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Mayflower: Research Center

Grade Levels
4th - 8th
Formats Included
  • Zip
471 pages
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This unit was created to give students experience in learning about a historical event through primary and secondary sources. Some artifacts present information from first-hand accounts, but have been rewritten as colony records, announcements, public notices, etc. Some artifacts were copied from primary sources and presented in their original formats. The variety of artifacts to study will give students a little taste of how historians study the past. These materials will support any study of the Mayflower and Plymouth Colony, but were designed to provide information for a historical fiction article written in a diary or journal style, about one of the Mayflower travelers. You can use the items as research materials for a class project, a writing assignment, or as a center for students to explore in their free time. The following materials are included in the unit:

Overview, Center Plans, Standards, Book List, References

People of the Mayflower Cards: Seventy-two people who traveled on the Mayflower are portrayed on the cards, along with boarding information recorded by William Bradford. Students choose one of them as a research subject. (The only authentic image is that of Edward Winslow. Images are cropped from public domain photographs of Baroque paintings of the period.)

Posters of the Mayflower: Four posters depict the Mayflower as many historians believe it to be. They may be stapled on top of each other to give the illusion that students are looking into the ship, displayed separately on your classroom walls, or placed in your research center. The posters are 11X17 and can be printed using a standard printer, or a large format printer.

Vocabulary/Dictionary Game Cards: Vocabulary words are given as a dictionary display might be, and matched with a picture. The definition cards may be printed, collated, and held together with a ring clip to form a flip dictionary for your center. Title pages show the word with a larger image and may be matched with the definition pages to play games such as "Old Maid" and "Go Fish", a fun way to practice new words.

Ship’s Logs: Two versions of the Speedwell and Mayflower logs--original language, and modern language for easy student use. This is an excellent primary source for elementary and middle school classrooms. There are a total of 6 logs: Speedwell, Mayflower Voyage, and Mayflower Plymouth Harbor.

Of Plymouth Plantation by William Bradford: Selections from Bradford's journal presented in two versions: the original language, spelling, and punctuation (quite hard to read), and a simplified version with modern language, spelling, and punctuation (38 pages). It is a long document. You may wish to use the PDF version with your students, rather than printing it out.

Mourt’s Relation by Edward Winslow: This is Winslow’s description of the early days of the colony written to his friend, Mr. Mortimer, also included in the two formats (63 pages). It describes the first year of the colony in great detail. It is a long document. You may wish to use the PDF version with your students, rather than printing it out.

Mayflower Fate Cards: 32 cards retell events from the voyage of the Mayflower through the words of a child. These diary entries are paired with quotations from William Bradford's journal describing the actual events--original language, spelling, and punctuation. They are a great way to introduce the difference between primary and secondary source material. These cards can serve as models for student writing, as well as research information.

Mayflower Display Cards: Modeled after the plaques contained in museums, these 8.5X11 cards tell about life on board a ship in the 1600s.

Artifacts: Letters, birth and death records, obituaries, and other items are primary source materials for student research. They provide clues about the lives of the settlers, and are a good exercise in deduction and drawing conclusions as the students learn more about their subjects. They are also good materials for teaching the difference between primary and secondary sources.

Art Prints: Beautiful public domain images by famous artists inspired by the voyage, arrival, and celebrations of the people of the Mayflower.

Maps: Primary source maps, as well as route maps are included. There are also blank maps of Cape Cod and Plymouth Harbor for student use.

Mural: Step-by-step directions for making 2 Mayflower murals--sunny travel (the first half of the journey) and stormy travel (the second half of the journey). Ship, sails, and title cutouts are included.

Playground Mayflower: Step-by-step directions to give to a classroom volunteer who will take small groups of children out to the playground to draw a life-sized image of the Mayflower’s main deck.

I have used a number of public domain sources and images, as well as a couple of photographs licensed under the Creative Commons Share and Share Alike license. All items are credited.

These items, included in this unit, are also available separately:

Mayflower Display Cards

Mayflower Fate Cards

Mayflower Ship Posters

Mayflower Ship's Logs

Mayflower Mural

Total Pages
471 pages
Answer Key
Teaching Duration
2 Weeks
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to see state-specific standards (only available in the US).
By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.


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