Wayne RESA
Unit Abstract

In this unit students study early American History with a focus on the period prior to 1585.  Starting with the art of historical thinking, students review the questions historians ask in examining the past. After they reconsider the tools historians use (primary and secondary sources, artifacts), they explore their textbook as a type of secondary source.  In doing so, students examine text structures, text features, and the role of informational text in learning about the past.  This unit takes a separate examination of life in America, Africa, and Europe in order to set the stage for the convergence of these three worlds in America.  This approach prepares students to understand the exchanges and conflicts that resulted from the convergence of three distinct peoples in America.  Accordingly, students begin their study with America, using a geographic lens to identify major American Indian cultural groups and compare how people living in different geographic regions adapted to and modified their environments prior to the arrival of Europeans.  Students take an in-depth examination into the life and culture of Eastern Woodland American Indians.  Students then shift their focus to the continent of Africa.  In learning about how people lived in western Africa before the 16th century, students create a foundation for examining how the meeting of the three worlds affected people from this continent.  Next, students turn to Europe as global exploration began.  They analyze the goals, motivations, and developments that made sea exploration possible through case studies of various explorers.  Students explore the convergence of Europeans, American Indians, and Africans in North America after 1492.  In considering the Columbian Exchange, students describe the widespread movement of plants, animals, foods, communicable diseases, ideas, human populations, and goods, and how human societies were affected.  Finally, students analyze the consequences of the encounters and exchanges among these three worlds and how people from each continent viewed the convergence.


Stage One - Desired Results

Compelling Question

How did the interaction of three worlds transform human societies?

Supporting Questions
  1. How were the worlds of America, Africa, and Europe alike and different?
  2. How and why did the three worlds meet?
  3. How did Europeans, American Indians, and Africans view the meeting of their three worlds?
Content (Key Concepts)

cause and effect


Columbian Exchange

cultural diffusion




historical thinking

human/environment interaction

informational text

perspective/point of view


three worlds

Skills (Intellectual Processes)

Stage Two - Assessment Evidence

Unit Assessment Tasks

Stage Three - Learning Plan

Lesson Plan Sequence
  • An example of narrative text such as a story picture book or a chapter book
  • Chart paper
  • Crayons or markers (six different colors)
  • Colored Pencils, Crayons or markers: blue, yellow, green, brown (for each student)
  • Globe
  • Highlighters – at least two per pair of students in different colors
  • Map of North America
  • Overhead projector or document camera/projector
  • Salt and a piece of gold jewelry (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Small amount of peppercorns (one per student) and a peppercorn container
  • Sticky notes
  • Student journal or notebook
  • White construction paper
  • World Map
MI: ELA & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, & Technical Subjects K-5
MI: Grade 5
Reading: Literature
5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
RL.5.5. Explain how a series of chapters, scenes, or stanzas fits together to provide the overall structure of a particular story, drama, or poem.
Reading: Informational Text
2. Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
RI.5.2. Determine two or more main ideas of a text and explain how they are supported by key details; summarize the text.
Craft and Structure
4. Interpret words and phrases as they are used in a text, including determining technical, connotative, and figurative meanings, and analyze how specific word choices shape meaning or tone.
RI.5.4. Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases in a text relevant to a grade 5 topic or subject area.
5. Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (e.g., a section, chapter, scene, or stanza) relate to each other and the whole.
RI.5.5. Compare and contrast the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in two or more texts.
6. Assess how point of view or purpose shapes the content and style of a text.
RI.5.6. Analyze multiple accounts of the same event or topic, noting important similarities and differences in the point of view they represent.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas
7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.
RI.5.7. Draw on information from multiple print or digital sources, demonstrating the ability to locate an answer to a question quickly or to solve a problem efficiently.
9. Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take.
RI.5.9. Integrate information from several texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity
10. Read and comprehend complex literary and informational texts independently and proficiently.
RI.5.10. By the end of the year, read and comprehend informational texts, including history/social studies, science, and technical texts, at the high end of the grades 4–5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.
2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
W.5.2. Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information clearly.
Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration
1. Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
SL.5.1. Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 5 topics and texts, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly.
MI: Social Studies (2007)
3rd Grade
H3 History of Michigan (Through Statehood)
Use historical thinking to understand the past.
3 – H3.0.1 Identify questions historians ask in examining the past in Michigan (e.g., What happened? When did it happen? Who was involved? How and why did it happen?)
5th Grade
US History & Geography
U1 USHG ERA 1 – Beginings to 1620
U1.1 American Indian Life in the Americas
Describe the life of peoples living in North America before European exploration.
5 – U1.1.1 Use maps to locate peoples in the desert Southwest, the Pacific Northwest, the nomadic nations of the Great Plains, and the woodland peoples east of the Mississippi River (Eastern Woodland). (National Geography Standard 1, p. 144)
5 – U1.1.2 Compare how American Indians in the desert Southwest and the Pacific Northwest adapted to or modified the environment. (National Geography Standard 14, p. 171)
5 – U1.1.3 Describe Eastern Woodland American Indian life with respect to governmental and family structures, trade, and views on property ownership and land use. (National Geography Standard 11, p. 164, C, E)
U1.2 European Exploration
Identify the causes and consequences of European exploration and colonization.
Hide details
Grade 5
5 – U1.2.1 Explain the technological (e.g., invention of the astrolabe and improved maps), and political developments, (e.g., rise of nation-states), that made sea exploration possible. (National Geography Standard 1, p. 144, C)
5 – U1.2.2 Use case studies of individual explorers and stories of life in Europe to compare the goals, obstacles, motivations, and consequences for European exploration and colonization of the Americas (e.g., economic, political, cultural, and religious). (National Geography Standard 13, p. 169, C, E)
U1.3 African Life Before the 16th Century
Describe the lives of peoples living in western Africa prior to the 16th century.
5 – U1.3.1 Use maps to locate the major regions of Africa (northern Africa, western Africa, central Africa, eastern Africa, southern Africa). (National Geography Standard 1, p. 144)
5 – U1.3.2 Describe the life and cultural development of people living in western Africa before the 16th century with respect to economic (the ways people made a living) and family structures, and the growth of states, towns, and trade. (National Geography Standard 10, p. 162)
U1.4 Three World Interactions
Describe the environmental, political, and cultural consequences of the interactions among European, African, and American Indian peoples in the late 15th through the 17th century.
5 – U1.4.1 Describe the convergence of Europeans, American Indians and Africans in North America after 1492 from the perspective of these three groups. (National Geography Standard 10, p. 162)
5 – U1.4.4 Describe the Columbian Exchange and its impact on Europeans, American Indians, and Africans. (National Geography Standard 11, p. 164, E)
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Wayne RESA