




  1. The teacher should hold up a picture of the Statue of Liberty and ask students what it is and what it commemorates. The teacher should explain that the statue given by France to the United States in 1886 is a sculpture made of copper and iron that symbolizes freedom. It stands 151' tall in New York Harbor. It was sculpted by Frederic Bartholdi, who decided what pose it would have, how it would be constructed, and where it would be placed. Its pedestal (base) was financed through donations by American school children.

  2. On the base is the poem The New Colossus by the Jewish poet Emma Lazarus. Tell the group that this title refers to a large statue, which stood many centuries ago on a hill above the harbor in Rhodes, Greece and was one of the seven wonders of the world. Place the excerpt on a transparency and project it.

    Give me your tired, your poor,

    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

  3. The following should be discussed:

    1. What kind of people does the poem welcome? (Under-privileged: tired, poor, those wanting freedom, homeless)
    2. Ask students to use their dictionaries and define "refuse" and "teeming."
    3. What does the phrase "teeming shore" mean? (Europe was overcrowded and the U.S. had plenty of room for all)
    4. Tempest-tost refers to the storms that people experienced; did it mean only on the seas or elsewhere? (Students should discuss the political upheaval in many countries that brought immigrants to America.)
    5. What is the "golden door?" (The chance for a better life in America . . . opportunity)
    6. What is the attitude expressed in the poem? (It welcomes European immigrants to America)

  4. Show students a picture of the Statue and point out that it sits in New York Harbor facing Europe. Ask why it faces that direction. (Europe was the center of most earlier U.S. immigration)

  5. Have students hypothesize if another statue were built today, where do they think it should be built? (Possibly one on the west coast facing Asia, one on the southern border facing Central and South America)

  6. Is a harbor still the best location for a statue welcoming new immigrants? (No, most come by airplane so perhaps an airport is a better location)

  7. Have students closely examine a drawing or picture of the Statue. Ask:

    1. Why is she dressed this way? Tell them her dress is a TOGA, the ancient robe of Greece, the birthplace of democracy.
    2. What is there around her head and why does it have seven spokes? (It is a crown whose seven rays symbolize the seven continents or seven oceans)
    3. What is she holding? (tablet on which is written July 4, 1776, the date on which the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain was signed)
    4. Why would she be holding a flame or torch? (It is a beacon of light for those trapped in the darkness of oppression and it signifies the role of the U.S. to enlighten the world.)

  8. Have students color the handout of the Statue of Liberty.

Activities: Day Two




  1. Ask students the meaning of the word "Immigrant." Define it using a student dictionary and have students write it in their social studies or language arts notebook.

  2. Ask children to raise their hands if they are an immigrant or the descendant of one. Tell them that all hands should be raised since every American came from somewhere else. There are really no native Americans; even those we call "native Americans" were immigrants since they came from Asia 10,000 - 30,000 years ago by walking across a land bridge which connected Siberia with Alaska. Because of the changes in sea level this land bridge is now below water. Use a map to show students where Siberia, Asia, Alaska, and the continental U.S. are located.

  3. Tell the group that both North and South America experienced isolation until Columbus accidentally stumbled over them as he was looking for a sea route to Asia from Europe. Soon immigrants began coming to the "New World." At first Spanish immigrants settled in Florida and Central and South America, while English immigrants settled on the Atlantic coast. Those on the seaboard were soon joined by Dutch, Germans, Scandinavians, French, and Black Africans who came here as slaves. Later people arrived from Ireland, Italy, Russia, Greece, and eastern Europe. Most were drawn by dreams of wealth, promises of jobs, and religious and political freedom.

  4. Relate that between 1892-1954, 17 million immigrants' first sight of America was the Statue of Liberty. Molly of our story was one of them. When she came to the U.S. between 1900-1915, one of 1,000,000, those new immigrants came mainly from southern and eastern European countries. This was the greatest mass movement in human history. American immigration policy became reactionary and exclusionist in 1920. This led to the death of hundreds of thousands of Jews, who were excluded from America and murdered in Europe. Let us cast an unblind eye on America's attitude toward immigration and immigrants. U.S. policy was hardly a seamless web of acceptance.

  5. Have students speculate whether if they had been in America prior to this immigrant wave, how they might have felt seeing many new immigrants coming to America. (Reactions might include: happy having more customers, fear of cheaper competition for jobs, resentful of those who don't speak or understand English, fear of different customs and religious preferences.)

  6. Ask students if they were an immigrant how might they have felt. (Responses might include: fearful of learning a new language, unfamiliarity with different ways of doing things, having no friends or support groups.)

  7. Ask what might be most important if you were a new immigrant. (Responses might include: ties to the old country, religious practices, sense of family, speaking a familiar language, not being treated as if you were stupid because you couldn't understand the language.)

Activities: Day Three



  1. Look at the cover of Molly's Pilgrim. Elicit what students notice. (Two girls dressed in what seems unfashionable by today's styles.) What does this lead you to suspect? (The book was set in earlier times.)

  2. Look at the dedication page; tell students this is the place where an author gives thanks to those who inspired or helped the book to come into being. In this case why did the author decide to write this book? (To honor all the family stories she heard as a child and in memory of those about whom they were told.)

  3. Read pages 1 & 2 aloud. Ask why doesn't the storyteller (narrator) like school? (Kids laugh at her because she talks funny.) Ask how would you imagine someone might feel with people laughing at them? (Unhappy, embarrassed, stupid, alone, unsure.) Ask whether any of them have ever been laughed at by other kids? Why? Look at the drawing (illustration) on p. 3. What do you notice? (Four girls laughing and one looking unhappy.) Who do you think that might be? (Molly)

  4. How does Molly feel about the song they sing about her? How do you think she felt when Elizabeth gave candy to the other girls and not her? (Excluded, less important, alone, friendless.) Have students give some examples of name calling or prejudiced attitudes mentioned in the book. (Laughing when she spoke, taunting her by singing "Jolly Molly. Your eyes are awfully small. Jolly Molly. Your nose is awfully tall." excluding her from the group.)

  5. Continue reading through p. 5. Tell the students that the word in the different print (italics), "Shaynkeit", means beauty, a beautiful person. Describe Molly's relationship with her mother. (Her mother is a source of physical and emotional comfort.) Why does Molly ask her mother to take her back to New York City? (Other Jewish immigrant children were there, and they wouldn't make fun of her.)

  6. Tell the students that "Malkeleh" is an affectionate, pet name meaning "Little Molly." Molly and her mother are conversing in Yiddish, a language used by the Jews of Europe in addition to their national language. It was understood by Jews in Russia, Poland, Germany, etc.

  7. Why doesn't Molly's mother want to return to N.Y.C.? Have students compare life there with that in Winter Hill. (p.10)
    N.Y.C.Winter Hill
    Lived in a tenement with many familiesLived by themselves above where her father works
    Father worked in a factoryFather works in a store and has a job with better working conditions

  8. Why doesn't her mother want to go back to Russia? Read p. 13. Explain that the Cossacks were soldiers who didn't like Jews, burned down Jewish homes and religious sites, and took pleasure in killing Jews. If they went back, it would mean more persecution. Also Russian girls weren't educated; they only learned how to keep house, cook, and sew. Can Molly's mother read and write? (No, so she wants more for Molly.)

  9. "Paskudnyak" is Yiddish for nasty or mean people. Why didn't Molly want her mother to speak to her teacher Miss Stickley? (Molly was ashamed of her mother's way of dressing and her inability to speak English." (p.13-15.) What would you have done if you were in Molly's place?
Activities: Day Four





  1. Read the middle of p.15 through the middle of 17. In what way did Elizabeth treat Molly as if she weren't very smart? (When Molly couldn't pronounce that word "Thanksgiving" and didn't know what it was, Elizabeth said, "I thought everyone knew that" as well as "I guess you people don't celebrate American holidays") Why is using the phrase "You people" so hurtful? (It further separates Molly from her classmates; it emphasizes that she was different.) Do you think she knew about Labor Day or the Fourth of July? (No, she came from a place where other national events were celebrated.) Ask the students if they know of any holidays celebrated in other places and not in America? (i.e., Guy Fawkes Day in Britain, Bastille Day in France.) How does the teacher help Molly in the classroom? (She helps Molly with her reading and realizes that many things in the U.S. are foreign to Molly; she's compassionate.)

  2. Read p.18-23. When Molly explained her assignment to her mother, what was there that made her realize that her mother understood what she had to do? (The text says "Mama's eyes lit up".) Do you think Molly's Mama knows what the Pilgrim doll was supposed to look like?

  3. Read p.24-27. Have a student describe Molly's Pilgrim doll. (Made from a clothespin, had brown yarn hair covered with a yellow embroidered kerchief, embroidered facial features, dressed in long, full red skirt, black felt boots, and yellow blouse.) How does Molly react to the doll Mama made? (She says it doesn't look like the picture in her textbook. In fact, it looks like a picture taken of her mother as a young girl, and her Mama did that on purpose.) Refer to the illustration in the book so students can see for themselves.

  4. Ask why Mama made the Pilgrim doll resemble herself. (Mama says she's a Pilgrim since she came from the other side to find freedom.)

  5. Read p. 28-32. Ask students what they would have done if they had been Molly. Would they have taken the doll to school? What does Molly do with the doll? (Hides it in her desk still in the paper bag in which she brought it to school.) What does Elizabeth say when Molly shows her doll? (She tells Molly she is dumb since her doll isn't a Pilgrim and that Miss Stickley will be angry with her.)

  6. Read p. 32-35. Compare the picture of the other children's dolls on p. 33 with Molly's on p. 27. How was Molly's doll different? How does the class and Miss Stickley respond to Molly's Pilgrim? (Elizabeth laughs and says it doesn't look like a Pilgrim, while Miss Stickley says it's beautiful and that Molly must have misunderstood the assignment.)

  7. Complete the story p. 36-41. How does Molly explain why her doll is so different than the others? (Her mother said that their family had come to America for religious freedom just as the Pilgrims had and that she also was a Pilgrim.) What action did Miss Stickley take when Elizabeth and others hooted? (She said that Molly's mother was a modern Pilgrim because she came to America for the same reasons as the original Pilgrims.)

  8. Ask students the same questions Miss Stickley asked Elizabeth. From where did the idea for Thanksgiving come? (The Jewish holiday of Sukkos mentioned in the Bible.) Ask if any have celebrated this holiday and describe what they saw. The teacher might want to invite a Rabbi to speak to the group about the significance and practices of Sukkos.

  9. Why does Miss Stickley place Molly's doll on her desk? (To remind students that Pilgrims are still coming to America and to show the children how she appreciates Molly's effort.)

  10. At the end of the story how do we know that school is probably going to be better for Molly in the future? (Miss Stickley wants to meet her mother, Emma's praise of Molly's doll opens the door for their friendship.)

  11. What does Molly mean when she says in the last sentence in the story, "I decided it takes all kinds of Pilgrims to make a Thanksgiving."?

  12. How have Molly's feelings about Mama changed? (Miss Stickley has invited her to school as a guest, Molly is proud of rather than embarrassed by her mother, she realizes that even though her mother is different she's still very wise.)

  13. What lesson can be learned by the class from Molly? From her mother? From her father? From the Pilgrim doll?

  14. Discuss examples of prejudice from the story. Ask students why prejudice makes people feel lonely or isolated from the group. What are some of the reasons Molly was excluded by the others? How can we be accepted? What is the responsibility toward others who are different?

  15. The teacher may wish to conclude the class with the three activity handouts and/or show the video, Molly's Pilgrim. The video should be contrasted with the book.


The teacher may assign a project after students have read the book. Several suggestions are listed below.

  1. Have children interview their parents about their ethnic background and do research to create a doll wearing a native costume from the country from which their ancestors came.

  2. Have students create a family tree by filling in the information on the handout in this packet. (see family tree handout)

  3. Have students do research on ethnic foods and with parental help prepare and serve an ethnic meal containing dishes from different ethnic backgrounds.

  4. Have students interview family members to learn where the family's U.S. branch entered this country, from where they originally came, why they immigrated, why they settled where they did in the U.S., and write this information in paragraph form.

  5. Have students look in a telephone book to find one family name for each letter of the alphabet and make a list.

  6. Have students do research into holidays unique to the country from which their ancestors originated. Have them present this information orally in class.

Submitted by:

The Holocaust Outreach Center at Florida Atlantic University.
Dr. Ellen Heckler, Director, Holocaust Outreach Center, Florida Atlantic University (FAU)
Editor: Alan L. Berger, Raddock Eminent Scholar Chair of Holocaust and Judaic Studies, (FAU)

A Teacher's Guide to the Holocaust
Produced by the Florida Center for Instructional Technology,
College of Education, University of South Florida © 1997-2013.

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