You are a
Lesson Topic: Social Studies/Language
Writing as a colonist! (part of the mini-unit)
Date: Oct. 29, 1997
Grade Level: Fifth grade
Teacher of Lesson: Joy Augustine
Approximate Time: 30 minutes for five days
Over a course of the colonies unit, students will imagine the
motivations and experiences of the seventeenth colonists. The
following activities provide students a purpose to search for
information and allows them to become personally involved in this
social studies unit.
- Students will complete the colonist
character sheets realistically using appropriate detail and
reasoning. Knowledge and Comprehension
- Students will create a number of writings
which demonstrate their understanding of the English
colonists occupations, motivations, and background.
Individuals may choose to compare and contrast the lives of their
imaginary colonist to those in history. Knowledge, Evaluation,
Comprehension, and Synthesis
- Students will appraise their character
sheets and writings by proofreading, revising, and peer editing.
"You are a Colonist" Character sheet, notebook
paper, excerpt of the poem "Jamestown, 1607" by Stephen Vincent Benet
(optional), social studies text books and other sources of
information on the colonies
- After introducing the unit on the original
thirteen colonies in the textbook, pass out and explain the "You
Are a Colonist!" character sheet. Overview the activity for the
class: Students will be creating a number of writings such as
letters, diary entries, newspaper articles, etc. from the
perspective of the character which they generate.
- Discuss how to find a name that sounds
authentically English. Ask students if they know anyone who is
from Great Britain and share their name. Ask students to think of
names that sound old--such as those of their
- Remind students that they may need to wait
to answer some of the questions or later revise some of their
answers after they have read the text and done other
- Collect these, look them over and on
post-it notes write comments and suggestions to the students. For
example, "Great use of details," or "Do you think that if a
colonist was 20 years old she could have had six
- After students have read the first sections
of the text chapters, conduct a mini-lesson. Based on observations
of the character sheets, the mini-lesson will remind students of
the need to include detail, and look realistically at the
educational opportunities available to most colonists--especially
- As a review have students volunteer what
they remember from their readings and discussions to create a
class list on the board of a) colonist occupations b) reasons for
coming c) fates
- Before reading the excerpt of the poem ask
students to identify the Council, (the governing body appointed by
the London company--Wingfield was its first President). Introduce
students to the poem--it talks about the conditions the colonists
of Jamestown faced and relates it to the possibility that we,
today, will encounter something similar with Martians from outer
space. Tell the students that when the poem mentions truck drivers
and radio announcers, its talking about the present. Ask
"Would we really have done any better in a new land with new
animals, plants,climate and people? Ask students to pay careful
attention to how the conditions are described and to what happened
to "Ould Edward."
- Read the excerpt.
- Ask students to write a letter back to
their friends or family who remain in England from your
colonists perspective. Remind students to use details to
make the description realistic. This letter can be praising the
new land or complaining about it. Either way the hardships the
colonists actually faced should be included.
- Few if any students will complete this
letter during. Therefore, allow students to complete it during
study hall or as homework.
- Ask students to read over their letter and
make necessary revisions as needed.
- Ask students to turn to a partner and share
their work. The partners offer positive feedback and
constructively suggests ways to clarify or improve the work.
Teacher circulates the room to assist those who need help.
(If students have not conferenced with peers before, a mini-lesson
on how to do this is necessary. Each student should read his/her
own writing to a partner. The partner then asks about aspects of
the letter that genuinely interest him or her. Conferences should
be conducted in a positive manner. Partners should sign each
- Students consider their partners
comments and make revisions. Again, this may need to be completed
outside of the class period. (Ask students to keep copies of all
Day 4-? ( as many days as
- Students turn in their letters for the
teacher to read through and offer comments and
- Students revise again and write their final
copies for publishing. (These can be done on paper bags or tea
stained paper for an authentic look.)
- Students letters are in displayed
throughout the classroom or hallway.
- Were students able to complete the colonist
character sheets with little assistance? Did these sheets
illustrate their ability to recall knowledge and make
- Did students writings demonstrate
students full understanding of the struggles and thoughts
the colonists experienced. Did their writing correspond to what
actually occurred in history? Were their letters written to seem
- Did students turn in all drafts?
Were peer conferences used effectively? Did partners sign each
others writing? Did students character sheets and writing
reflect the process of revision?
How did the lesson go? How did the students do? What revisions
- Students write an essay comparing and
contrasting the motivations and actions of their character to
those of Captain John Smith of Jamestown and/or William Bradford
- Students write a sermon that either their
character gave or heard.
- Students write a journal that is
multi-generational like a family Bible.
- Students write a colonial
- Students write a personal diary that
comments on the changes in government/season that occur in the
- Students write a letter to a member of
- Students write using any form about how
colonists today would or would not do better in a new land than
the original colonists did and explain why or why not.
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