We always start by going back to the map and seeing if students remember their continents, which is always a bit of a let-down for me, but sometimes it's not. We talk about where Europe and North America are and I have my students take some guesses about why the Europeans wanted to come to America.
From there we talk about a few of the early explorers such as Leif Erickson (whose name they know from Spongebob more often than not) and Columbus. Once we get past those two we use this PowerPoint to get the rest of our information.
As we discuss each of the explorers we trace their route on a map of the world and write down important facts in our fold-ups.
We also discuss the three g's of conquistadors and debate which one students think is the most important.
We also complete a sort of plants that are native to the Americas and those that were imported. It is always really fun to see what students think is natural to our area and what isn't. Pro-tip: When you glue the sorting pockets into student INBs have the opening face the spine so that if the cards fall out of the pockets they will fall into the fold, not all over the floor.
To end our unit I use these task cards to hold a scavenger hunt assessment. If you have any extra time (what's that?) my students also LOVE these activities of creating a postcard to send home from the point of view of an explorer and this dice simulation that puts them in the shoes of an explorer trying to find a new place.
Books to Support This Unit: