Oct 31 2006

Navigating With Explorers

Students use Movie Maker and PowerPoint to retrace explorers' journeys.

Navigating With Explorers
Students Use Movie Maker and PowerPoint to retrace explorer's journeys.

What was it like for Christopher Columbus and other explorers to navigate unknown waters and discover new lands? At Forest Lake Elementary School in Columbia, S.C., fourth-graders retrace the steps of these New World explorers and re-create what early exploration was like through online research and multimedia presentations.

Lesson Description: This lesson begins with the focus question: “How did early Europeans explore the Americas, and why was this exploration important?”

Students will be assigned to cooperative groups, and they will be given an explorer to investigate. Each group will collect information using resources from the media center and the Internet. Students will evaluate and synthesize the information for use in a multimedia presentation.

In the media center, the library media specialist will review use of encyclopedia resources, nonfiction resources and South Carolina’s virtual library. Known as DISCUS, the virtual library’s name is derived from Digital Information for South Carolina Users.

In the technology center, the instructional technology specialist will review online search procedures and bibliography entries. Students will add to the information gathered from the media center research and then learn how to assemble the multimedia presentation in Windows Movie Maker or PowerPoint.

Students may choose how to present the information. Short video clips from United Streaming, a video content Web site or other approved Web sites can be incorporated. Students also can stage scenes and use still photography to insert into Movie Maker. Students have used original drawings and scanned them into the presentation and even written scripts for short plays and filmed them using the school’s video recorders or home recorders.

Students present projects to the class using an interactive white board.

Subject area: This unit was planned for fourth-grade social studies students but could easily be adapted for any level studying the exploration of the Americas. By using cooperative groups, a wider variety of sources of varying reading levels can be provided. Online research should be from previewed sites only.

The final project, a PowerPoint presentation or Movie Maker video, should be the choice of the cooperative group with freedom to be creative with the required information.

Standards: The lesson ties into several of the International Society of Technology in Education’s technology standards. It also meets media literacy standards and several South Carolina standards for social studies and language arts.

Grading Rubric: Students are graded based on information contained in the presentation. Each item is worth one point for a possible 10 points. One point is earned in each area: proper spelling and punctuation, the name of the explorer and the country from which he sailed, the dates of exploration, places explored, reasons for exploration, three facts about the explorer and his journey, a map depicting the exploration route, contributions that the explorer made to history and a bibliography of sources.

Paulette S. Williams is the instructional technology specialist at Forest Lake Elementary in Columbia, S.C.
Elizabeth E. Padget is the library media specialist at Forest Lake Elementary.

Teaching Tips

It’s hard to teach elementary students how to put information they’ve found on the Internet into their own words. In both the media center and the technology lab, teachers instruct the children on how to read information and then paraphrase what they’ve learned.