Columbus Day can be extremely controversial. Most of the time, students are taught that Christopher Columbus is a hero. However, in 5th grade, I like to present differing perspectives and let my students make their own opinion based on the information. One way that I do that is through this Columbus Day Activity for Upper Grades using the book Encounter by Jane Yolen.
If you are not familiar with the book, it tells a gripping tale of Columbus’ arrival on the island of San Salvador. The book is told from the point of view of a young Taino boy. After having a dream that he perceives as a warning, he tries to warn his people about the strangers. The book provides a unique perspective of Columbus that many students have not been exposed to.
To teach the lesson, I use a prepared anchor chart with guiding questions to use before and after reading. I also ask prompting questions during the reading, of course, but these are my focus questions for the lesson.
The below image shows my “before reading” questions. I would have the bottom of the anchor chart covered up so the students would not be influenced by what the “after reading” questions ask them. I would ask these questions of the students and allow them to turn and talk with a partner for each. We would also share out a few ideas as a class.
The next image shows the the “after reading” questions. I am a huge fan of turn and talk so I would use that strategy for these questions as well. These guiding questions really get the students to think about what they learned in the book and how this affects their own perspective of Columbus now.
This could lead into a pretty powerful writing response as well. This is one of my favorite books because I love exposing students to multiple perspectives and introducing the concept of bias and that some historical topics are skewed based on the point of view.
Do you have a Columbus Day activity for upper grades that you use and love? Let me know in the comments. I am always looking for new ideas!