I’m very excited about a project with our 4th graders this month. This project is a spinoff of something we did last year with explorers and Native Americans. This year, we are just focusing on explorers.
To kickoff the lesson, we did a very similar kickoff to last year’s project. The entire fourth grade came, which was about 65 students. We used a video from Biography.com about Christopher Columbus. We only watched the first two minutes of the video.
Following the video, I asked students to tell me what words they would use to describe Columbus. They turned and shared with a neighbor first and then I used Tagxedo to capture several of their words into an image.
Then, we read the book Encounter by Jane Yolen. I love pairing this book with what students are already thinking about Columbus because it typically flips their outlook on Columbus and explorers in general. I asked them the same question about Columbus, to describe him based on the book they just heard. Here’s how their words changed.
This lesson was meant to setup the whole research process that students will now embark on. They will each select one of the explorers from the 4th grade standards:
SS4H2 The student will describe European exploration in North America.
a. Describe the reasons for, obstacles to, and accomplishments of the Spanish,
French, and English explorations of John Cabot, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, Juan
Ponce de León, Christopher Columbus, Henry Hudson, and Jacques Cartier.
b. Describe examples of cooperation and conflict between Europeans and Native
They will ask themselves, “Is this explorer a hero or a villain?” Some teachers may even assign a perspective for students to take even if they disagree with that perspective. I told them to think back to Columbus. Even though many of us think he’s a villain after reading Encounter, we were still able to come up with all kinds of words to describe why he was a hero. Students will use a Sqworl pathfinder along with other databases and print books to research. They will write a short persuasive piece convincing an audience to believe that their chosen explorer is a hero or a villain.
We will use Flipgrid to create videos of all of these writing pieces. I made one grid for each explorer so that we hear both perspectives in one place. They will be stored on a Google site so that we can easily view all of the videos. I also made a Google form so that viewers can easily vote for whether they think each explorer is a hero or a villain.
Our plan is to share this with our entire school as well as share on social media and this blog when we have everything ready to go.
Be on the lookout for your opportunity to give the students feedback on their work and participate in this project.