Lesson Plan: Overview

Finding 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

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.


  • Catesby’s Map of Carolinae, 1755

  • Map of Raleigh's Virginia, John White, 1580
  • The Coming of the British, Theodor De Bry, 1590
  • John White/ Theodor De Bry Illustrations
  • Weather Conditions in the Outer Banks


    Finding Roanoke introduces the Roanoke mystery. Students use primary source maps and White/ De Bry illustrations of Algonquin natives to examine early exploration and settlement. With internet access and LCD projection technology, teachers can lead whole-class discussions with Finding Roanoke materials. Finding Roanoke takes one class period (55 minutes). Finding Roanoke prepares students for Return to Roanoke.

    1. Distribute Catesby, White, and De Bry maps to students, or plan to show images via LCD projection as part of the teacher’s whole-class rendering of the Roanoke story.
    2. Teacher tells the Roanoke story (see Historical Background Notes) referencing historical maps and illustrations.
    3. Students locate Roanoke on the Catesby map, followed by White then De Bry.
    4. Students learn about Weather Conditions in the Outer Banks, and think about how colonists interacted with the environment in 1588.
    5. The class discusses how physical and human characteristics influenced settlement at Roanoke.

    Teacher Reflections

    Teachers can use modern maps to locate Roanoke, but in using the historical maps, students might imagine they are going back in time as they go from global to local renderings of Roanoke. The Catesby map, for instance illustrates a large stretch of coastline from Virginia to the Bahamas. The White map gets us closer to Roanoke, and the De Bry engraving takes us into the inner harbor of the Outher Banks, approaching the island itself from aboard the British ship. The White/ De Bry illustrations depict Britain's early encounters of Algonquin natives. Interestingly, White illustrates Algonquin villages, religious rituals, fishing and cooking, etc. These illustrations extend the global-to-local theme as students may imagine they have entered an Algonquin village or fished from a canoe. Teachers can use the White illustrations to introduce the concept of evidence reliability. Much of what we know about early exploration comes to us from sources like White's illustrations. Did White depict Algonquin natives accurately? Do these illustrations reveal Euro-centric bias?

    Juxtaposed to historical maps and illustrations is the National Data Buoy Center, which provides daily information about Outer Banks weather conditions-winds, seas, etc. Students can examine daily weather conditions, and imagine what it must have been like to settle a colony in such conditions. Reading John White's account of his Return to Roanoke reveals just how treacherous the Outer banks were, and how tenuous sea travel could be. State-of-the-art technology introduces cross-curricular opportunities as well. The Buoy Center part of this exercise could be extended as science instruction, and may well take longer to explore than 55 minutes will allow.


    Katie Redmon
    Greer, South Carolina