Lesson Plan: Overview

Return to Roanoke

Grade Level: 4th

The Bass Compact

Academic Standards

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

4-1.4 Explain the exchange of plant life, animal life, and disease that resulted from exploration of the New World, including the introduction of wheat, rice, coffee, horses, pigs, cows, and chickens to the Americas; the introduction of corn, potatoes, peanuts, and squash to Europe; and the effects of such diseases as diphtheria, measles, smallpox, and malaria on Native Americans.


Social Studies Literacy Elements

K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships

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

Historical Background Notes

See Colonial America Historical Background Notes.


  • Roanoke Mystery Advance Organizer
  • Return to Roanoke, John White, 1590, Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations (html)
  • Return to Roanoke, John White, 1590, Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations (pdf)

    Lesson Plans

    Return to Roanoke investigates the Roanoke mystery by considering historical clues recorded in John White's journal. This lesson takes 2 class periods (55 minutes each).

    Day 1

    1. Organize students into groups of four. Distribute Return to Roanoke and the Roanoke Mystery Advance Organizer to groups.
    2. Teacher reads Return to Roanoke. Students complete advance organizer as teacher reads.
    3. In groups, students construct sound interpretations of what they think happened to the Roanoke planters.
    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. Groups present their conclusions to the class. Student theories of what happened to Roanoke should relate John White’s primary source evidence to the following :
      • Consequences of spatial interaction among colonists and others.
      • How human and physical characteristics of Roanoke and the Outer Banks influenced English settlement.

      After presentations the teacher summarizes the Roanoke lesson by emphasizing why Roanoke is important. The teacher discusses the difficulties in colonization, and makes the point that successful colonization depends on surviving interactions with people (Algonquins, Spanish, pirates) and the environment (weather, food, water, disease).
    2. Individually, students imagine they are Roanoke planters, and write journal entries depicting their historical interpretations.
    3. For homework students write a paragraph, explaining why Roanoke was important.


    Katie Redmon
    Greer, South Carolina