• 1. Build background about human migration and types of migration.
    Explain to students that human migration is the movement of people from one place in the world to another. Ask: What are some different types of human movements? Then tell students that people move for many reasons, and that types of human migration include:

    • internal migration: moving within a state, country, or continent
    • external migration: moving to a different state, country, or continent
    • emigration: leaving one country to move to another
    • immigration: moving into a new country
    • return migration: moving back to where you came from
    • seasonal migration: moving with each season or in response to labor or climate conditions


    2. Discuss people who migrate.
    Tell students that people who migrate fall into several categories:

    • An emigrant is a person who is leaving one country to live in another.
    • An immigrant is a person who is entering a country from another to make a new home.
    • A refugee is a person who has moved to a new country because of a problem in their former home.

    Have students provide specific examples of each to demonstrate understanding of the differences between the three terms.

    3. Brainstorm reasons for migrating.
    Ask: Why do people move? What forces do you think drive human migration? Then explain to students that people move for many reasons and that those reasons are called push factors and pull factors. Tell students that push factors include leaving a place because of a problem, such as a food shortage, war, or flood. Tell students that pull factors include moving to a place because of something good, such as a nicer climate, more job opportunities, or a better food supply. Ask: What effect does a region’s economy, climate, politics, and culture have on migration to and from the area? Have students brainstorm additional reasons for migrating, such as displacement by a natural disaster, lack of natural resources, the state of an economy, and more.

    Informal Assessment

    Check students’ comprehension. Make sure they understand the difference between emigrants, immigrants, and refugees.

  • Subjects & Disciplines

    Learning Objectives

    Students will:

    • list and explain main types of migration
    • describe categories of people who migrate
    • list reasons for migrating

    Teaching Approach

    • Learning-for-use

    Teaching Methods

    • Brainstorming
    • Discussions

    Skills Summary

    This activity targets the following skills:

    National Standards, Principles, and Practices

    National Council for Social Studies Curriculum Standards

    • Theme 3:  People, Places, and Environments

    National Geography Standards

    • Standard 9:  The characteristics, distribution, and migration of human populations on Earth's surface
  • What You’ll Need

    Materials You Provide

    • Paper
    • Pencils
    • Pens

    Physical Space

    • Classroom


    • Large-group instruction
  • Background Information

    Human migration is the movement of people from one place in the world to another. Human patterns of movement reflect the conditions of a changing world and impact the cultural landscapes of both the places people leave and the places they settle.


    Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    emigrant Noun

    person who moves from their existing country or region to a new country or region.

    emigration Noun

    process of leaving one country or region to live in another.

    external migration Noun

    the movement of people to another nation or country.

    human migration Noun

    the movement of people from one place to another.

    immigrant Noun

    person who moves to a new country or region.

    immigration Noun

    process of moving to a new country or region with the intention of staying and living there.

    internal migration Noun

    the movement of people from one area in a country or nation to another.

    pull factor Noun

    force that draws people to immigrate to a place.

    push factor Noun

    force that drives people away from a place.

    refugee Noun

    person who flees their home, usually due to natural disaster or political upheaval.

    return migration Noun

    the return of immigrants to their home country.

    seasonal migration Noun

    movement of animals or other organisms determined by the changing weather or seasons, or in response to labor or climate conditions. For animals, seasonal migration usually refers to movement to a warmer climate during the winter and a cooler climate during the summer. For humans, seasonal migration may happen because of drivers such as crop and livestock management or tourism.

    For Further Exploration