United States History to 1865

Exploration to Revolution: Pre-Columbian Times to the 1770s


The student will demonstrate knowledge of European exploration in North America and West Africa by


  • Ask the students what personal characteristics they think were important for the European explorers to possess. List their responses on the board, and discuss why each would be important. Have students consider what obstacles the explorers may have faced. List these obstacles on the board, and have students consider what personal characteristics would be most useful in the face of each obstacle.
  • Locate Europe on a world map. Point out Portugal. Locate West Africa on a world map.
  • Read from text describing Portugal's exploration program. Discussion should include Prince Henry the Navigator, attempts to reach Asia, and stops in West Africa (Ghana, Mali, and Songhai). Students should conclude that Portugal was the first country to begin exploration by water outside of Europe.
  • Distribute outline world map handouts. Instruct students to locate Portugal. Walk around and check for accuracy. Have students trace with their fingers the route a Portuguese trader would have taken, ensuring a stop in West Africa. Model on a transparency or pull-down map.
  • Have students use a red coloring utensil to color in Portugal and draw the route they traced with their finger (ensuring a stop in West Africa).
  • Put students into three groups. One group representing each of the three explorers: -- -- Francisco Coronado
    -- Samuel de Champlain
    -- John Cabot
  • Give each group an index card and access to reference materials. Have the group research their explorer. Encourage students to search for explorer's motivations, obstacles, and accomplishments.
  • Have each student complete a graphic organizer on each of the four explorers including information on motivations, obstacles, and accomplishments.
  • Have the students add the three new explorers and routes to their maps. Use a different colored pencil for each route.
  • Give each student a copy of the handout entitled European Exploration from 1400 to 1700. Have students read in their text, either individually or aloud as a whole class, the section that covers European exploration. After the reading is complete, have students complete the chart. Depending on the text, you may need to supplement with additional information from lecture notes or other written resources. For the European Exploration from 1400 to 1700 worksheet, CLICK HERE.
  • Have students work in pairs or individually to choose an explorer and research his biography. Make sure that students consider the following as they conduct their research: What prompted or encouraged this man to pursue a life of exploration? What personal characteristics made him well suited to this way of life? What significant decisions did this explorer make that had great impact? What did this man accomplish during his lifetime? Was this man seen as a hero during his lifetime?
  • Have students use library and Internet sources to complete their research. The following Web sites can provide information on European explorers: http://edtech.kennesaw.edu/web/explorer.html (Kennesaw State University educational technology web site)
    http://www.education-world.com/a_lesson/lesson162.shtml (from Education World web page entitled "Lessons of the Explorers!").
  • After students complete their research, have them create a flipbook, using the researched information, card-stock paper, markers, colored pencils, and glue. Have students compile their information in the form of a story that relates the life and accomplishments of their explorer. Have them write their story, either freehand or on the computer, and cut and paste the text into their book. They may illustrate their explorer's story by drawing pictures or finding pictures from the Internet. Encourage students to be creative and use lots of color.
  • When completed, the books can be bound from the top to create a flipbook. Have students display and discuss their flipbooks with the class.
  • After students have completed the chart, lead a class discussion of the experiences all countries shared related to exploration.
  • Review why European countries competed for power in North America by completing the Motivating Forces for Exploration worksheet. Have the students illustrate a waterfall type booklet using the worksheet as a guide. For the Motivating Forces for Exploration" worksheet, CLICK HERE.
  • Review what were the obstacles faced by the explorers by completing the Obstacles to Exploration worksheet. Have the students illustrate a waterfall type booklet using the worksheet as a guide. For the Obstacles to Exploration worksheet, CLICK HERE.
  • Review the accomplishments of the explorations by completing the Accomplishments of Exploration worksheet. Have the students illustrate a waterfall type booklet using the worksheet as a guide. For the Accomplishments of Exploration worksheet, CLICK HERE.


Information on Francisco Coronado

Information on Samuel de Champlain

Information on John Cabot

The Age of Exploration

Resources about explorers for the educational technology department of Kennesaw State University

Lessons of the Explorers! from Education World

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