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HistoryFix: Roanoke the Lost Colony

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from HistoryFix
Historical Topic: Roanoke the Lost Colony Students Write: a newspaper article

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Roanoke the Lost Colony

This writing across the curriculum lesson was proposed by Nevada teachers Christy Hodge.

She considers this history lesson to be appropriate for students in grades 3-5.

Lesson Overview:

Objectives/Overview: The students will come up with a theory of their own based on the story Roanoke The Lost Colony, An Unsolved Mystery From History. This lesson will give students an opportunity to become a detective and evaluate historic events on a timeline and clues given throughout a children’s story. The students will evaluate clues to determine their own theory about what happened to the Lost Colony at Roanoke.

  • The students will use clues, a timeline and word lists from the story in order to determine a final outcome.
  • The students will make predictions based on evidence throughout the story.
  • The students will write a theory based on what they think happened to the lost colony of Roanoke.
  • The students will create a newspaper article with the headline about the missing colony and include their theory in it.

Time Needed:This lesson will take one hour for two or three days.

Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Idea Development (writing with a clear, central idea or theme in mind, putting researched ideas into one’s own words)
  • Organization (beginning the writing with a strong introduction, ending the writing with a satisfying conclusion by linking the conclusion back to the introduction)
  • Voice (conveying passion towards the message of the writing or the topic; thinking about and making decisions to acknowledge the intended audience)

Materials List:

Background Information:

Roanoke the Lost Colony was a group of English people who came to America around the year 1585, just 22 years before the Jamestown colony and 37 years before pilgrims set foot in Massachusetts. They came to America in order to start a new colony that would bring many settlers to the new world. In 1585 Englishmen John White and Thomas Harriet were sent to Roanoke Island, off the coast of North Carolina to record life of the Algonquin Indian. In 1587 White returned to be the head of the colony of settlers, welcomed with a feast from the Croatoans, the native people of the island. Virginia Dare, White’s granddaughter, was born and was the first English baby born in North America. In 1588 White returned to England for supplies. He was to return a year later, but war between England and Spain limited ships to the war effort . Almost three years later he returned only to find the colony had deserted the island. The word CROATOAN was carved on a post and CRO carved on a tree. The Roanoke settlement of 117 men, women and children disappeared without much of a trace and became known as The Lost Colony. Today it still remains a mystery.

Teacher Instructions:

  • The teacher will begin by going over the list of vocabulary words that are presented in the story.

  • The teacher will then read the story Roanoke The Lost Colony, An Unsolved Mystery From History, and write down clues on a chart paper that are given in the story. The teacher should write the timeline given at the end of this piece of literature on the chart paper.

  • The chart paper will help students find important information necessary for the writing lesson.

  • When the teacher has completed the reading the class will share out what they think might have happened to The Lost Colony.

  • The teacher will give the students a newsletter template, the primary source document script of the original notes taken by John White, and this writing prompt: Suppose you lived in the year 1590 and suppose there had been newspapers during that time. Write a news headline that discusses Roanoke and the disappearance of the first colony to be established. In the headline you will need to tell your theory of what happened to this colony. Include important details and information that would allow you and the reader to believe this theory and news story to be true. Be sure to use six new vocabulary words within the text in order to spice up your writing.  

  • On the template, have the students write a rough draft for a news article about John White finding the colony deserted. Have the students include key facts that you have charted down and other facts from the timeline. They can read the script of the original notes and include key information from that. This news article should be written under lead story. In the Secondary headline have the students write: “Historian [Student's Name] believes….. and continue by writing the theory of what they think happened. In the sides they have to make it look like a real paper and add headlines from that time period

  • After the students have organized and perfected the news article, have them type or re-write it on to a piece of white construction paper. The idea is to make it look like a real newspaper article following the format of the template.

  • Be sure the students have used voice, organization and idea development in this news article. The students need to have a good hook, a beginning, middle, and end, and specific information from the story. Having the students use vocabulary words from the text will help them spice up the article and make it more realistic and from the time period.

  • Have the students share their work with the class. They will enjoy hearing each others theories and predictions of what may have occurred causing the entire colony to disappear without a trace.

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