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The Age of "Discovery"

Context for this Lesson


TOPIC: "The Age of Discovery," Identifying missing information in a historical text

GRADE LEVEL: 5th Grade


  • How can we identify and investigate missing perspectives in an informational text?



§113.16. Social Studies, Grade 5

(b) Knowledge and skills:

  • (1) History. The student understands the causes and effects of European colonization in the United States beginning in 1565, the founding of St. Augustine.
  • (24) Social studies skills. The student applies critical-thinking skills to organize and use information acquired from a variety of valid sources, including electronic technology.
  • (25) Social studies skills. The student communicates in written, oral, and visual forms.
  • (26) Social studies skills. The student uses problem-solving and decision-making skills, working independently and with others, in a variety of settings.

§117.119. Theatre, Grade 5

(b) Knowledge and skills:

  • (1) Foundations: inquiry and understanding. The student develops concepts about self, human relationships, and the environment using elements of drama and conventions of theatre.


  • Projected front-page image from USA Studies Weekly The Age of Discovery,OR a different  image depicting European colonizers/explorers landing in America
  • 32 copies of USA Studies Weekly The Age of Discovery,” 
  • Paper
  • Pencils
  • Chart paper
  • Markers

Pre-written on chart paper:

  1. What do you want to investigate about the experience of Native Americans during this time period?
  2. Why is it important to investigate this topic in this particular newspaper?
  3. As a journalist, where is the first place you will go to research this topic?


Before we dive in, could someone tell us what we have been learning about in Social Studies? (looking for "the Age of Exploration," "Europeans colonization," "discovering the New World," etc.) Great recall. I found an image from that time period that I was hoping you all could help me investigate. What does it mean to investigate something? 

Project front-page image from USA Studies Weekly The Age of Discovery" and lead DAR discussion. Possible questions:

  • Describe: What do you see in this picture? What can't you see in this picture? What might be beyond the edges or hidden?
  • Analyze: Where do you think this image is? Why? What differences do you notice between the two groups of people in this image? Who might the people in the foreground, or front, of the image be? Who might the people in the background be? How long do you think each group has been in this place? What do you see in the image that tells you that?
  • Relate: Whose perspective, or point of view, do you think this image represents? Why do you think that? What's another perspective of this moment that you would like to see? Consider charting responses.

Let's imagine that we are the photographers of this picture. How could we take this picture from another point of view to show a different perspective? Where would we need to stand to take the picture from a different angle? Ideally, participants will want to see the image from the perspective of the group of people in the background (Indigenous people/Native Americans). The process for this is outlined below, but feel free to adjust to fit the specific curiosities of the group. 

Okay, so from our desks, we're going to recreate this image from the point of view of (insert class's chosen perspective/point of view). In a minute, we'll need a few people to come up here and use their bodies to recreate this picture from our new perspective. Identify playing space in front of class.

Take a moment to think about one thing our image will need. Perhaps a person, landmark, or object. How could you use your body to show this thing? We're going to offer our suggestions saying "This image needs a..." For example, I might say, "This image needs a person rowing a boat." I'd then come up to our playing area and pose like this. Model offering a suggestion and embodying it. 

You'll have to stay frozen in the picture for a bit, so the pose you choose should be easy to hold. If you have an idea you'd like to try, raise your hand. Invite a volunteer to offer a suggestion and begin the embodied picture. Ask the group to help compose/direct the image. Possible questions:

  • Where should this person/landmark/object be in relation to the others?
  • What might this person's face look like? Where are they looking?
  • How can we show levels and distance in our picture?

Repeat the process until the image is complete, inviting 7-8 volunteers to contribute. All right, now that we've got all of the pieces, let's see what our picture looks like all together. On the count of the three, all of the photographers from their seats are going to take a picture, so if you're in the image, get ready to freeze. Everyone ready?!

If you're in the picture, please stay frozen. Photographers, what do you see? How is this image different from the projected picture? 

Everyone relax. We're going to create our image once more. This time, if you're looking at this picture from your desk, imagine that you are one of the people in the background of the projected image looking at this perspective of the moment. What might your face look like when you see this picture for the first time? Ready? 1...2...3...everyone freeze!

I want to investigate how the people seeing this image for the first time might have felt. If I tap you on the shoulder, please say out loud what your character is thinking. Walk through people sitting at desks and hear from 3-5.

Everyone relax. Fantastic work. Please return to your seats and give a neighbor a high five for the stellar investigating you did. 

Refer back to projected image: 

  • How did recreating this image from a different perspective make you think about the original picture differently? 
  • What are you curious to know more about? 

Transition: Thank you for all your investigating! We discovered                      We found this picture in one of the texts you will be reading in social studies, USA Studies Weekly “The Age of Discovery.” We're going to pass out copies of this text and do some more investigating. 


Pass out newspapers or other informational source. Please use your thin marker to write your name on the front page and the back page of your paper. Model.

Lead an exploration and critical discussion of the text. We will not read it, but will skim for key words and images. Some possible questions:

  • What form of writing is this text? What do you know about newspapers? What are some important newspaper jobs? (Looking specifically for journalist and editor)
  • Where in the newspaper do you see this image? Take 30 seconds to skim through the newspaper, noting the images, titles, and subtitles. What other words or images do you see when skimming through this newspaper? (Consider charting responses.)
  • What does the place and size of this picture tell you about the newspaper or the image? How important does the editor think this image is?
  • Based on your skimming, does this newspaper seem to be missing any important information or perspectives? What? 

Transition: We’re so glad y’all know so much about newspapers, because we are going to imagine that the editor of this newspaper contacted us with a problem they need our help solving. Are you up for the challenge? 


3.  WRITING PITCHES (20 min)

Great, thank you for being willing to help. We are going to imagine that the editors of this paper realized that the newspaper is missing an entire section on the experience of Indigenous people, or Native Americans, during this time. Indigenous is another word for 'native.' Let's imagine that you all are journalists for this newspaper. The editors need you to help them decide what questions to investigate and what articles to write, similar to how you investigated the different perspectives of the front-page photo. We'll work in small groups to create a pitch of an idea for an article to send to the editors. What does it mean to 'pitch' something?

Split into (table) groups of 5-6. You’ll work with the people in your group to create a pitch together. Today you'll brainstorm and discuss ideas for your pitch. Before we go on, identify at least one person in your group to take notes during your brainstorming.  

Each pitch should respond to three questions. The first is:

  • What do you want to investigate about the experience of Native Americans during this time period?

Reveal question (on chart paper). In your groups, take 2-3 minutes to brainstorm some topics or questions you want to investigate. If you’re the note-taker, be sure to keep track of your group’s ideas! 

After a couple minutes, Before we move onto the next question, take a moment as a group and choose one topic or question to focus on for your pitch. Now that you have your pitch topic, the next question is:

  • Why is it important to investigate this topic in this particular newspaper?

Reveal question. In your groups, take 2-3 minutes to discuss why someone reading this newspaper would need or want to know more about this topic. It might also be helpful to think about who the typical reader of this newspaper is and why they read this specific newspaper. Don't forget to take notes!

After a couple minutes, The last question you should consider in your pitch is:

  • As a journalist, where is the first place you will go to research this topic?

Reveal question. In your groups, take 2-3 minutes to discuss what resources you can use to find historical information. Sit with and support individual groups throughout process. Encourage young people to engage directly with one another and only interject when necessary.  

Transition: There’s been some great, journalistic brainstorming and writing happening in the room. Before we send your pitches off to the editors, let’s share our ideas with each other.

4.  SHARING PITCHES (10 min)

Pitches are often read or presented live. Even though the editors aren't here, we're going to present our pitches to the class. Because of time, each group will share just one response to each of the pitch questions. That is:

  • One topic or question to investigate
  • One reason why it's important to investigate that question
  • One place to research the question

In your small groups, decide how you want to share your pitch with the class. You could read it in unison (all at the same time), each person could read one sentence, or one person could read the whole thing. Whatever you decide, take a minute to practice presenting your pitch.

After 1-2 minutes, It’s time to hear these pitches! Which brave group would like to go first? Invite volunteers to stand at their desks to share their pitches. If time allows, lead brief noticing of each pitch. Make connections to point of view and perspective, if possible:

  • What excites you about the ideas we just heard?
  • Why is this an important part of the Indigenous story for all people to read and learn about?

Continue until each group has shared their pitch ideas.
Transition: Excellent. If you're the note-taker for your group, please write everyone's names on your paper and pass it to the front. It's now time to put down our journalist pencils and talk a bit about what we did today.




  • What are different ways we investigated USA Studies Weekly today? 
  • What information did we identify was missing?


  • What similarities and/or differences did you notice in each of our pitch ideas? 
  • What questions do you have about another group’s pitch? 
  • How did recreating the front-page picture from a different perspective prepare us for the editors’ challenge? 
  • How is looking at an image from multiple perspectives similar to finding missing information in a text?


  • Why is it important to look for information and/or perspectives that aren’t included in historical texts? 
  • Who gets to tell history? 
  • How will the discoveries we made today affect how you read this text in the future?
Extensions/Applications : 


Presenting to the Editors Using the notes from this session, groups (or individuals) write a full pitch paragraph, focusing on how to convince the editors their article needs to be written. Groups present polished pitches for teacher in role as newspaper editor. How did your pitch evolve throughout the brainstorming, writing, and presenting process?

Writing Articles Write full newspaper articles based on the class pitches. What picture should accompany each article? Work together as a class to plan and produce a newspaper. Assign roles and identify responsibilities. Share newspaper with other classes as a potential supplement to their existing texts. 

Journaling Ask participants to imagine that they are the people in the background of the front-page image. As they watch strangers arrive on the shore, what are they thinking? How are they feeling?


USA Studies Weekly: 1565 to the Present, “The Age of Discovery,” vol. 7, issue 1, (Grade 5)


  • Investigate: research or study something so as to discover facts or information
  • Perspective: a point of view
  • Indigenous: native; originating or occurring naturally in a particular place
  • Pitch: a form of words used when trying to persuade someone to buy or accept something

Lesson created by Laura Epperson and Bex Orton