Explorers of the New World: Learning About Major Explorers of the New World
- Grades: 3–5
- Unit Plan:
Students learn about the principal explorers of the New World, how they contributed to the development of European knowledge about America, how European rivalries were transferred to the New World, and the effect of Native American cultures meeting with European cultures.
- Read the biography of an explorer individually or in small groups. The biography may or may not be a play, which could be performed for others. These materials will be assigned/selected based on reading ability.
- Students will demonstrate knowledge of several explorers by completing a chart, listening to others, and taking a quiz.
- Biographies and/or plays about various explorers of the New World
- Markers or pens
- Butcher paper to create a master chart of explorers for the class
- Explorer Data Chart (PDF)
Set Up and Prepare
- Decide how to break students into groups by specific explorers (for example, Columbus, La Salle, De Soto, Ponce de Leon, Verrazano, etc.)
- Have biographies of the explorers (or use plays about them) that are appropriate to the reading level of each student or groups of students.
- Xerox copies of the Explorer Data Chart for each member of the class.
- Set up butcher paper as an "explorers master chart" for teacher use. (It will be like the individual charts, but with different explorers' names as headings across the top).
Step 1: Explain that by reading biographies or biographical plays the students will learn about the explorers who came to the New World. Either individually or in groups they will fill out a chart on their explorer. These will then be shared with the class. A master chart will be made by the teacher so that the students can learn about all the different explorers.
Step 2: Assign the various biographies and/or plays for individual students or student groups to read.
Step 3: Introduce the Explorer Data Chart to students. As they read, they should discuss and complete the chart for their individual explorer.
Step 4: During Language Arts or Social Studies time, students are to read about their explorers and fill in the data for the explorer. When the data is complete, they will report to the class.
Step 5: The teacher fills in a master chart on butcher paper as reports are given. This master chart will later be copied so that students can study it for a quiz.
- This unit can be done with world explorers (Marco Polo, Ibn Ben Tutta, Magellan, Drake, etc.) or with explorers both past and present and include more modern explorers of the Arctic, oceans, or space.
- Add vocabulary words to be learned, such as colony, voyage, exploration, mutiny, etc.
- Turn the chart into a more formal research report or, using the data chart as the informational piece, create a book cover for their explorer presentation. Remind students not to copy the illustrations from the biography they read. Be original.
- Do a "man on the street" interview using the report as the basis of the questions and answers.
- Present an Opera Winfrey-type show on "Explorers - Why Do You Do It?"
- Can the students read the biographies and/or plays easily and find the information to complete their charts?
- Do they understand the similarities and differences between the explorers?
- Do they see why European competition became an issue that continued in the New World?
- Did they enjoy learning about and presenting their explorer?
- Students' success in completing the Explorer Data Chart and reading their book or play will be used for evaluation.
- A final written test on all the explorers covered can also be part of the assessment.