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Listening activity: Ellis Island

From 1892-1954, Ellis Island was the port of entry for millions of European immigrants.
Ellis Island
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Ellis Island is situated in New York Harbor and was the gateway through which more than 12 million immigrants passed in the years between 1892 and 1954. The peak year on Ellis Island was 1907, when 1.5 million people were admitted.

At Ellis Island the immigrants had to undergo medical and legal examinations. Some of them were even given new names, e.g. Petrovich and Ptakershek became Peterson or Packer. About 2 percent did not pass the inspections and were returned to their country of origin. This meant that over 250,000 people had their hopes and dreams ruined. Ellis Island was turned into a museum in 1990.

Interactive Tour of Ellis Island

Take this interactive tour of Ellis Island. Make sure you listen to the immigrants' stories and watch the vidoes and the pictures. Choose a picture and write or record your immigrant story.

Ellis Island Park Ranger

Listen to a Park Ranger on Ellis Island

Listen to this interview with Douglas, who works as a Park Ranger on Ellis Island.

Ellis Island, 9:30



  1. What, according to Douglas, is the essence of Ellis Island?
  2. He explains his own job as being an “interpreter”. What does he mean by that?
  3. How can he say that Ellis Island also contains the history of his people?
  4. In what way was Ellis Island a scenario for a “revolution”?
  5. Explain why Ellis Island is also called the “Island of Tears”.
  6. What percentage of those who arrived at Ellis Island made it into America?
  7. What happened with the Ellis Island buildings after they closed down in 1954?
  8. When did Ellis Island re-open as a museum?
  9. What are people looking for when visiting the museum?
  10. How can Douglas claim that Ellis Island belongs to everybody?
  11. How did New York change after September 11, 2001?
  12. Douglas states that 9/11 "brought us together”. What does he mean by that?


  1. The year is 1895. Imagine that you have passed through Ellis Island and were allowed to enter America. Now you are standing in Manhattan, looking over to the Island. You know that your old father, who was on the same journey as you, has not been admitted yet. Write about your own experiences on Ellis Island, and your reflections about what might happen to your father.
  2. Imagine that you are a guide in the Ellis Island Museum. Write a manuscript as a preparation for a guided tour you will be giving to a high school group from Norway. Base your manuscript on the interview you have listened to and your own research on the Internet.
  3. When the buildings on Ellis Island were put up for sale in the 1950s, there were protests against this. Imagine that you were living in the 1950s. Write an article for a newspaper in which you argue against the sale and for Ellis Island being turned into a museum. Give reasons for your argumentation.
CC BY-SASkrevet av Engelsk for videregående (Vega) og Åse Elin Langeland.
Sist faglig oppdatert 12.10.2018