“In 1492, Christopher Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue.”

Paméla Shembo, Fifth Grade, E.E. Waddell International Language Academy

Curriculum Unit (pdf)


The historical figure at the center of this unit is Christopher Columbus. Through social studies and English language arts lessons, the students will learn more about the man, his dream, his sponsors, his motivations, his voyages and his impact on the populations that he encountered. The students will also learn about Spain in 1492: The Catholic Monarchs, the frightening Inquisition, the importance of the end of the Reconquista, and the Edict of Expulsion of the Jews. Moreover, they will reflect on the concept of tolerance and, at the end of the unit, will debate whether Christopher Columbus should be glorified, as he has been historically, vilified, as he has been more recently, or whether his legacy deserves a more nuanced, complicated recounting.

The resources used in these lessons are highly visual: the paintings, the maps, the cartoons, the drawings facilitate discussions easily conducted in any language. The students are exposed to two pieces of literature, the picture book Encounter by Jane Yolen and the fascinating letter of Christopher Columbus to Luis de Sant Angel, the treasurer of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, that lead them to compare and contrast the point of view of the Native Americans versus the explorer.