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Compiled By: shazam

Ideas and activities for teaching about explorers

Posted by: Candy

We just got done a unit on explorers. I assisgned each of the student a North American explorer. Then we brainstormed questions you would ask if you were interviewing someone. Each student had to come up with ten questions. The students researched their explorer and wrote responses to their questions in the first person. One student was chosen to be a talk show host. We chose Christopher Columbus. The students brought their questions and answers to the interview desk and were interviewed by the talk show host. Students at their seats were given a grid with five major categories that they had to take notes on for each interviewee. The categories were: Where and when were you born? Where did you explore? What were you looking for? Interesting Facts. Where and when did you die? Students filled in as much information as they could ascertain from the interview. Some students chose to use accents and if we had more time I would have had them dress up. They had fun.

interviewing the explorere
Posted by: Carolyn

I like the idea of kids interviewing the explorers. One child is the interviewer who is trying to get a story. The other is the explorer. the interviewer asks the child about his activities--where he went, what his route was, etc. Students work in pairs and have well rehearsed this project. You could even have the explorer dress the part.

explorers and books
Posted by: srw

Explorers can be a lot of fun. After getting the general info on each major explorer I divided my class into pairs. One was to be the exploere (one that we had mentioned in class) and the other was to be an Indian from the tribe(s) that the explorer encountered. They then wrote journal entries from their "character's" perspective. The first entry for the explorer was the day they left the home land. The first for the Indian was a typical day in the tribe. Entry 2 for the explorer was in route, entry 2 for Indian about an event that was taking place in village. Entry 3 both write their perspective of first meeting.
Entry 4 events that take place after meeting.
Entry 5 separation.
(You may chose to have more entries but we only had a short period of time, so I only require 5) They then wrote their final copy on manilla paper and we tore the edges to make it look authentic. Some teachers chose to burn the edges of their class.

Famous Person Wax Museum
Posted by: Tiffany Regan

My daughter was in 5th grade last year, and they did a Wax Museum for one of their units. Each student researched and took notes on a famous person from that era. The day of the museum, they dressed as that person and made a display for their desk, including a "button" to push to listen to the speech. Visiting classes would walk through the museum and each time they pressed a button, the person would give their speech. It was a lot of fun and the kids really got into it. They do it every year.

Posted by: Anneliese

You might want to try doing a mock resume for the explorer. Use a copy of a traditional resume and modify the headings. Have students research the explorer and then complete the resume. You might even have students compare the different explorers and try to decide which they feel is more qualified for their particular journey.

Posted by: idea

Maybe choose an explorer investigating the mode used. Make a model of what the explorer used during that time period. (example: Christopher Columbus/make a 3-D model of a ship). Enlarge a world map; have each student draw a picture of their explorer and a paper model (3-D or flat dimension perspective)of what the explorer used to travel; place the explorers and their models on the map. I would like to learn more about the hydromatic, etc. you mentioned on proteacher. Take care.

Posted by: Tammy

I teach the same lesson with 5th graders. We put up a bulletin board with 2 ships on it. One is labels "Explorer" and the other "accomplishments" on the sails. Then I split the kids into however many groups I need (for you 7) and they research each explorer. They then write, edit, and type a paper about that explorer. They also find pictures or drawing is possible. We then post the explorers' name and pictures under one ship and they student papers across from it under the other ship.

Posted by: Karen

Hi there,

All these ideas sound great! I just wanted to add that I came across a video called Shakleton that is put out by Nova. Actually, it may still be playing at an Imax theatre, if you're lucky.

Its a great re-creation of an exploration of antarctica in the late 1900s. I showed it to my grade 4s and the response was so positive, i had to show it again one lunch hour! The kids love it and they really get a feel for explorers' ambitions and struggles.

Posted by: Cathy

my students made a huge timeline of all the explores, they each had an explorer from all the time periods they researched each person and made a timeline pamphlet they had to answer speciific questions and discuss the mode of transportation, where they were going, why they were going there, who they encountered, when they went and if they brought any contributions or consequences for their exploration. These pamphlets were then used in group activities and worksheets they used them to answer questions. then they did an oral report and put the time line on the wall. They also had to get up and do a human time line and get in order as fast as they could. They loved doing this and they liked doing the research.

Explorer Simulation
Posted by: Robin

I have used an explorer activity from a book called US History Simulations (I think that's the title).

Here are the steps I use for the simulation.
1. On the morning of the simulation, start a rumor that gold has been spotted on the primary playground (or anywhere you want). Start with one or two students and watch the rumor grow. Last year one girl added that her little brother found some of the gold the day before at recess! The rumor will take on a life of its own.
2. Make arrangements for a parapro, older student, office worker, or someone to hide a chocolate bar wrapped in gold paper on the playground at a predetermined time. Make sure there's not a class at recess.
3. Assign each of the students a country to represent while looking for gold. Have more students represent Spain and France and fewer represent Portugal, etc. Put your most determined students in one of the larger countries.
4. Set up a few ground rules and allow the members of each country to meet and strategize for a few minutes.
5. Go to the playground and let the students search for the "gold." I usually have a few people announce gold for a joke. This helps the discussion.
6. After someone finds the "gold," return to the classroom and relate the experience to that of the Explorers. What were the explorers looking for? What kind of dangers did they encounter? Was it fair that some countries were largely represented and others were not? etc.

The students love the simulation and bring it up throughout the Explorer unit. I swear the morning class to secrecy so I can do it in the afternoon class as well. I do let the morning class help spread the rumor, though.

Explorers Powerpoint presentation
Posted by: Kathy

My 5th graders worked with a partner last year to complete a simple Powerpoint presentation on their explorer. I assigned the explorer & required basic facts with sources cited (ex. date born, country, major accomplishment, interesting fact, etc) They really enjoyed adding sound & graphics- after the basic info was researched. I used a rubric to grade the project & each group presented the presentation to their classmates as part of the final grade.

Posted by: Joan

Have them map out the route followed by the explorer.
Have them create a poster (from the p.o.v. of the explorer) requesting sailors to come along on the journey.
My kids are researching an explorer and will then create an explorer graveyard (an idea I found on the web). They create a tombstone for their explorer, with birth, death, accomplishments, and a rhyming verse.

trading cards
Posted by: 4th grade

When I teach explorers, the students design trading cards (like baseball trading cards). They include info such as name, country of origin, date of birth, areas explored,a picture, etc. There is a Scholastic book on explorers that has a trading card pattern in the back as well as a KWL (ship design) that you can use to go along with your unit. The students use their trading cards as a guide for the unit test.I hope this idea helps!

Explorer Projects
Posted by: Amy

I am actually on this unit currently. For the past few years, I have done a few projects to spice this unit up. One project is done at home and one in the classroom.
The at home project is an "antiqued map" project. They are assigned an explorer and have to work with paper bags to create a map.
The second part that I do is in class. They use the same explorer and we make brochures in class advertising our explorers and the trips that they took. (as if they were still alive and we could purchase the trip now.)
Hope that may help.

Posted by: Lynne

What a great idea! How much time do you have to devote to this unit? For land, I'd say Magellan, Smith, Columbus, Ponce de Leon, Champlaign, Marco Polo would be good choices. For the sky, Amelia Earhart, Lindbergh, the Wright brothers,several astronauts would work, as well as those who pioneered flight in hot air balloons(maybe even pull in journalist Nellie Bly who went around the world in one-there's a cute children's book out that tells the story of her journey from a pet monkey's point of view, but I can't remember the title off-hand.)For ideas, Greek philosophers Plato & Socrates, inventors Edison, Fulton, Ford, and others who changed the way we live in this country. I wish you luck with your unit. One activity that I've used with my explorers' unit is called Breakfast with an Explorer. After researching an explorer and writing a report, each student comes up with a costume made from stuff found in the home. They come to school one morning in character and we all go to the cafeteria for juice and doughnuts. All conversation is carried on in character and it's fun to see Ponce de Leon chatting with Columbus or Father Marquette. Another fun culminating activity is to have the students dress as their explorer and memorize a two minute monologue about his/her contributions to the world. Other classes are invited to see a Wax Museum. As groups of students stop in front of the "mannequins", they come to life, say their speech, then strike a new pose until animated again. We usually hand out tickets and give each visitor 5. They drop the tickets into a cup in front of the chosen exhibition and the speeches begin. Please email me if you want more details.

Posted by: Jennifer in OK

I am just getting into this research with my students. I am having them do a couple of things. First, they are doing the traditional report. The other thing they are doing is a data disk. A former colleague used this with her kids and I liked the idea, so I am borrowing it. They get a circle disk printed on card stock. It is divided into 6 parts with a small circle left in the middle. In the middle, they are to draw a picture of their explorer. On the six pieces surrounding the picture, they write 6 items of info: birth/death, nationality, what they are known for, early life, something interesting about them, and for the life of me I am drawing a blank on the last one. I want to say it is where they explored. I had a list of 22 explorers and I cut their names into strips and each student drew a name. They use the same explorer for both projects. They don't have anyone else in the class doing their explorer. They will have several weeks to complete this. I think my due date is Nov. 5. They have also been told this is a big part of their grade for the 2nd quarter in SS. I am also giving them an English grade on the 2 since writing is involved.

Explorers' Interviews
Posted by: Elaine

I read your post (I think on the S.S. board) about having students pair up for explorer interviews. We were just wrapping up our explorer research project and deciding how to present information to the group in a more creative way than the typical oral report. I used your idea. Students had already been working in pairs to research info about an explorer, so it was an easy transition for one student to become the interviewer while the other played the part of their explorer. Some students chose to dress as their explorer.

Our research project involved writing an historically accurate and sequentially organized acrostic using their explorer's name, and creating an explorer "person" using construction paper. The jacket of the "person" was made from a 12 X 18 piece of construction paper that opened to reveal the typed final draft version of the acrostic.

The finishing touch the interviews provided was the perfect strategy for tying the projects all together and providing a way to share info about all explorers with all students.

Thank you so much for sharing, Carolyn. I always look forward to reading posts with your signature attached.


Posted by: kerry

I also teach a 5th grade explorer unit. Each of our kids are given an explorer to report on. Then they work with a partner to trace their bodies and create life size explorers. They are really creative and do a great job with this. When they are all done we hang all th explorers by the dates they explored and create an explorer hall of fame and time line. The kids love it!