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Ponce de Leon, Aztecs, Cortes, & Conquistadors Lesson
This is part 4 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Explorers. Create Montezuma's headdress, act out the meeting between Cortes & Montezuma, go on a conquistador hunt for gold, and more! This lesson is geared toward 2nd-3rd grade level children and their siblings. These are lessons I created to do with a weekly co-op which meets for 2 1/2 hours. We have 14 children between the ages of 0-11. Use these fun lessons with your class, family, homeschool co-op group, camp, or after school program!
Introduction and Continents
1. Stretch. Pray.
2. Read & discuss Matthew 28:18-20. The reason why many of the explorers traveled around the world was to spread God's word to all nations. Cortez recorded this desire in his journals. (Pizarro didn't, though. He was just searching for gold.)
3. Review continents and oceans and sing continent song (sung to tune of "Love & Marriage" 2x). Use a map to point out the continents and oceans as you sing the song.
North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa
Don't Forget Antarctica
Or way down under in Australia
Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Indian, Arctic, Southern Oceans,
North Pole, South Pole, Equator
I know all about maps and globes
Juan Ponce de Leon
4. Introduce Juan Ponce de Leon using pictures from books. Write "Juan Ponce de Leon, 1513" on the back of the fountain coloring sheet. Color fountain and paste 1-inch blue yarn strips over water.
TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: 12 copies of the fountain coloring sheet, glue, pencils, 1-inch strips of blue yarn
This is graphic/comic book style, which my children love!
Looking for Chapter Books that have about 80 pages and illustrations?
*If you're looking for a good chapter book, we enjoyed reading "Ponce de Leon" (Discovery Biographies) by Wyatt Blassingame as a family. We love the "World Explorers" series! After each chapter my boys either wrote 1-2 sentences or drew what the most important event was from that chapter "De Soto, Finder of the Mississippi" by Ronald Syme is great. We read this a different week as we ran out of time. An equally good option is "A World Explorer: Hernando De Soto" by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery. It's of similar length and is equally exciting. "A world explorer: Francisco Coronado" (World explorer books) by Faith Yingling Knoop is a great option!
5. Introduce Aztecs using books and pictures. Read most of You Wouldn't Want to Be an Aztec Sacrifice! by Fiona MacDonald.
This isn't as gruesome as many other books. I read this book to the co-op group as it was one of the best read alouds I found. *I also used "Montezuma and the Aztecs" (W5 Series) A Henry Holt Reference Book by Mathilde Helly to show pictures of Montezuma and the Aztecs.
6. Make Montezuma's headdress. Cut 7 white paper plates in half. Cut a small 1 -inch semi-circle out of the bottom (cut-part) of each plate. Cut out 14 paper strips long enough to go around your child's head and overlap 1 inch. The children will color the paper plate and add dots of glitter glue. They will glue or tape feathers around the back of the headdress. We adults will help them staple the paper strips to the headdress so they can wear them on their heads.
TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: 7 white paper plates, 14 strips of white paper (about 15 x 1 1/2 inches), colorful craft feathers (green if you have a choice), markers, glitter glue, scotch tape, & staplers
I used this as well to show pictures of the Aztecs and Montezuma. *Also look for "The Smoking Mountain: The Story of Popocatepetl and Iztacchihuatl: An Aztec Legend" (Graphic Myths & Legends) by Dan Jolley. My boys love graphic/comic-book style books like "Aztec Warriors" (Fierce Fighters) by Charlotte Guillain.
7. Quickly talk about Aztec foods.
8. While the rich people got to eat turkey, cocoa, frog, fish, dog, etc., most of the people lived off of maize (corn). It's not like what we eat off the cob. They had to dry it out to store it. Show them popcorn kernels. In order to eat it, they first had to grind it using a metates and mano. Pull out 2 rocks and show them how to grind the corn. Select an older child or you yourself can mash the popcorn kernels a few times between the rocks. Eventually they would grind the corn down enough so it would be like flour. (If you have cornmeal you can show it.) They stewed it as porridge (like grits) or mixed with it water and cooked them to make tortillas. Show them tortillas.
TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: 2 rocks, a few popcorn kernels, corn meal (if you have it) and 14 corn tortillas
9. The rich would drink cocoa by boiling crushed cacao beans in water. Cortes first tasted "chcolati" when Montezuma served it as a feast for the conquistadors. The Aztecs liked to add spices to the drink and sometimes even added chili peppers and mushrooms. Spanish explorers took the cocoa beans back to Spain. The Spaniards thought it tasted bitter. Let the kids try some unsweetened chocolate. The Spaniards decided it tasted much better when they added sugar. Soon the wealthy in Spain enjoyed "chocolate." They often added vanilla or cinnamon and found it tasted best served hot. Serve each child hot chocolate. Let children drink hot chocolate and eat a tortilla.
TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: unsweetened baking chocolate, 14 cups (disposable bathroom cups work great) & prepared hot chocolate* with some added cinnamon, *You can probably make this before everyone arrives and let it sit out so that it will be only slightly warm when you serve it.
Great Aztec Activity Books
This is a realy fun kit! The kids love the 3-D model and secret compartments!
10. Introduce Cortes using books and pictures.
11. Have the children color a conquistador mask. Print off patrioticcoloringpages.com and cut out the face and also cut out eye holes. If desired have the children quickly color the mask using markers and then tape a popsicle stick to the bottom so they can use it as a mask. If that link doesn't work anymore, try one of the following: media-cache-ec0.pinimg.com, flickr.com, or school.discoveryeducation.com.
TEACHER/PARENT 1: YOU WILL NEED: 14 masks, 14 craft sticks, tape, markers
12. (Video/record this if desired.) Dramatize the encounter of Cortes and Montezuma (VERY simplified from Columbus & Cortez, Conquerors for Christ by John Eidsmoe). Cortes can wear a breastplate and helmet and conquistador mask. Montezuma can wear his headdress, a cape and "gold" arm and leg bracelets (can be made from paper). Aztec boys can wear towels between their legs and tucked into their shorts. Aztec girls can wear 2 skirts, one layered over the other. The Aztecs will need "rocks" (balled up pieces of paper). Soldiers can wear conquistador masks and hold swords. (You read lines & they repeat after you.)
* Cortes and his soldiers march up to Mexico City.
Montezuma: "Welcome Cortes!"
Cortes places a necklace of colored stones around Montezuma's neck, and Montezuma places a gold necklace over Cortes' neck.
Montezuma: "You must be Quetzalcoatl."
Cortes: "We did come from where the sun rose, but we came to ask you to become Christians. We worship one true God, named Jesus Christ, who died on the cross to save the whole human race. Jesus rose on the third day and is now in heaven, and it is He who made all the things in the world. You must stop worshipping your idols and start worshipping Jesus."
Montezuma: "You can believe what you believe, but I'm going to continue to trust in my gods."
Spanish Soldier: "Cortes, some of the soldiers you left in another town were attacked by an Aztec army. Seven soldiers died."
Cortes: "Montezuma, I do not want to go to war with you. I will forgive this act if you will move out of your palace and live with us. We will take very good care of you."
Montezuma: "Okay, I will do that. From now on, Spain will rule us."
Aztecs start attacking the Spanish soldiers.
Cortes: "Montezuma, please to try to calm the people down."
Cortes and Montezuma try to talk to the Aztecs. The Aztecs throw rocks (crumpled up paper balls) and some hit Montezuma, who falls over dead.
Cortes: "Soldiers, we need to escape!"
Cortes and the Spanish soldiers try to run through the Aztecs, who throw rocks (crumpled up paper balls) and arrows (suction cup ones) at them. Cortes and his men get through.
Cortes: "We need to go back and preach Christ to all the Aztecs. Let's go back there and fight until they will stop worshipping their idols!"
Fight scene between Spaniards and Aztecs.
Aztecs: "We give up!"
Cortes: "Praise God!"
TEACHER/PARENT 2: YOU WILL NEED: breastplate and helmet, a cape (towel) and "gold" arm and leg bracelets (can be made from paper), towels, skirts, balled up pieces of paper, swords, toy bow and suction-cup arrow sets (optional), necklaces
Hernando Cortes Books for Children
Graphic/Comic book style. As is common, it doesn't convey Cortes in the best light. *If you're looking for a chapter book, try Cortes of Mexico" by Ronald R Syme or "A World Explorer: Hernando Cortes" by Stewart Graff. Both are about 80 pages and have illustrations.
Conquistadors & Review
13. Introduce Pizarro and llamas, Hernando de Soto, & Coronado using books and pictures. Have children repeat "God & gold" as two main motivators of conquistadors.
14. (Ahead of time hide the pieces of "gold" outside.) The conquistadors were all searching for gold. Children hold up conquistador masks, carry their toy swords with them, and go outside to hunt for 5 pieces of gold each.
TEACHER/PARENT 3: YOU WILL NEED: 5 pieces of "gold" for each child (ideas: butterscotch disk candies, any yellow candy, chocolate gold coins, rocks painted yellow or gold, or whatever else you think would work) and toy swords (optional)
15. Sing The Spanish Explorers Song by Kyle Hall.
The Spanish Explorers Song by Kyle Hall
(to the tune of "La Cucaracha")
1. Spanish explorers - came to America - - - - (clap four times)
On their way to the Far East,
Looking for oro and other riches - - - -
They were in for a "surpreeze"!
2. Ponce de Leon - wanted to stay young - - - -
In the Fountain of Youth;
He never found it, but then on Easter, - - - -
He discovered Florida!
3. Then came Hernando - de Soto; - - - -
He was a conquistador!
Looking for gold and fame, but he discovered - - - -
The Mississippi River!
4. Cities of Cibola - called Coronado; - - - -
Up to Kansas from Mexico,
But all he found were pueblos of the Zuni,- - - -
And the Grand Canyon also!
5. Spanish explorers - came to America - - - -
On their way to the Far East.
Looking for oro and other riches, - - - -
They were in for a "surpreeze"! OLE!
TEACHER/PARENT 4: YOU WILL NEED: the words to the song printed in big letters
16. 5 minute review of what we learned.
Conquistadors Activity Books
This is the book we used for our conquistador mask. It's a great book of activities if you have a child who likes to color pictures. It also has book suggestions, comprehension questions, and more.
This is great if you have a child who likes to color pictures.
Joke: Where did Montezuma go to college?
Material List for the Lesson
*Everyone needs to bring per child:
-Elmer's or tacky glue (not glue stick)
-Scotch tape (1 roll per family)
-Stapler (if you have one)
-1 copy of this fountain coloring sheet: http://www.crayola.com/free-coloring-pages/print/fountain-coloring-page/
-1 bottle of glitter glue
-2 rocks (We'll be using them to try to grind corn kernels into cornmeal.)
-For boys: a large bath or beach towel (preferably white)
-For girls: 2 skirts (preferably long ones)
-10 pieces of balled up paper
-a toy sword
*Items to be assigned to individuals:
-world map (I used the world map from the book It's a Big Big World by Brierly.)
-books on Juan Ponce de Leon, the Aztecs (You Wouldn't Want to Be an Aztec Sacrifice! by Fiona MacDonald was our favorite), Hernando Cortes, Pizarro, llamas, Hernando de Soto, & Coronado
-30 approximately 1-inch strips of blue yarn or ribbon per child
-1 large white paper plate per 2 children
-1 strip of white paper (about 15 x 1 1/2 inches) per child
-8 colorful craft feathers per child
-1 popcorn kernel per child
-1 corn tortilla per child
-1 tiny piece of unsweetened baking chocolate per child
-1 cup (disposable bathroom cups work great) per child
-1/3 cup of prepared hot chocolate with some cinnamon added to it per child
-1 conquistador mask outline colorings sheet (drawn freehand) per child
-1 popsicle craft sticks (preferribly jumbo ones) per child
-breastplate and helmet
-a cape or towel with a clip to hold it on as a cape
-"gold" arm and leg bracelets (Use Mardi Gras beads, toy jewelry, or just make them from gold-colored wrapping paper or yellow construction paper)
-a bunch of toy necklaces (We used Mardi Gras beads/necklaces)
-toy bow and suction-cup arrow sets for half the children (optional)
-5 pieces of "gold" per child (Ideas: butterscotch disk candies, any yellow candy, chocolate gold coins, rocks painted yellow or gold, or whatever else you think would work)
-the words to the song printed in big letters
A Must Read for High Schoolers and Adults
This is a MUST read for you and/or for your high schooler. The author uses primary documents to show how the passion of Cortes was the glory of Christ. You won't find this type of TRUE information in any other modern books!
Ready for the next lesson?
Build Viking shields and swords and "sail" to Vineland with Leif Erikson, walk the route of Marco Polo (through your house) and collect the items that he saw on his journey through China, go on a compass treasure hunt, dramatize Columbus' journey, make Da Gama Portuguese land markers, create Montezuma's headdress, go on a conquistador hunt for gold, bake constellation bar cookies, dress up as and present on famous explorers, and more during this unit study on Explorers!
- Marco Polo and Leif Erikson Lesson - This is part 1 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Explorers. Walk the route of Marco Polo (through the house) and collect the items he came across while in Asia. Make Viking bread, Viking helmets, shields, and swords and “sail” to Vineland (America) as a Viking, and more!
- Christopher Columbus & Prince Henry the Navigator Lesson - This is part 2 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on Explorers. Go on a compass treasure hunt, eat sailor food, jump across the parts of a caravel ship, act out Columbus' journey, and more!
- Da Gama, Vespucci, Balboa, & Magellan Lesson - This is part 3 of a 5 part hands-on unit study on Explorers. Make Da Gama Portuguese land markers, Vespucci parrot puppets, and Balboa hiding-in-a-barrel stick puppets. Search for the Pacific Ocean with Balboa (through your house). Eat “sawdust” and “leather” with Magellan and many more activities!
- Ponce de Leon, Aztecs, Cortes, & Conquistadors Lesson This is part 4 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Explorers. Create Montezuma's headdress, act out the meeting between Cortes & Montezuma, go on a conquistador hunt for gold, and more!
- Cabot, Cartier, Drake, Hudson, and Astronomy Lesson - This is part 5 of a 5 part hands-on unit on Explorers. Bake constellation bar cookies, create star finders, act out Cartier's expedition, and more!
- Explorer Unit Presentations and Field Trip Ideas – For the culminating project we following the 5 part hands-on unit on explorers, the children dressed as explorers, made presentations, and shared “authentic” food from their explorer’s country of origin. They also sang the songs from the unit. Also included are the field trips we took during this unit.
- Fun, FREE Hands-on Unit Studies - Looking for all of my lessons and unit studies? Over the years I have posted over 30 science and social-studies based unit studies, compromised of more than 140 lessons. For each lesson I have included activities (with photos), our favorite books and YouTube video clips, lapbook links, and other resources. I posted links to all of my unit studies and lessons at the above link.
Need More Activity Ideas?
- Aztec Unit
Aztec Unit with many activities and coloring pages. This would be great if you want to make a codex.
- Early Exploration of America Unit
Early Exploration of America Unit for 3rd Grade
- Conquistadores Unit
Conquistadores Unit for 3rd grade written by a Christian teacher
- Ponce De Leon Lesson
Ponce De Leon Lesson Plan
Video Clips We Enjoyed
Would you like to teach this way every day?
I use Konos Curriculum as a springboard from which to plan my lessons. It's a wonderful curriculum and was created by moms with active boys!
If you're new to homeschooling or in need of some fresh guidance, I highly recommend Konos' HomeSchoolMentor.com program! Watch videos on-line of what to do each day and how to teach it in this great hands-on format!
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