Pedro's Journal Discussion Guide
- Grades: 3–5
About this book
Explain to students that Pedro's Journal is a story of Christopher Columbus's first voyage, told through the fictional journal of Pedro, a ship's boy. Tell them that journals are an important source of information about the voyages of explorers like Columbus.
Ask students to imagine how they would feel if they were the only young crew members of a space journey to Mars, where no one has ever gone. The captain and other experts would know the route and plans, but the young crew members would just have to trust the leaders to get them there. They would have to learn their tasks, and at first everything about life aboard a spaceship would seem strange. Encourage students to talk about how they might feel on the day of liftoff. How might their feelings change as the days went by? Suggest that they try to identify with Pedro's feelings as he says goodbye to the world he knows, and his ship sets out into the unknown.
Distribute copies of the book and explain to the students that because this is Pedro's journal, each entry is identified by a date. Then tell them that Pedro's sketches give information that helps to understand his journal entries. For example, the banners on page 1 represent the identifying flags flown by each ship, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María.
Ask students to listen as you read pages 1–12 aloud. When you have finished reading, ask the children to identify Pedro's feelings about the voyage. Discuss how his responses compare with their own feelings about a space voyage.
Discuss the Setting
Display a globe or a map of the world. Locate Spain and place colored pins or stickers near Palos, in the Canary Islands, and in India. Stretch a piece of string or yarn from the Canary Islands to the West Indies.
Explain to students that a famous traveler, Marco Polo, had traveled overland from Italy to India and China in the 1200s, and had brought back gold, silk fabrics, and spices the Europeans had never seen before. Marco Polo told of lands to the east that had great riches—the Indies, China, and Japan. Show students on the map or globe how Italian merchants could travel east, by sea and then by land, to India and China. Tell them that merchants did travel Marco's route, traded with the eastern lands, and made huge fortunes; but overland travel was long, costly, and dangerous. Then explain that people believed they could acquire these riches more quickly and in greater abundance if they could find a sea route to the Indies. Some brave navigators tried to go around Africa. (Use map or globe to illustrate.) But Columbus had a different idea.
Point out that most educated people of Columbus's time had begun to believe that the earth was a sphere. So Columbus believed he could get to the Indies by sailing west. Ask students whether Columbus had a realistic idea or not. In theory, it was possible. What Columbus did not know was that there were whole continents, North and South America, between Spain and the Indies. Explain that the sailors were fearful because they could not understand the concept of sailing west to get to the Indies, or eastern lands. Some believed that there were monsters and other dangers in the unknown seas, or even that the earth was flat and they might sail right off the edge.
Ask students to predict what might happen if and when the ships eventually do reach land. How do they think Columbus, who expects to find the wealth of the Indies, will react to what he does find? And how will his sailors feel?
Points to Ponder
- What qualities does Pedro have that will help him on this voyage?
- What are the crew's feelings about the voyage? How do you know?
- Describe life on shipboard, including the sounds and physical feelings.
- Although she is not present, Pedro's mother is an important figure in his life. He has already spoken of her more than once. What part do you think she has in this story?