Activity 1: Point of View Writing.
Using the reading from THE COLUMBIA HISTORY OF THE WORLD or one that is comparable, have students write a descriptive account of the first encounter between Europeans and Native Americans, either from the perspective of a European or a Native American.
Have students read their work in small groups, listening for language and structures which indicate point of view/perspective.
When students have finished reading their work in groups, have them write another account, from the opposite perspective, and, as before, read it in small groups.
Activity 2: So How Did Columbus Get to the Americas? Understanding Geography.
Post a map of the world in the front of the room, with the names of countries, states, and some cities blanked out. Distribute copies of same, one for each group of four students (most city names should be kept intact).
Introduce longitude and latitude. Model with the class how to locate cities using latitude and longitude. Then provide latitudes and longitudes for the cities in Europe and the Americas blanked out on the maps, and have students locate the points on their maps. Have groups try to identify the names of the cities.
Ask students to locate Spain, India, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba on the blank map in the front of the room, and then label these locations on their group map.
Encourage students to keep these locations in mind and to refer back to the map to help them locate other places mentioned in the reading that follows.
Activity 3: Reading from A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES, Chapter One, "Columbus, the Indians and Human Progress," pages 1-11, or a comparable non-traditional history.
In groups of four, have students read this excerpted text about Columbus's first encounters with Native Americans. This is a long passage, which may be broken into "closed" segments at places where the text shifts from one group of events, or one area of analysis, to another (the chapter from A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES can be segmented as follows: pp. 1-3; pp. 3-6; pp. 6-9; and pp. 9-11). Each of the four students in a group should read one of the four segments, list ideas they consider to be crucial, and, when they have finished reading, summarize their segment to the group.
Have groups plot Columbus's journey based on the text, using their maps.
Have students re-read the selection.
Ask each group to then work together to write a chapter summary. Initiate this step by working with students to identify and define the major chapter segments (the segments into which the chapter was earlier divided; see Step One). Decide together which events or ideas were most important in each of the segments. Summaries should be written in expository form. Write the paragraph summarizing the first segment together with the class so that it can be used as a model for the group's writing. Have students complete the assignment keeping the model in mind, and offer support as necessary.
Have students read an account of Columbus's voyage/discovery in a textbook written at a simple reading level, such as THE STORY OF THE USA, EXPLORERS AND SETTLERS, and identify places in the text where they feel crucial information has been left out. Ask students to rewrite these passages, including such information, and to be prepared to discuss why it might have been omitted at the next class session.
Have groups of students research one of several Native American tribes with whom the Europeans established early contact. Research can be paper or Web-based. Encourage groups to describe the tribe's communal organization, religious traditions, values, social behaviors, etc.
Students can practice calculating percentages using descriptions of the growth of European populations and the decline of Native American populations, as mentioned in various places throughout the text. They can then choose one Native American tribe for which to record total population from the 15th through the 20th centuries, calculating and graphing percent of decline. These figures can be contrasted with European population growth during the same period.