"Was Columbus a hero or villain?"
Get your students using communication and critical thinking skills through this engaging, thought-provoking Thanksgiving/Native American unit lesson centered around the picture book Encounter by Jane Yolen. This is a perfect lesson to be given around Columbus Day or Thanksgiving to raise awareness about how Native Americans were impacted by colonization.
*The read-aloud/graphic organizer part of the lesson takes one day. Rough draft writing, editing, and final draft writing may take anywhere from 2-3 days to complete.*
Encounter focuses on Columbus's arrival in the Americas from a young Taino boy's perspective. Through illustrations, allusions, and explicit statements in the text, students learn about what it was like for those who were first impacted by European arrival in North, South, Caribbean, and Central America. The lesson included in this product focuses on helping students analyze the illustrations and quotations from the story, along with incorporating their background knowledge, to answer the prompt, "Was Columbus a hero or villain?" Students are encouraged to come up with reasons to support both arguments, and then are asked pick a side they support using reasons taken from the text/class discussion to complete an opinion paragraph outline and final draft.
My 3rd grade students loved this activity and I was very impressed by their mature, thoughtful responses to the prompt.