Lesson 2

You are a Colonist!

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

Overview: 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.


  1. Students will complete the colonist character sheets realistically using appropriate detail and reasoning. Knowledge and Comprehension
  2. 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
  3. Students will appraise their character sheets and writings by proofreading, revising, and peer editing. Evaluation


"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


Day 1

  1. 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.
  2. 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 grandparents.
  3. 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 research.
  4. 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 children?"

Day 2

  1. 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 to women.
  2. 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
  3. 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, it’s 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."
  4. Read the excerpt.
  5. Ask students to write a letter back to their friends or family who remain in England from your colonist’s 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.
  6. Few if any students will complete this letter during. Therefore, allow students to complete it during study hall or as homework.

Day 3

  1. Ask students to read over their letter and make necessary revisions as needed.
  2. 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 other’s writing.)
  3. Students consider their partner’s comments and make revisions. Again, this may need to be completed outside of the class period. (Ask students to keep copies of all drafts.)

Day 4-? ( as many days as needed)

  1. Students turn in their letters for the teacher to read through and offer comments and suggestions.
  2. 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.)
  3. Students’ letters are in displayed throughout the classroom or hallway.


  1. Were students able to complete the colonist character sheets with little assistance? Did these sheets illustrate their ability to recall knowledge and make inferences?
  2. 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 authentic?
  3. Did students turn in all drafts? Were peer conferences used effectively? Did partners sign each other’s writing? Did students character sheets and writing reflect the process of revision?

How did the lesson go? How did the students do? What revisions are needed?


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