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Native Americans & Columbus Lesson for Kids

Updated on August 14, 2018
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I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 8.

Hands on American History: Native Americans and Columbus
Hands on American History: Native Americans and Columbus

This is the first lesson in a series of 27 lessons covering American History through 1865. This week covers Geography, Native Americans, and Columbus. I used these lessons while teaching a 45 minute history class for children in Kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd grades. Each lesson includes a biography report, history notebook page, history song, our favorite children's books, YouTube video, a history joke, & a variety of hands-on activities to make each lesson engaging & memorable. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, homeschool, after-school program, or co-op!

Needed Class Supplies: 3-ring binder, glue stick, scissors, and crayons
Needed Class Supplies: 3-ring binder, glue stick, scissors, and crayons

Needed Class Supplies

For the class each child will need to bring each week a 3-ring binder, glue stick, scissors, and crayons.

Finding locations on a world map
Finding locations on a world map

Introductions and Geography

1. Welcome to the fun class, Hands-on Adventures Through American History!

2. Introductions: Everyone shares their names and what they’d like to get their your birthday (or more simply, something they like). Today we’re going to talk about the birthday of our country, or rather, how our country started. First let’s try to find our country on a map.

3. World Map Work:

  • Pass out a map of the world to each child.
  • Have everyone put their finger on the Atlantic Ocean and repeat, “Atlantic Ocean.”
  • Have everyone put their finger on the Pacific Ocean and repeat, “Pacific Ocean.”
  • Have everyone put their finger on North America and repeat, “North America.”
  • Have everyone put their finger on [the state you live in] and repeat, “[Your state’s name].”
  • Use one of your crayons to color in the United States, which is the country in which we live.
  • Even though this map is flat, is our world flat? No! It's a sphere/ball shape like this, but this ball wouldn't easily fit in your binder, would it? That's why we use flat maps. They're easier for us to take around with us.
  • On this globe, here is the Atlantic Ocean, here is the Pacific Ocean, here is North America, & here is [the state you live in].

YOU WILL NEED:

  • a copy of a map of the world for each student (with a map of the US printed on the back side) - Make sure to use a 3 hole punch on it so they can put it in their history binders.
  • a globe (I used an inflatable one)

Reading About North American Indians

4. We live in a country called the United States of America, but before our country existed, there were already lots of people living in North America: Native Americans also called Americans Indians. Read North American Indians by Marie and Douglas Gorsline.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • North American Indians by Marie and Douglas Gorsline (or other book on North American Indians)

Read Aloud Book

North American Indians (Pictureback(R))
North American Indians (Pictureback(R))

Of the many books we read about Native Americans, this was the best one I found that covers the various main tribes, highlighting the main aspects of the various regions. The illustrations are realistic and beautiful and keep the attention of young children. The amount of text is perfect for younger elementary aged children.

 
Native American Map
Native American Map

Native American Map

5. Native America Map:

  • Flip over the world map to the other side that has a map of America.
  • Children should paste a picture of deer, longhouse, wigwam, bison, teepee, pueblo dwelling, & totem pole to the general location on the map of where they would be found.
  • As children paste each picture, remind them about the tribes in that area.
  • Have each child place their paper in their American History 3-ring binder.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • a map of America printed from the States (Unlabeled) map at this site
  • a picture of each item for the children to paste on their maps. I copied the below photos from online images, pasted them in a Word document, shrunk them to be about the same size, printed them, and cut them:
    Deer: http://coloringhome.com/white-tailed-deer-coloring-pages-to-print
    Longhouse: http://www.crystalinks.com/iroquois.html
    Wigwam: http://freecoloringpages.co.uk/
    Bison: http://www.wildlife-animals.com/buffalo/buffalo-coloring-pages.php
    Teepee: https://chipsofftheoldblock.blogspot.com/2011/11/lets-lapbook-native-american-study.html
    Pueblo: http://jenkellerart.blogspot.com/2012_06_01_archive.html
    Totem Pole: http://coloring-style.net/coloring/totem-pole-printables.html

The 3 S’s that inspired Marco Polo & Christopher Columbus: spices, sparkly things, & opportunities to spread God’s word
The 3 S’s that inspired Marco Polo & Christopher Columbus: spices, sparkly things, & opportunities to spread God’s word

Marco Polo & Columbus

6. Eventually in 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue searching for 3 S’s: spices, sparkly things, & opportunities to spread God’s word. He was trying to reach China so he could get the spices and sparkly things and spread God's word. Around 1270 an Italian man named Marco Polo went to China. [Point out China on a globe.] He brought back wonderful spices [let the children smell some nutmeg and cinnamon] and sparkly things like the jewels [show the necklace]. Most importantly, he was a Christian, and he wanted the people of China to hear about Jesus and the Bible [show a Bible]. It was a long journey, mainly walking across the land, to get to China, and it was really dangerous because there were lots of thieves along the way. 150 years later people like Christopher Columbus thought that maybe you could get to China by a boat by sailing the other way around the world to get to China. [Point on the globe.] What’s in the way, though? Yes, North and South America are right here! Well, Columbus didn’t know that. He thought he’d made it to the same place Marco Polo had visited...but he wasn't in China. Do you know where he was? America!

YOU WILL NEED:

  • a globe
  • spices (such as cinnamon, cloves, &/or nutmeg)
  • jewelry with (fake) jewels
  • a Bible

Biography report on Christopher Columbus
Biography report on Christopher Columbus

Student Biography Report: Christopher Columbus

7. Each week a different child will do a 2-3 minute presentation on someone we’re learning about that week. This week we will be hearing about Christopher Columbus. (Because it was the first day of class, I had one of my children do the class presentation.)

Molasses Spice Cookies
Molasses Spice Cookies

Marco Polo Spice Cookies

8. Allow children to each have a Marco Polo Spice Cookie to remind them about the spices that Columbus was searching for. Aren’t they tasty? Would you try to travel around the world to get the spices needed for these cookies?

YOU WILL NEED:

First Day of Class photos
First Day of Class photos

Review & First Day of Class Photos

9. Review:

  • Open your binder to your world map. Point to the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, North America, & [the state you live in].
  • Let's go around the room. I want you to each tell me something you learned about the Native Americans tribes we learned about today.
  • Can anyone tell me the 3 S's that motivated Christopher Columbus to sail west across the Atlantic Ocean?
  • Who can tell me something else about Christopher Columbus?

10. Take a photo of each student in the glass holding the globe (showing North America). Then take a class photo of everyone together.

11. Assign a child the biography report for next week: Pocahontas. (It’s easiest to just assign weekly reports in alphabetical order by students’ first names.)

A Picture Book to Read Each Day

Optional Homework

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Very First Americans (All Aboard Books) by Cara Ashrose - All book images are from amazon .com.D Is for Drum: A Native American Alphabet (Alphabet Books) by Michael Shoulders Marco Polo by DemiChristopher Columbus (Step into Reading) by Stephen KrenskyFollow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus by Peter SisChristopher Columbus: Famous Explorer (Graphic Biographies) by Mary D. Wade You Wouldn't Want to Sail with Christopher Columbus!: Uncharted Waters You'd Rather Not Cross by Fiona MacDonald
The Very First Americans (All Aboard Books) by Cara Ashrose - All book images are from amazon .com.
The Very First Americans (All Aboard Books) by Cara Ashrose - All book images are from amazon .com.
D Is for Drum: A Native American Alphabet (Alphabet Books) by Michael Shoulders
D Is for Drum: A Native American Alphabet (Alphabet Books) by Michael Shoulders
Marco Polo by Demi
Marco Polo by Demi
Christopher Columbus (Step into Reading) by Stephen Krensky
Christopher Columbus (Step into Reading) by Stephen Krensky
Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus by Peter Sis
Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus by Peter Sis
Christopher Columbus: Famous Explorer (Graphic Biographies) by Mary D. Wade
Christopher Columbus: Famous Explorer (Graphic Biographies) by Mary D. Wade
You Wouldn't Want to Sail with Christopher Columbus!: Uncharted Waters You'd Rather Not Cross by Fiona MacDonald
You Wouldn't Want to Sail with Christopher Columbus!: Uncharted Waters You'd Rather Not Cross by Fiona MacDonald

We love the Charlotte Mason approach of reading living books and also appreciate Sarah Mackenzie's Read Aloud Revival, so we spend a good portion of each day reading quality picture books related to our history subject of the week. We read through huge stacks of books and these were our favorite: The Very First Americans (All Aboard Books) by Cara Ashrose, D Is for Drum: A Native American Alphabet (Alphabet Books) by Michael Shoulders [do note this has a shorter section you can read if you have younger children and a more in depth section you can include if your children have a longer attention span], Marco Polo by Demi [though my children did prefer a bit better You Wouldn't Want to Explore with Marco Polo!: A Really Long Trip You'd Rather Not Take by Jacqueline Morley], Christopher Columbus (Step into Reading) by Stephen Krensky, Follow the Dream: The Story of Christopher Columbus by Peter Sis, Christopher Columbus: Famous Explorer (Graphic Biographies) by Mary D. Wade, and You Wouldn't Want to Sail with Christopher Columbus!: Uncharted Waters You'd Rather Not Cross by Fiona MacDonald.

Optional Homework: Memorize a History Sentence Song About Columbus

Nest Entertainment: Our Favorite Video on Columbus for Younger Children

Image credit: http://officialshoebox.tumblr.com/
Image credit: http://officialshoebox.tumblr.com/

Looking for all of my American History Lessons?

(Links to my middle school level

American History lessons can be found at https://hubpages.com/education/ColonialismWeeks3-8 .)

© 2018 Shannon

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