Columbus Day will be celebrated October 10, 2011. I like to begin my lesson on that day reading sections from a letter that Columbus wrote without letting the class know who it is from or that it is Columbus Day. The letter is a primary document found at http://www.ushistory.org/documents/columbus.htm. The letter tells of the natives he encounters in Hispaniola. He talks about the beauty of the land and the gold that is there. He tells how innocent are the natives he encounters, and how he has to forbid his men trading useless items such as broken dishes for a great deal of gold. He also discusses how he hasn’t seen any monsters, but has seen people who eat human flesh. The students become actively engaged with this letter and the discussion and are pleasantly surprised to find it is a letter from Columbus. We then discuss the value and purpose of primary documents. There are many ways you can build your lesson from here. If you go into your Discovery account, everyone has one, right? Anyway, search “Columbus” and at the top of the results screen, you will see a link – “Columbus Day” with the explanation “Featuring resources selected and created by Discovery Education’s curriculum experts, this theme page offers teacher’s guides, video clips, and more.” Discovery has provided a wealth of resources right there for you to use. There are video clips, images, and lesson plans for every grade level. There are even some audio clips. Elementary students could illustrate what they hear and import it, along with images from Discovery, into Photo Story, a free download from Microsoft at http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=11132, adding the audio for a great presentation.
For more presentations and ideas, go to http://holidays.pppst.com/columbusday.html and celebrate Columbus Day with lots of new discoveries.