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Jamestown 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.

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This is the second lesson in a series of 27 hands-on lessons covering American History through 1865. This lesson focuses on Jamestown. I used this plan while teaching a 45 minute history class for children in Kindergarten, 1st, & 2nd grades. Use these fun lessons with your classroom, homeschool, after-school program, or co-op!

Weekly Biography Presentation on Pocahontas
Weekly Biography Presentation on Pocahontas

Weekly Biography Report & Presentation: Pocahontas

1. Pocahontas Biography Report: Each week a child will do a 2-3 minute presentation on someone we’re learning about that week. This week we will be hearing about Pocahontas.

John Smith Escapes Again! by Rosalyn Schanzer
John Smith Escapes Again! by Rosalyn Schanzer

Review of Last Week & Introduction to Captain John Smith

2. Quickly review last week: In 1492, who sailed the ocean blue? (Columbus) He was searching for 3 S’s. Who can name 1? (spices, sparkly things, & opportunities to spread God’s word) He'd been inspired by which man who went to China? Marco...(Polo) Did Columbus find China? (No, he landed in America.) Who was already in America? (American Indians/Native Americans). Who can tell me something you remember about one of the Native American tribes?

3. Eventually more people wanted to come to this New World of America. England started sending over people to live here in places they called colonies. Their first successful colony was Jamestown. When you hear Jamestown, I want you to remember 2 people: Pocahontas and John Smith. Introduce the life of John Smith by flipping through the pictures from John Smith Escapes Again! by Rosalyn Schanzer as you summarize the story.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • John Smith Escapes Again! by Rosalyn Schanzer or other book on John Smith

John Smith Escapes Again!
John Smith Escapes Again!

Did you know that John Smith had been a slave and a pirate? This is actually one of my favorite picture books! It is a longer picture book, so it would be too long to use as a read aloud to a class of young children unless they really enjoy stories. We read many John Smith books, and this was our favorite. It is historically accurate in both the information and in the delightful illustrations. My children (ages 3-11) all enjoyed sitting through me reading this book and then they later fought over who would get to read through it on their own later.

 
Getting ready to taste gruel
Getting ready to taste gruel

Jamestown Cavaliers and Gruel

4. Many of the people who went to Jamestown were cavaliers, who were from wealthy families and were hoping to find gold. They didn’t want to do any hard work. They just wanted to find gold and become rich. Since McDonald’s didn’t exist yet, someone had to make the food while most of the people, the cavaliers, searched for gold. A common dish they would eat for every meal was gruel. Let's make some tasty gruel!

  • Allow each child to take a small pinch of grits and drop them into a small bowl of very hot water. (If you're overly concerned about children burning themselves, you can do this yourself. We didn't have any problems of children getting burned when we did it, though.)
  • I heated this water in the microwave. How they would have heated it back then? (Over a fire.)
  • What would they need for the fire? (Wood.) How would they have gotten wood? (They would have had to cut down trees to start the fire.)
  • How would they get the water? (They would have to get it from nearby rivers.)
  • I bought these grits from Walmart. Where would they have gotten these grits from? (Corn) How would they have gotten the corn pieces so small? (Grinding or pounding them.)
  • It took a lot of work just to make a simple meal, didn’t it? Unfortunately, most of the people in Jamestown didn’t want to do this work.
  • Do you remember, how did most of the cavaliers want to spend their time? (Finding gold.)
  • Before we set out to find gold, all of you “cavaliers” can eat your meal of gruel. (Pass out plastic spoonful of gruel to each child. It's fairly tasteless. Most likely no one will like it.
  • Can you now understand why they wanted spices so much?
  • I sure hope you find lots of gold so that you can buy better food! Otherwise, you’re going to starve if this is all you have to eat.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • a small bowl or travel coffee mug of very hot water, a small amount of grits (or cream of wheat or oats), a plastic spoon for each child, & napkins (if needed)

Cavaliers searching for gold in Jamestown
Cavaliers searching for gold in Jamestown

Searching for Gold

5. Now that the "cavaliers" have had their meal. they get to search for gold! Have them walk around the classroom (or outside if you’re not limited by time) looking for gold. (Of course there will be none to find.) After a minute or two, ask them how much gold they found. The men of Jamestown didn’t find any either. Ask if they remember what was going to happen if they didn’t find gold. Yes, they would starve because they didn’t want to work and they didn’t have gold to buy food.

6. John Smith saves them from starvation.

  • Proverbs 28:19 says, "Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty." What do you think that means?
  • 2 Thessalonians 3:10 says, "If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat." What do you think that means?
  • Captain John Smith told the cavaliers the Bible verse: “He who does not work will not eat.” He forced them to work. If they didn't help collect the firewood, haul the water, or grind the corn, they wouldn't get to eat. It's a good thing he enforced that rule. Otherwise, they would have all starved to death.

Pocahontas: The True Story of Pocahontas by Lucille Penner
Pocahontas: The True Story of Pocahontas by Lucille Penner

Pocahontas

7. Men at Jamestown were not the only people living in Virginia. Who else was living there? (The Native Americans). Read story of Pocahontas: The True Story of Pocahontas by Lucille Penner.

YOU WILL NEED:

  • Pocahontas: The True Story of Pocahontas by Lucille Penner (or other short book on Pocahontas)

The True Story of Pocahontas (Step-Into-Reading, Step 3)
The True Story of Pocahontas (Step-Into-Reading, Step 3)

We read through a number of children's books on Pocahontas and this was our favorite. It's short enough to read to a class and hold their attention. The illustrations are nice (though not as historically accurate as the above book on John Smith). It gives a nice overview of her entire life, covering the main points that are considered relevant to U.S. History. All of my children (ages 3-11) enjoyed listening to this book.

 
Jamestown Notebook Page
Jamestown Notebook Page

Notebook Page & Review

8. Create the notebook page. Have children look at the Native American Map from last week's class. Have them each put a finger around where Virginia would be on that map. That is where Jamestown was. Pass out lapbook pages from the Pocahontas Lapbook at homeschool.com. Have children cut out the pictures of John Smith, Pocahontas, & Powhatan (from "People to Remember" lapbook page) and then paste them to the page "Where in the world is Jamestown?" Children can color the pictures if they have time. Have them tell who each of those 3 people were. Have children put the page in their binders. Tell them that tonight they need to tell someone in their family about who those 3 people were.

YOU WILL NEED PER CHILD:

  • A picture of John Smith, Pocahontas, & Powhatan and the "Where in the world is Jamestown?" page (punched with a 3 hole punch) from the above homeschoolshare .com page & supplies brought by children (scissors, glue sticks, crayons, & notebooks)

9. Review: What colony did we learn about today? (Jamestown) When you hear Jamestown, which 2 people should you remember? (Pocahontas and John Smith) Most of the men who were living in Jamestown were called what? (Cavaliers). What did they want to do? (find gold) Did they find any? (No) How did Captain John Smith help? (He made them work in order to eat.) What's something they ate? (Gruel) Who can tell me something else about John Smith? (Answers will vary) What was the name of the young Powhatan Indian girl who helped them? (Pocahontas) Who can tell me something about Pocahontas? (Answers will vary)

10. Assign next week's class biography presentation on Squanto.

A Picture Book to Read Each Day

Optional Homework

Click thumbnail to view full-size
You Wouldn't Want To Be An American Colonist! : A Settlement You'd Rather Not Start by Morley, Jacqueline - Book images are from amazon .com.Pocahontas: An American Princess (Penguin Young Readers, Level 4) by Joyce Milton  The Story of Jamestown (Graphic History) by Eric Braun James Towne : Struggle For Survival by Sewall, MarciaChristopher Newport : Jamestown Explorer by Solomon, Sharon K.Jamestown Journey (Chester the Crab) (Chester the Crab's Comix With Content) by Bentley BoydJamestown, New World Adventure (Adventures in Colonial America) by James E. Knight
You Wouldn't Want To Be An American Colonist! : A Settlement You'd Rather Not Start by Morley, Jacqueline - Book images are from amazon .com.
You Wouldn't Want To Be An American Colonist! : A Settlement You'd Rather Not Start by Morley, Jacqueline - Book images are from amazon .com.
Pocahontas: An American Princess (Penguin Young Readers, Level 4) by Joyce Milton
Pocahontas: An American Princess (Penguin Young Readers, Level 4) by Joyce Milton
The Story of Jamestown (Graphic History) by Eric Braun
The Story of Jamestown (Graphic History) by Eric Braun
James Towne : Struggle For Survival by Sewall, Marcia
James Towne : Struggle For Survival by Sewall, Marcia
Christopher Newport : Jamestown Explorer by Solomon, Sharon K.
Christopher Newport : Jamestown Explorer by Solomon, Sharon K.
Jamestown Journey (Chester the Crab) (Chester the Crab's Comix With Content) by Bentley Boyd
Jamestown Journey (Chester the Crab) (Chester the Crab's Comix With Content) by Bentley Boyd
Jamestown, New World Adventure (Adventures in Colonial America) by James E. Knight
Jamestown, New World Adventure (Adventures in Colonial America) by James E. Knight

We read through huge stacks of books and these were our 7 favorite ones (not including the 2 used in the above lesson):

  • You Wouldn't Want To Be An American Colonist! : A Settlement You'd Rather Not Start by Jacqueline Morley
  • Pocahontas: An American Princess (Penguin Young Readers, Level 4) by Joyce Milton
  • The Story of Jamestown (Graphic History) by Eric Braun
  • James Towne : Struggle For Survival by Marcia Sewall
  • Christopher Newport : Jamestown Explorer by Sharon K. Solomon
  • Jamestown Journey (Chester the Crab) (Chester the Crab's Comix With Content) by Bentley Boyd
  • Jamestown, New World Adventure (Adventures in Colonial America) by James E. Knight.


Nest Entertainment: Our Favorite Video on Pocahontas for Younger Children

Joke: Even though they were never able to find gold in Jamestown, where can you always find gold?

In the dictionary!

Looking for all of my American History Lessons?

(My middle school level

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

© 2018 Shannon

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