En la Clase: Columbus and Exploration ~ An Introduction

Often times it can be difficult to find a way to introduce a thematic unit, like one on Columbus, in a way that is new and exciting.  More than likely, your students have learned about Columbus and exploration in previous years, so many may be tempted to tune out the entire unit because they believe it’s nothing new.  The Observation and Inquiry Chart is an activity that I have used with great success in situations like this.  There are two versions of this activity, and both are adaptations of Guided Language Acquisition Design (GLAD) Strategies.  What’s great, is that they can be modified to work with almost any unit.

Version One: 

Google images related to your unit on Columbus and/or exploration.  Print off various images that are the most thought provoking and interesting.  You only need one copy of each image.  Glue each image to a large piece of paper–(long strips of butcher paper/bulletin board paper, or sheets of construction paper glued together).  Divide your class into small groups and provide each group with a copy of the image glued onto the paper.  Examples are included below.


  1. Explain to students that they are going to be working in small groups.  Each group will rotate around the room to each table.  One person will need to be secretary at each table–they can take turns doing this job.  At each table there will be an image.  As a group they will look at the image and discuss the questions “What do you see?” “What do you think is happening?” “How does this picture make you feel?” Then, the secretary will record their answers to the questions.  You could also put a pad of sticky notes at each table and have students record their own thoughts and stick them to the paper, instead of having a secretary.  Be sure to explain to students that they will have a set amount of time at each picture.  I usually give students 5 to 10 minutes, but this depends on both the grade level and the content.  Explain that you will give your students a signal at the end of each 5 minutes and students will rotate to the next image and the next table, until they have rotated through all of the images.
  2. Place one glued image at each table with one marker (and sticky notes if you are using them).  Begin the activity rotating students through each image at set-time increments.
  3. Hang up or post all of the images with the comments.  Discuss each image, giving students time to share and respond to what they posted.  Keep these posted throughout the unit, allowing students to revisit them, or discuss them as they learn more about the unit and possibly the images.

Observation Chart Example used in Project GLAD Resource Book at http://www.lausd.net/Main_EL/pdf/

Version Two: 

Google images related to your unit on Columbus and/or exploration.  Print off the TWO that are the most through provoking and interesting.  You only need one copy of each image.  Glue each image to a large piece of butcher paper, bulletin board paper, or poster board. Underneath one image write the question: What do you know about Christopher Columbus? (or exploration, explorers, conquest, etc.–whatever relates most to your unit).  Underneath the other image write the question: What do you want to know about Christopher Columbus? (or again, whatever your focus is).


  1. Hang the images on the board so that all students can see them.  Read the questions out loud and make sure that students understand them.  Then, give each student a few sticky notes and ask them to answer each question.  If possible, color code the sticky notes–one for color for what you know, one color for what you’d like to know. As students finish, have them stick their statements and questions to the appropriate paper.
  2. When students are done, read their comments/questions out loud and discuss them.  As their comments/questions are addressed throughout the unit, refer back to the two charts.
  3. Keep these posted in the room throughout the unit.  At the end of the unit, you can go back to their comments on “What do you want to know about _______________?” as one means of review and closure.

The above photos were taken during a teacher training workshop and are also examples of the activity in Version One showing the use of sticky notes.

I hope you find these activities useful! As always feel free to comment or share your own ideas below!



2 thoughts on “En la Clase: Columbus and Exploration ~ An Introduction

  1. Pingback: En la Clase: American Indian Month and Rethinking Thanksgiving | Vamos a Leer

  2. Pingback: En la Clase: Rethinking Conquest and Colonization | Vamos a Leer

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