Engagement, Inquiry, and Diversity in Grade 4/5

If the explorers Champlain, Vancouver, Mackenzie, Cabot, Hudson and Cartier were on a ship and it became too heavy to operate, who would get to stay based on their accomplishments?  This is the question posed to Grade 4/5 students in Heather Fawke’s class.  They will plead their case to Grade 3 classes based on research they have done on one of six explorers who explored Canada.


To get the Grade 4/5s excited about the journey they would undertake, I gave them a little background to understand the conditions which preceded the age of exploration.  I pause OFTEN and get the students to think/pair/share, wonder, make connections, compare, and share with the class their thinking.

Now that the students had some understanding of Europe during the Middle Ages, I wanted to show them the conditions that created exploration.

First Contact – a clever librarian in our district found a few sites to help students understand what happened when Europeans met First Nations.  I do not show all of the first video and for all three videos, I stop often to highlight the difference between European land use and First Nations land use.  The videos also talk about how the relationship was mutually beneficial at the start.  I ask the students to look for evidence of the relationship between their explorer and local FN when they begin to research.




Research – Now that students had some background knowledge of exploration, it was time to begin their own guided research

  • Students were asked to pick one of the six explorers to research.  The explorers they may choose from are: Champlain, Vancouver, Mackenzie, Cabot, Hudson, and Cartier.  Once the research was complete, students created a slideshow of the explorer.
    • All students, regardless of ability, were given the option of group research on John Cabot with me OR to work alone.  Heather worked in the computer lab with the majority of the class while I worked in the library with the smaller group.
    • Students could use books, the carefully curated page on the library website  http://www.scoop.it/t/canadian-explorers and World Book for kids and World Book for students on the school database.

First, they needed to find out the basics IntroductoryGraphicOrganizer.  This was an excellent way to get students interacting with the resources.

Next, we gave the students a big graphic organizer explorer graphic organizer   This was overwhelming!  Heather and I broke it down into manageable pieces which has worked out well with in trials with other classes.

Once the organizers were complete, students started working on their slideshows.  Heather had the students include a route map by grabbing a suitable map from Scribblemaps and drawing the route using the slideshow tools.  Before the slideshows were complete, Heather passed out evaluation rubrics  RubricSlideshow and displayed two teacher-created slideshows of the same explorer to demonstrate a well done vs. poorly done product. The good example  The bad example   Students took a few extra days to improve their slideshows before presenting them in front of the class.  Heather had each child share their project with the class so students could learn about the other explorers.  Next time, we will divide the class and share the load.  NOTE FOR NEXT TIME:  Heather found that using transitions between the slides of the route maps was distracting.  Although we had told the students to choose an easy to read font and colour, some were difficult to read.  This could be fixed by giving them a choice of font and colour.  Heather was generally quite happy about the Slideshows.  Students had adequate information and demonstrated general knowledge of their explorer.  Here are two examples:  Henry Hudson and Alexander Mackenzie.

The Final Project!

After the student slideshows had been presented, we introduced the culminating critical thinking activity –  the HMS KELSET project.  Explorer Overboard  The project had to include a poster of the explorer RubricPoster  Rubrics were passed out for each of the options Rubrics   Students were given two weeks to complete the project at home.

Examples of project boards were shown.  Students presented their posters and projects to classmates where it was marked by Heather and feedback was given by classmates.  Students had three days to make changes before performing for the Grade 3 classes.

Grade 3s were given some background information and what to look for in a good presentation.  Each Grade 3 would vote for one of the 9 Grade 4/5 students presenting.

We found that MOST Grade 4/5 students tried to include too much background information and didn’t focus specifically on the explorers’ specific contribution.  Since this was the only part of the unit done at home, we feel parents didn’t understand this need not be a summary of information.  Rather than using a poster format, we might switch to photos shown on a document camera for easy viewing.  Here are some clips of creative elements we can show to future students:  Interview with John Cabot, video clip 1, video clip 2, George Vancouver reinactment