We have been studying about European Exploration and the kids needed a quick refresher (since we had been on break for 3 weeks...don't be too jealous ;) ) I was wracking my brain, trying to come up with a book or SOMETHING that would help my kids to get back into the swing of things, when suddenly it dawned on me....BrainPop!
For those of you who haven't used BrainPop.com, it is a website with videos made for elementary aged children (all cartoon) and in kid friendly language, that really drives home important content for the kids. So I brought it up on my browser, found the perfect videos, and decided upon my lesson for the day.
I showed the students two videos. The first was about Christopher Columbus, focusing a lot on why he decided to explore. The video really drove home that, while Columbus didn't actually discover America (he wasn't even the first European here...the Vikings came about a thousand years earlier), he ran into this land at a time when the rest of Europe was ready to begin colonizing. That was a big "a ha" moment for me, as Oprah would say.
The second video was about the Columbian Exchange and all of the effects that Europeans coming to the New World had on the world.
While the students were watching, I had them filling in a Multi-Flow map. I had the kids put Columbus "discovered" America in the center event box.
As they watched the first video, the students were filling in all of the reasons (causes) why Columbus even made his way over to the Americas in the first place.
Before the second video, I had the students divide the effect side up into two sections, positive and negative. I really wanted them to focus in on all of the effects that that one event had on ALL of the people involved, not just the Europeans. There were many great things that came of the "discovery", but there were also many negatives as well.
The kids then got into groups and discussed their multi-flow maps.
I really feel like this activity has set the stage for our next unit on the American colonies. Now that we know the basics for exploration, we are all set to dive into how England got into the act! What's more, it took very little preparation...which for me is the best type of lesson (since my 2 and 4 year old also want some mommy attention ;) )