I am a Christian. I was an 8th-grade American History teacher. I am currently a freelance writer, public speaker, & homeschooling mom of 9.
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
For the class each child will need to bring each week a 3-ring binder, glue stick, scissors, and crayons.
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 for their 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
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:
Totem Pole: http://coloring-style.net/coloring/totem-pole-printables.html
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
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.)
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:
- a spice cookie for each child (I used this Molasses Spice Cookie recipe.)
Review & First Day of Class Photos
- 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.)
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
Native Americans & Columbus Lesson
Thirteen Colonies Lesson
French and Indian War Lesson
Colonial Period & Revolution Rumblings Lesson
Boston Massacre & Boston Tea Party Lesson
First Shots & Declaration of Independence Lesson
American War for Independence Battles Lesson
Valley Forge & Battle of Yorktown Lesson
American Literature Lesson & American War for Independence Review
Colonial Christmas Party
Three Branches of Government Lesson
President George Washington Lesson
Louisiana Purchase Lesson
War of 1812 Lesson
Monroe Doctrine Lesson
Trail of Tears Lesson
Oregon Trail & Battle of Alamo Lesson
California Gold Rush & Pony Express Lesson
American Industrial Revolution Lesson
Underground Railroad Lesson
Abolitionists & Women Suffragists Lesson
Civil War: The Confederate States & Abraham Lincoln Lesson
Civil War Battles Lesson
Civil War Party & End of Year Review Game
Fun, Free Hands-on Unit Studies (My Lessons in All Subjects)
© 2018 Shannon
Shannon (author) from Florida on September 21, 2020:
Alice, you're welcome! I'm so happy you've found the lesson to be helpful!
Alice Walker on September 21, 2020:
Shannon thank you SO much! This is all a lot of work to put together- it will be so helpful for my family!