09-11-2012, 03:04 PM
First, go online right now and order Easy Simulations: Explorers by Scholastic. It is the most fun thing I have done in 27 years of teaching. You can build an entire unit around it.
Next, decide which explorers you are supposed to focus on. One will always be good old CC, but different states have different foci depending on what region they are in. For example, New York would have its focus on Hudson and Co.
Last, decide. This is the hardest part. There are so many things you can do with explorers. Show them a clip from American Hoggers if you want impact. The Spanish brought pigs, which went feral. There are fewer things more dangerous than a feral pig. They destroyed all the native crops, they attacked people and livestock, and they still do!
One of my favorite activities is having them write down the ingredients for their favorite meal. I make them decide whether they are from Europe or America, and they show me their ingredients. Macaroni and cheese if you are Native American: No wheat, so no macaroni. No cows so no cheese. You would have a bowl of salt, and maybe some ground mustard seed. They love it!
This is a great unit for biographies and presentations.
You can make a pop-up book. Susan Kapucinksi Gaylord has a Scholastic book. There is a unit all set up for explorers.
Evan-Moor has a downloadable e-book unit. It has great maps!
Check your textbook. Sometimes they have great ideas as well.
But here is the key to teaching fifth grade social studies, or any history: you have to know it yourself. The more you learn, the easier it is to teach. Just read a bunch of historical fiction, then check the facts.