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Lesson Plan

Cyberspace Explorer: Getting to Know Christopher Columbus

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Cyberspace Explorer: Getting to Know Christopher Columbus

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Two 50- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Jill Woolley Stafford

Jill Woolley Stafford

Woodbridge, Virginia


International Literacy Association


Student Objectives

Day 1

Day 2


Student Assessment/Reflections



Students will

  • Use prewriting (a K-W-L chart) to prepare for research

  • Use prior knowledge to extend the depth of inquiry

  • Collect and organize historical information

  • Create a timeline representing historical facts and events

  • Learn how to import Internet photographs and credit the source

  • Write an informational summary report using a word processing program

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Day 1

Introductory Activity (10 minutes)

1. Have students begin creating a K-W-L chart by brainstorming what they already know about the familiar historical figure, Christopher Columbus. Ask them:
  • Who was Christopher Columbus?

  • Why is he famous?

  • When did he live?
Record students' responses on the board and have students make notes in the Know column of their chart.

2. Once students have created a substantial list of their prior knowledge, move to the Want to Know column. Encourage students' curiosity by asking questions that focus on Columbus' life:
  • What would you like to know about Christopher Columbus?

  • When and where was he born?

  • When and where did he die?

  • What was his family life like?

  • What were his accomplishments?

  • Did he earn any titles or awards as a result of his explorations?

  • Did he have any disappointments?
Have students make notes on their K-W-L chart as they brainstorm as a class the things they would like to know about Columbus.

Learning Activity (40 minutes)

3. Before beginning the scavenger hunt, instruct students to open the website Looks Are Deceiving: The Portraits of Christopher Columbus. Have them scroll down a bit until they see the blue hypertext links for Figure 1, Figure 2, Figure 3, and Figure 4. Invite students to click on each figure and decide which picture of Columbus they would like to use for the report they are going to create. Monitor students' progress, alerting them to take note of how different the pictures look.

4. Now model the procedure for copying a picture from the Internet to your desktop. Go to the same website and link to a picture of Columbus. Slowly demonstrate the following steps:
  • Click and hold on the picture until a drop-down menu reveals selections.

  • Select "Download Image to Disk."

  • Select "Desktop" as the location to save the picture.

  • The figure number already appears in the name text field. Add "Columbus" to the beginning of the saved name so the file will be easy to locate on your desktop.

  • Click "Save."
5. After modeling the procedure for copying an image, monitor students' progress as they save their own pictures of Columbus to their desktop.

6. Pass out the Guided Scavenger Hunt worksheet. This worksheet includes many of the brainstorming questions from the Introductory Activity. Students can add other questions that interest them.

7. Start the activity by saying:
Today we are going to be cyberspace explorers as we search for information about the well-known explorer, Christopher Columbus. We will use the online CyberExplorer Site Guide to access websites and gather information. In addition to your K-W-L chart, you'll use the Guided Scavenger Hunt worksheet to takes notes as you read through the Internet sites.
8. The remainder of the session should be devoted to completing the cyber scavenger hunt. Students visit the websites listed on the CyberExplorer Site Guide and take notes on their Guided Scavenger Hunt worksheet. Direct students to the "Hints" provided on the worksheet and to keywords, such as born, voyages, and Pinzon. Assist students in identifying visual text differences, such as text size, position of text on the page, color, and style, all of which provide visual reading clues. Monitor effective reading strategies as well.

9. End the session by commending your explorers on their hard work. Tell them that they will be using their findings from this activity to create a timeline and summary report on the following day.

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Day 2

Introductory Activity (10 minutes)

1. Spend a few minutes reviewing the lesson activities from Day 1. Look back at the K-W-L chart to refresh students on what they already know about Columbus and what they wanted to know. Review the process for copying a picture from the Internet to the desktop. Encourage a discussion on what it was like to explore the life of Christopher Columbus using the Internet. Answer any questions that students may have.

2. Explain that for today's activity students are going to use the information they collected during their cyber scavenger hunt to create a report on Christopher Columbus that includes a timeline highlighting important dates and events in Columbus' life.

Learning Activity (25 minutes)

3. Have students connect to the interactive Timeline on ReadWriteThink and follow these introductory instructions:
  • Enter "The Life and Times of Christopher Columbus" as the Title.

  • Enter your own name in the field By.

  • Select "Date" from the drop-down menu for Unit of Measure.

  • Click on "Next Entry" in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to begin creating your timeline.
4. Instruct students to build a timeline made up of at least five key dates or events collected during their cyber scavenger hunt. To get students started, you might model how to create a timeline entry using the LCD projector. Remind students to print out their timeline when they are finished working. Monitor students carefully to answer any questions they have while working and keep them on task.

Culminating Activity (25 minutes)

5. After completing the timeline, give students the Creating Your Report handout. Students will follow the steps in these instructions to create their summary report independently. You may give oral instructions as well for students who are struggling.

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  • Allow students to visit the website Christopher Columbus to read about Columbus from the perspective of the Native American. Although some of the links on this website have not been maintained, it provides the more advanced student historical information and an opportunity to consider point of view. You can also direct students to read "Transform Columbus Day," "Faithful Response to the 500th Anniversary," and "Goodbye Columbus!". These readings offer a good opportunity to engage students in a discussion about point of view and the controversies surrounding Christopher Columbus.

  • Use the lesson What Was Columbus Thinking? to have students reflect on the motivations behind Columbus' explorations, his reactions to what he found, and the consequences, intended and unintended, of his endeavor.

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