Lesson Plan: Overview

Exploration and Encounters

Grade Level: 4th

Academic Standards

Standard 4-1: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the exploration of the New World.

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

O. Consider multiple perspectives of documents and stories

P. Locate, gather, and process information from a variety of primary and secondary sources including maps

Historical Background Notes

See Age of Exploration.


  • See web sources in Age of Exploration Historical Background Notes
  • Pedro's Journal by Pam Conrad
  • Manila folders, crayons, glue sticks, notebook paper

    Lesson Plans

    Exploration and Encounters includes KWL charts, illustrated folders, journal entries, timelines, and presentations of student work. Exploration and Encounters takes two class periods (55 minutes each) to complete. Sessions may run long, and require more time.

    Day 1

    1. Know, Want to Know, Learned (KWL): Prior to instruction and research, students write"WHAT I KNOW" about explorers and exploration. As instruction ensues, students write"WHAT I WANT TO KNOW" about explorers and exploration. Each student should choose-at least three explorers to research. After all lesson activities are completed, students complete the KWL with “WHAT I HAVE LEARNED.”
    2. Teacher tells students about Exploration and Settlement (see historical background notes).
    3. From their textbooks and various websites (or other sources), students research three explorers.
    4. For homework students choose one explorer, and illustrate their research on a manila folder.
    5. Also for homework, in a paragraph students compare and contrast their sources of information. For example, students compare their textbook account of Christopher Columbus to Columbus websites.

    Day 2

    1. Teacher reads Pedro’s Journal (Pam Conrad). Students write journal entries that are modeled after Pedro’s Journal. For example, “Mary’s Journal” might be the title of a student’s work.
    2. Students give oral presentations of their work. Display student projects in the classroom, hallway or lobby areas, or at special school events.

    Student Assessments

    Assessment for Exploration and Encounters is performance-based. KWLs, folder illustrations, journal entries, comparative paragraphs, and oral presentations 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. Assessment also included informal question and answer during class discussions, vocabulary quizzing, and a traditional multiple-choice test.


    Susan Barras
    Greenville, South Carolina