Who Writes History? Rethinking Columbus Day
Grade Levels: 5 - 8
- Students will explore why certain historical figures get credit for their accomplishments while others are forgotten.
- Students will think about historical accuracy.
- Ask students to complete these instructions and answer the questions:
- Pick a person who is prominent in politics, government, science, or literature and write down his/her name.
- Why did you pick this person and what do you know about him/her?
- How and where did you get your information?
- If you lived in a different country, do you think you would have picked the same person to write about? Why or why not?
- Distribute the copies of Myths About Explorers and Just Where Was Columbus? and go over them with the students.
- Begin a class discussion using the following questions. Write student comments on the chart paper during the discussion to facilitate drawing conclusions at the end.
- If Columbus was not the first person to discover America, why do most people think he did?
- Can you name several reasons why you might have thought Columbus discovered America before you learned about other explorers such as Leif Ericson?
- How does history get remembered?
- Who decides which historical figure gets credit for a discovery?
- What does this tell you about the way history is written?
- As a concluding activity, ask the following question, review the comments written down during the discussion and ask students to use them to draw conclusions about the nature of history.
Is history a permanent, unchanging story of the past or is it something that changes over time? (think about the story of Columbus)?