Illustrative Examples of Units of Practice

Early Explorers Meet The Press


History comes to life, as students in this unit have a chance to both be historical figures and to cross-examine these historical figures about motives and results of well-known explorations that have affected the European influence in Canada and North America. Students will use the Internet to conduct research. They will prepare maps, artifacts and costumes; present characters and interview others; chronicle events with digital cameras; and create a newspaper about the experience. Students will actively use skills developed through co-operative learning and role-playing. Second language learners have authentic opportunities to use both written and oral French and/or English.

Subjects: Languages, Language Arts, Social Studies

Learning Levels: Grades 7-9

Author(s): Jennifer DesLauriers


What is the real story behind the early explorers?

Were they driven by promises of fame and fortune or were there personal reasons behind their voyages?

What were the real costs and results of these trips?

Was it really worth it?

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to ask them in person and let the world know the scoop?


Starting with some basic information, students will go on to research, present, challenge, and report original findings about the early explorers who lead the Westernization of North America


Students will investigate historical questions from social, political, geographic, and economic perspectives.

Students will use research techniques to find detailed information to make sense of historical events.

Students will role-play characters from history.

Students will gather information in a press-conference format, keeping notes and photos, for use in creating a newspaper.

Students will work co-operatively and collaboratively to complete a group task.


This unit will be taught primarily in the classroom. Students will need access to Internet-connected computers either in the classroom or in a computer lab. Students should be assigned or should choose to work in small groups of 4 or 5 to facilitate access to the computers, roles in group work, and role-playing as historical characters. In preparing the newspapers, each pair of students should have at least one computer for word processing.

The unit will begin with a whole class presentation, lecture, notes, and questions to introduce basic information about explorers and their historical eras.

After that, in small groups, students access the Internet to research more detailed information; develop a press statement and reporters’ questions; create costumes, props, and maps; and present their historical figures in a simulated press conference. During the press conference, students not presenting will act as reporters and photographers. Finally, again in their small groups, they will use the information and images gathered to create a newspaper of all the events presented.


The unit will last from 6-8 weeks, with 45 min. classes once a day. Second language learners will probably need the longer period of time.


It is expected that prior to starting this unit, students are familiar with

using a digital camera

searching the Internet in their language of choice

evaluating the authenticity of Internet sites, and

using a word processor or similar publishing application to create a newspaper

importing pictures from a shared location into a newspaper project work folder



Section 1: Introduction – Use this time period (about 8-10 classes) to introduce basic information about the explorers in question to all students.


Provide basic information such as:

 The explorer’s goals, country of origin, places visited, difficulties encountered, and major experiences using notes, images, reference materials, maps, video and other teacher located resources.


Introduce relevant vocabulary, terms, concepts, issues, timelines, maps and any primary documents or initial research materials associated with exploration and explorers to ensure that each student has an understanding of the chronology, geography, and economics of the early exploration.


For second language learners, it would be helpful to provide and review a series of guiding questions and answers orally. I have interspersed quick quizzes or jeopardy type games to encourage retention of facts, keep interest peeked, and practice second language production. This section could be a little dry, with a lot of information being covered in a relatively short time if there are few resources for the students to consult directly.


Section 2: Group Organization and Research – Either select or allow students to self-select to form groups of 4-5 male and female students, to delve into the details, motivations, and results of one of the explorers covered in the introductory section.


Students will work together to identify the major players, including the financial backer of the exploration, someone opposed to the voyage, and other participants such as family members, crew members involved in the exploration, and the perspectives of Aboriginal people encountered.


The group members will work together to research, through the Internet and other available resources, background information, such as the economic, political and social factors present in the world at the time (about 6-8 classes).


The group will be responsible to create a press statement, at least 2 questions, which reporters will ask, and the responses for each character. The reporters will ask the questions to them.


The group will require access to maps, artifacts, and costumes for use during the press conference. Remind the students that any props should be time period appropriate, e.g. Viking maps should not include Central America.


Students may need to be reminded to select appropriate Internet research terms and engines in their language of choice, and strategies to evaluate the authenticity of Internet sources. Regular evaluation of group learning and collaborative processes by its members may also be helpful.


For second language learners, it may be useful to provide sample questions for reporters. See attached:

Searching in French, Is it real? Group Evaluation, Sample Questions


Section 3: The Press Conference – In chronological order, each group should have one class to set up and present their explorer group (about 6-8 classes in total). They will hand out their prepared questions to student reporters from the other groups. Select from the reporters, certain students to be photographers. Encourage them to take pictures of the artifacts and maps as well as the group and players. The student reporters should also have questions of their own ready to ask. After the group has read their prepared statement and answered prepared questions, the rest of the students have the opportunity to “search out the scandal”. It may be useful to keep track of participation. The teacher may have to prod groups, rephrase questions, or assist students to encourage participation especially if second language learners are reluctant. Remind student reporters to keep notes for use in their news articles.


Section 4: The Newspaper – The groups will each create their own newspapers covering all the press conferences (about 6-8 classes). They should include photos taken with captions, headlines and text. Two students can work together on articles but all students should be sure to include their bylines with their articles. The newspaper should have a front page and contents. Photos can be kept in a sharable file for all students use. One student can keep the newspaper file and the others send their articles there. Students should also feel free to add puzzles, games, ads, and other features common to newspapers. When the paper is set up, print it off. At the end of the project students should have the opportunity to view and critique each other’s newspaper.


This unit involves whole class instruction and presentation, as well as students working in pairs and small groups of 4 or 5. The teacher should prepare handout notes of information at the students’ reading level. It is worth taking some time to engage the students in learning activities such as games and quizzes to reinforce the content. Some of the unit lessons involve visiting designated web sites and word processing. With Internet based activities, it is best to prepare the sites you want students to visit beforehand. An html document with the URL’s of sites to be used should be created and stored either on a teacher/school website, or as a document on the individual workstations.


Pairs or groups of 4/5 students working co-operatively with a single computer on a group project means that the teacher needs to develop rules about sharing, supporting behaviour, and work processes. A student worksheet to outline tasks and a group process self-evaluation sheet are both helpful and worth the effort to create.


Each group will need access to an Internet connected computer with an appropriate web browser and word processing program with columns and digital photo importing capabilities. The class will also need several digital cameras.


Software such as AppleWorks Draw , PageMaker or Publisher are suitable newspaper and layout programs.


Students will require teacher recommended web sites, teacher notes, and recommended classroom or library materials selected by the teacher to support the particular investigations.

Students will also need access to map-making materials, paper, coloured pencils, markers, etc. and items to use for costumes and artifacts.