Lesson Plan: Overview

Early Explorer Time-Line

Grade Level: 4th

Academic Standards

Standard 4-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the exploration of the New World.
4-1.2 Summarize the motivation and accomplishments of the Vikings and the Portuguese, Spanish, English, and French explorers, including Leif Eriksson, Christopher Columbus, Hernando de Soto, Ferdinand Magellan, Henry Hudson, John Cabot, and Robert LaSalle. (H, E, G)

4-1.3    Use a map to identify the routes of various sea and land expeditions to the New World and match these to the territories claimed by different nations—including the Spanish dominance in South America and the French, Dutch, and English exploration in North America—and summarize the discoveries associated with these expeditions.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

B. Establish chronological order in constructing one’s own historical narratives

D. Create and interpret data on time lines

Historical Background Notes

See Age of Exploration.


  • Rulers, markers, crayons, and one file folder for each student
  • Website for The Mariner's Museum

    Lesson Plans

    Early Explorer Time-Line helps students chronologically order historical events. While many students are familiar with reading time-lines, most have never actually created one. Allow 1 class period (55 minutes) to complete this lesson.

    1. Distribute file folders, markers, and crayons.
    2. From reference materials, students research an explorer, identifying six important events.
    3. Students use a ruler to measure and equally divide their open file folder into six sections to create a time-line.
    4. Students create or select graphics that represents six important events in the explorer's life.
    5. Students write captions, which explain the time-line graphics. Graphics and text should discuss exploration routes, and explain the significance of exploration voyages and discoveries.
    6. Students complete time-lines for homework.

    Teacher Reflections

    Students did well collecting information about important events in the lives of their chosen explorers. However, some students needed assistance in choosing which information to use on the time-line. Most of the time-lines were written neatly and sketches, drawings, and pictures were colorful and attractive.

    This activity provided students opportunities to employ several process skills:

    1. Chronological thinking was an important component of this lesson.
    2. Students used a variety of sources to obtain historical data to complete their time-lines.
    3. This activity also involved students in using communication process skills graphically and in written form.

    Time-line was successful in helping students develop a better understanding of how time-lines are organized and presented. The lesson offered students an opportunity to organize historical events and information themselves. Hopefully, the time lines students create help them better understand and interpret historical data presented on other time-lines. To further develop this lesson, I could have students create parallel time-lines, comparing and contrasting the lives of two explorers.

    Student Assessments

    Assessment for Time-lines is performance-based. Student time-lines are graded on standards-based criteria according to the following rubric. Student performance can be rated as Unacceptable, Needs Work, Good, or Excellent. Teacher comments may include rationale for marks and suggestions for improvement.

    Examples of Students Work

    No examples available for this lesson plan.


    Rene Jones
    Charleston, South Carolina