"I will bear allegiance to the United States":Becoming a Citizen

"I will bear allegiance to the United States":Becoming a Citizen
Hannah Van Buren: Law, Politics and Govt

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: 2-3 class days

Required Documents
Becoming a U.S. Citizen Graphic Organize


Hannah Van Buren was the first president’s wife to be born a United States citizen. Both of her parents grew up in Kinderhook, New York and were of Dutch background. Kinderhook was a former Dutch settlement and Van Buren grew up speaking Dutch even though she was a US citizen. Although most of the previous first ladies were born in America they were born prior to the United States becoming a sovereign nation and became citizens when it did so. But during the early years as well as the later years of the United States many people came from foreign lands to live here and there needed to be a way for these immigrants to become citizens of their new nation. This process is called naturalization. The first naturalization law was passed in this country only two years after the Constitution became the official law of the land in 1790, and only one year before Vermont became the last state to ratify it. Even today many immigrants stand up and swear an Oath of Allegiance to their new country, the United States of America.


The students will be able to define the following terms emigrant, immigrant, naturalization, and oath; will use the internet to research the process of becoming a US Citizen; and will be able to accurately describe the process of becoming a naturalized United States citizen.

Materials Required:

Picture book with the theme of immigration to the US (See PDF list included with this lesson); computer with internet access or printed handout from the Our White House website listed below; and the Becoming a US Citizen Work Sheet.


1. The teacher will begin the lesson by reading a picture book about immigration aloud to the class. Included with this lesson is a PDF list of this type of picture books that discusses immigration from a number of countries. Many of these books should be able to be located in most school libraries. If you are aware of a book not included on this list feel free to use it. Following the reading the teacher will lead a discussion about the topic of immigration. Questions will vary according to the choice of books but should include some basic questions such as: Why did the main character choose to leave their home country? Was the journey easy or difficult? What problems might the characters face in their new country? Does living in a country make you a citizen of that country?

2. The second portion of this lesson is to introduce the vocabulary. The essential terms to this lesson are emigration, immigration, naturalization and oath. This vocabulary can be introduced in any way the teacher normally introduces vocabulary. Some examples may be journaling the words and their definitions, searching online individually or in small groups, Drawing pictures (this might be effective with immigration and emigration), using them in sentences etc. It is important the students understand the difference between immigration and emigration, so it might be fun to create a poster with the US on one side and a country of origin or even a continent such as Europe, Asia, or Africa with a person in between. There could be an arrow from the place of origin pointing to the person and above that arrow would be the word emigration. Then there would be another arrow from the person to the US above which would say immigration. This is optional to the lesson but it might be fun and informative for the students.

3. The final step to the lesson is for the students to research the process for an immigrant to become a US citizen. If a computer lab is available the students can find this information at the first website listed below. If not, the site can be printed and used as an informational handout. The students will then complete the graphic organizer entitled Becoming a US Citizen that is also included with this website. This lesson may be assessed with a brief teacher created quiz or by having the students use the Graphic Organizer to write a “How to” essay on becoming a US Citizen.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson may be extended by having the students fill out a brief citizenship application and study for and take a citizenship test. These activities are included on the website listed in the linkable resources section of this lesson plan. If the teacher wants to get more in depth with these questions a complete 100 question citizenship examination is located in link #3 of the Sources and Resources section of this lesson plan.

Sources & Resources:


Becoming a Citizen

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

Civics (History and Government) Questions for the Naturalization Test

Children, Families, and Immigration: Picture Books


This lesson was developed by Robert McClelland, Cleveland Metropolitan School District.