Teaching the Columbian Exchange

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
American history in 5th grade is one of my favorite things to teach! We don't always have a ton of time to dive deep into our social studies and science, so I put together some resources I use every year to teach the Columbian Exchange and the New World Explorers. Check them out below!
1. Encounter by Jane Yolen
Encounter is a great read aloud to do with your class at any point during the unit. It is a picture book that tells a story about an explorer coming to the New World and the exchanges he had with the native people. It's a very powerful book that kids get really into! Grab it on Amazon HERE.

2. Brain Pop: Columbian Exchange
Brain Pop has a great, short video about the Columbian Exchange.

3. Flocabulary: Discovering America
Do you have a Flocabulary account? It's $99 for a year subscription, which can definitely be pricey and some of the videos can be found on YouTube, but my students and I absolutely love it. We watch the videos for almost every content area and it has really good, catchy tunes that stick with the kids. Discovering America is a great Flocabulary video we play a number of times throughout the unit.

4. New World Explorer Research
I created some research pages for 10 well-known explorers of the New World. In the research, students are looking for information related to where they're from, where they explored, what they were looking for and if their journey was successful. You can find those research pages HERE.

5. European Explorers Dice Simulation
Have you checked out the dice simulations from Teaching in the Fast Lane? I have bought more than 5 for various content areas. My students absolutely love them! She created a great one for the explorers and their journey to the New World. Grab it HERE.

6. "I Will Fight No More Forever" Speech
The speech by Chief Joseph is really powerful and depicts a strong message from the Native American perspective. You can find the speech HERE. You can use it for whole group, close reading, or small group instruction.

7. Crop Exchange Simulation
The Columbian Exchange did create some positive exchanges of crops and goods. Students can see where some of the common crops and goods that we use and eat every day came from by using the crop exchange simulation found HERE.

8. Writing Prompt/Project
To wrap up the unit, I ask the question: What impact did the explorers have on the New World? With this project, students are directed to create some sort of project that depicts the answer to this question. They also are required to write a minimum of one paragraph that explains their project and what they learned. The project guidelines and rubrics I use are linked up HERE.

Upper Elementary Snapshots also has a great list of resources and activities you can use to teach the Columbian Exchange. Check it out HERE!

How do you teach the Columbian Exchange and New World Explorers in your classroom?

The BEST Planning Move I Made!

Friday, November 17, 2017
It was the end of the first quarter and the other 5th grade teacher and I sat down to do some planning. Both of us sat there overwhelmed, a bit frustrated and tired. Just straight up tired. We wanted to be innovative, we wanted to try new things, we wanted to enhance our curriculum, but we just couldn't find the time. Then we said, wouldn't it be nice if we could just take one thing off our plate? Well, we did. And it is amazing!

We immediately called down our administrator (who is so supportive) and asked her - what did she think about me taking over reading and my partner taking over math? We would align our schedules to make it work, give the 5th graders a middle school feel and divide and conquer. Of course, she said yes!

We took about a week to get ready. I organized my room to be more reading focused and she designed hers to be more math focused. I gave her all my math materials and she gave me all her reading materials. We prepped the kids, told them the routine and procedures for how it was going to look and feel, then dove in! We teach our own classrooms every morning our respective subjects. Before leaving for recess/lunch, all the 5th graders put their materials on the top shelf of their lockers for their afternoon class. After lunch, the students gather their materials then travel to the opposite classroom - they don't even have to stop in their own classroom at all. It's seamless and smooth. And the best part...the kids LOVE it!

Since starting, I cannot express enough how much better I feel! We both still teach writing, language and content (however, I try to incorporate content into our literacy as much as possible), but just taking math off my plate has been incredible. I feel focused, excited, innovative and I am feeling the results after just a few short weeks! I am on my game, I can focus my energy and my students are making gains! I had some hesitations in the beginning because I do really enjoy teaching math. However, after just a few weeks of this schedule switch, I'm wondering why we didn't think of this sooner!

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