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  1. Age of Exploration: A comprehensive research project
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  • Social Studies text
  • various book resources on the Age of Exploration and chosen explorers
  • construction paper (for flipbooks) and art supplies
  • student pages (graphic organizers, project information sheet)
  • access to computers, Internet
  • pre-selected/teacher-reviewed websites for Primary Source Documents


~ The primary source document element can be removed from this project without impacting the outcome.  It is an Arizona standard that students identify and use primary sources, which is why it is included.

~ Take time to find websites that have quailty primary source documents.  They are easy to find, but often hard to understand and read.  My students often aren't sure what they are looking at.  If you find some pre-selected examples and work together taking notes, the students can then try to find examples on their own.

~ Create a sample flipbook for students to see.  You might consider folding the books for the students, as it can be more difficult than it seems.  I will often "train" a few students to be book-folding-experts and ask them to help their classmates fold their books.

~ I create a model timeline for my students, and ask them to follow the same design.  I try to measure in inches (you can use cm if you prefer) so each 5-year-mark or decade is exactly on an inch mark.  Based on the size of the flipbook and the number of decades the timeline covers, we create a timeline that is actually two parallel lines.

Misconception Alerts!

            This unit was written to be an introduction to research.  If this unit is completed with students who already have at least basic research skills, other resources should be used.  Encourage students to find a variety of sources from which to generate information.

            Students often overlook "picture books" or simpler non-fiction resources.  I encourage them to use these!  Books like this give a clear and simple overview and tend to keep to the most significant facts.  Once students have a good basic understanding of the topic, using "higher level" sources will make more sense and provide greater details. 

            The final grade for this unit should not be solely based on the flip-book project (which does include an evaluation of the notes/graphic organizers).  Points or credit should be given for the informal assessments as well: working with peers, participation in class discussions; time management; ability to self-edit or evaluate one's work, etc.

            This project can be completed without computer access.  These steps can be used to either supplement or replace the technology component: teacher brings in examples of primary source documents, students find primary source documents from books or other sources in the school library, and/or students can hand-draw pictures and other creative elements for the flip-book. 

Suggested Timeline:

*This schedule assumes three, one-hour class periods per week with one additional hour of computer time.  It also assumes that students who fall behind this schedule complete the work during free time or outside of class (as homework, for example).

WEEK 1:  Day 1- Steps 1-3.  Review previous units, introduce "Exploration"

             Day 2- Steps 4 & 5, begin Step 6.  Introduce project, introduce and begin research process

             Day 3- Continue and complete Steps 6 & 7

             Computer Day- Step 1.  Differentiate between source documents, use for research


WEEK 2:  Day 1- Step 8.  Model and begin research of explorers

             Day 2- Step 9.  Research remaining explorers

             Day 3- Step 9 continues

             Computer Day- Steps 2 & 3.  Model locating and citing images, then copying and pasting


WEEK 3:  Day 1- Steps 10-12.  Model writing an expository paragraph

             Day 2- Step 13.  Draft remaining paragraphs

             Day 3- Steps 14-16.  Drafting 'explorer' paragraphs

             Computer Day- Continue Steps 2 & 3, or students may choose to work on drafts instead


WEEK 4:   Day 1- Continue Steps 15 & 16

              Day 2- Step 17.  Write final drafts

              Day 3- Continue Step 17 and do Step 18.  Finish drafts and create timeline

              Computer Day- Students will present final projects during this time



What essential questions will be considered? 

*Why take the risks associated with exploring and explore anyway?

*What were the wide-spread outcomes of the Age of Exploration?

*What was the effect on the native people in the Americas?


What understandings are desired? 

Students will understand that. . .

*The Age of Exploration resulted in the colonization of the Americas

*There were many reasons for exploration, but the desires of the "sponsors" and those of the explorer himself were not always the same

*Exploration was not only the result of but also a cause for tension between nations

*Many native people were negatively impacted by the arrival of Europeans


What key knowledge and skills will students acquire as a result of this unit? 

Students will know. . .

*Terminology: opportunity costs, primary source document, citation (as in: "of sources")

*The major accomplishments of six notable European explorers

*Which European countries were most involved in exploration during this time 


Students will be able to. . .

*Take notes using paraphrasing

*Identify primary source documents

*Write a simple research report

*Make a timeline of important events



Arizona Social Studies Standards- Strand 1: Concept 1, PO 1-4; Concept 2, PO 1 & 2.  Strand 2: Concept 2, PO 1-4; Concept 5, PO 1 & 2.  Strand 5, Concept 1, PO 1.

Arizona Writing Standards- Strand 1: all. Strand 3: Concept 2, PO 1-3; Concept 6, PO 1-3.

Arizona Reading Standards- Strand 1: Concept 6.  Strand 3: Concept 1, PO 1-8.

Arizona Technology Standards- 1T-E2: PO 2, PO 3. 2T-E2: PO 1-3. 3T-E1: PO 1 & 2. 5T-E1: PO 1-5.

Resource Instructions

Research and Project 

1.  Briefly review prior readings/discussions about Ancient America and its inhabitants.  Ask students, "What do you think would have a major impact on the lives of the natives during this period in time?" 

2.  Provide students with study guide questions regarding video "The Age of Exploration."  Allow them to preview questions and ask for clarification before showing movie.

3.  As students watch the video they can answer the questions.  After the movie, discuss and go over answers to questions on the handout.  Clarify points as necessary. 

4.  Provide students the project worksheets (overview, requirements, and organizers).  Discuss the project itself, the research, and all requirements.  Answer questions as needed.

5.  Have students refer to social studies text, "Build Our Nation."  Identify pages/chapters in which they will find the information needed to complete the project.  Review how to locate information (titles, headings, focus questions, bold print, etc.).  Clarify rationale for using the text as the sole source of information for this project. (*It should be noted that students will be permitted to use the primary source information found on the Internet also.  See next section.)

6.  Begin with "Age of Exploration" questions, specifically the first one.  As a class, identify where in the book we might find the answer.  Read passages together.  Teacher will model proper paraphrasing on the board.  Students can copy from the board or use their own words.  Students will share what they've written with a peer and accept critique.  Teacher will circulate around room and read student work and guide as needed.  Share strong student examples that differ from that of the teacher.

7.  Continue through the remaining questions, but with progressively less guidance from the teacher.  Teacher should continue to circulate to check for understanding until all questions have been answered satisfactorily.

8.  Choose one of the six explorers.  Go through whole-group research in the same way as #6 above.  Do the same for a second explorer, if necessary.  Otherwise, students should continue researching next 2 or 3 explorers in the same manner as #7 above.

9.  When teacher is confident students are able to continue research independently, students should be allowed to complete research on the remaining explorers on their own.  They may refer to peers for guidance.  Teacher should continue to check for understanding until all students have completed the research satisfactorily.

10.  With the research complete, students are ready to write their rough drafts.  Ask students for ideas on what makes a good expository paragraph.  Review topic sentences, supporting details, and conclusion sentences.  Look at the first question on the "Age of Exploration" organizer.  What would be a good topic sentence for this paragraph?  Put a few good ideas on the board.  Ask student to choose one of the sentences listed to use as their topic sentence.

11.  In referring to their notes, what information supports this topic sentence?  Work together to construct a solid paragraph.

12.  Write a conclusion sentence in the same manner as #10.

13.  Continue in this fashion for the remaining paragraphs, but with less teacher guidance as student understanding is demonstrated.  Allow students to confer with peers.  Teacher should circulate to check for understanding and answer questions (as in #9 above).  Teacher will edit drafts as students are ready.

14.  Each explorer will be covered via multiple paragraphs.  Look at one explorer and discuss with the class strategies for organizing the report into paragraphs.  With less specificity than with the earlier drafts, work together to share ideas for topic sentences, etc. when writing the explorers portion.  Draft together if the teacher believes students need guidance.

15.  Students should continue to rough draft explorer paragraphs.  Teacher will edit drafts as students are ready.

16.  Students can refer to their peers on their drafts and ask for editing advice.  Students should also be expected to self-edit drafts and make revisions based on teacher and peer input.

17.  Students will be given the paper and other materials needed to create the flip book.  Teacher will model how to make the folds and show where each portion of the report will go.  Students will write their final drafts on lined paper then cut it out and glue it to the flip-book.  Students will also include images that were downloaded from the Internet (see steps below), being certain to cite the sources.

18.  Finally, students will use the last pages of the book for their timeline.  They will select significant dates and facts to include.  Teacher will model a timeline on the board and refer to examples of timelines in the text.

19.  On the project due date, students will be asked to come in front of the class and "brag" about one or two things they are really proud of in their project.  Projects will be displayed for a time.


Internet Use and Image Downloads

1.  Teacher will explain the difference between primary source and secondary source documents.  Using pre-selected sites, the students will look at primary source documents on the Internet.  Students will be allowed to use information gathered for their research projects.

2.  Students will be guided through searching and identifying sites to obtain images for the report.  They will be shown how to determine if they are permitted to use an image they see, and, if so, how to cite it properly.  (Students will be discouraged from using "Google Images" in this quest.)

3.  Students will be shown how to copy an image and paste it into a Word document.  Teacher will review how to modify or edit that image, as needed (crop, alter size, change from color to black-and-white, etc.).

4.  Students will be given time to locate, copy, and cite images to use in their final project.  These images will literally be cut out (with scissors) and glued to the flip-book.


Performance tasks:

Graphic organizers- Students answer questions presented about the Age of Exploration and each of the six explorers based on information gathered from their social studies text.  Students will demonstrate use of paraphrasing techniques.


Final project (Flip-book)- Students will compile all information and research gathered into a report that will be in the form of a flip-book, based on guidleines set forth in the student guide and scoring rubric.


What other evidence needs to be collected in light of Stage 1 Desired Results? 


Other Evidence:

Discussions- Students will participate in whole-class discussions as well as "partner research" sessions and peer review of research/rough drafts.


Research and rough drafts- Teacher will review students' organizers and rough drafts to ensure understanding and quality.


Observations- This is general teacher observation of students as they complete tasks.


Student Self-Assessment and Reflection:

*Students will have the project guide and final grading rubric to refer to as needed while they work.

*Students will be expected to self-edit rough drafts for content and grammar.

*Students will meet with and compare their work with that of their peers.  They may then go back and make changes as needed.

*Students will share ("brag session") one or two things they are most proud of in their project with the class upon completion.



What understandings or goals will be assessed through this task? 

*Students will write a report using topic sentences, supporting details, and concluding sentences.

*Students will create a timeline detailing major events in the voyages of the six assigned explorers.


What criteria are implied in the standards and understandings regardless of the task specifics?  What qualities must student work demonstrate to signify that standards were met? 

*differentiate between important or major events versus insignificant ones

*ability to keep writing focused (stick to topic)

*thorough research- no unanswered questions or incomplete answers

*ability to organize facts and information in chronological order


Through what authentic performance task will students demonstrate understanding?

Task overview:

"We have learned a little about the Native Americans who inhabited the Americas prior to the arrival of Europeans, so we are now going to look at the reasons for and impact of the European explorers in America.  There is a lot of information on this topic, and much of it is overwhelming and can be confusing.  Therefore, we are only going to focus on six key explorers whose voyages span throughout the period known as the Age of Exploration.  We will use this knowledge and information to create a flip-book on exploration.  This book can not only be used as a reference for us as we contunue our studies of American history, but also as a reference for the third graders who also study explorers.  Knowing this might be read by younger students, you want to be sure your facts are clearly written, thorough, and unambiguous."


What student products and performances will provide evidence of desired understandings? 

*research organizers

*rough drafts

*final project- explorers flip-book


By what criteria will student products and performances be evaluated?

*thoroughness of answers/research

*accuracy of information

*general organization of preliminary work

*"transfer" of information from preliminary work to final report/project

*improvements, refinements, and revision seen when comparing preliminary work to final work

*all required elements are present in final project

*proper spelling and grammar have been used

*project is neat and demonstrates student's best ability

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