Story-telling and discussion: KS1 exemplar: Columbus the explorer

Short Lesson Exemplar

Published: 9th December 2010

Please note: this resource pre-dates the 2014 National Curriculum.

Setting the scene: what is an explorer?

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Lynn Cowell's Year 2 class were beginning a topic about a famous person, Christopher Columbus. Lynn started by asking the class: 'What is an explorer?' The children brainstormed their ideas about explorers and Lynn listed their preliminary ideas on the board, categorized under headings suggested by the class. Lynn now told the children they were going to test their ideas by listening to a story about a real explorer of long ago: Christopher Columbus.

Telling the story, and follow-up

Lynn told the story of Columbus, using six pictures to illustrate episodes in the tale. (You could find some using Google 'Images' with Columbus as the Search term.)

Lynn then focused attention on a large poster-sized picture of Columbus, asking the children what they observed about his dress and expression, and what the picture told them about the past. From the children's responses Lynn built up on the blackboard a table showing ways in which the past differed from the present.

Selecting and sequencing

The next day Lynn put the children into groups and gave each group of children an identical set of pictures about Columbus.

She asked the groups to select just eight pictures that showed what they considered to be important parts of the Columbus story.

The groups then sequenced their chosen pictures and prepared a caption for each picture. Each group's pictures, with their captions, were mounted on card and made into a zig-zag book.

Discussing different interpretations

Each group showed its book to the rest of the class, telling their version of the story.

Lynn drew out the differences between each group's account. At the end she asked the class why each version was slightly different from the others.

Some of the children began to recognize that different people remember things differently, and that the choice of pictures would influence the ways things were told. Certain events would become the main focus of the story, depending upon which pictures were selected and how they were interpreted.

This was an important step in the children's awareness of historical interpretation, and their recognition that there are many versions of the Columbus story.

The idea of significance

Lynn now asked the class how famous people are remembered.

The children had lots of ideas, including that of a commemorative shield or coat of arms. This idea was taken up, and in discussion led by Lynn the notion of a quartered shield emerged.

In their groups, the children drew four pictures that illustrated what they considered to be significant episodes in Columbus's story. Each group was asked to justify their choice of pictures to the whole class.

Afterwards Lynn showed them the actual coat of arms given to Columbus by Queen Isabella of Spain. 

Follow-up exemplar

Columbus: was he a hero?