Do you need ideas for teaching colonization? Here you will find book suggestions, comprehension ideas, projects, crafts, activities, and more. These lessons are also included in one of my best-selling social studies units!

Mentor Text

When I am teaching a social studies unit, I love to recommend some great books for my students to read or to use as a read-aloud tool. Here are some suggestions for a colonial unit!

You Wouldn’t Want to Be an American Colonist by Jacqueline Morley

The Dreadful, Smelly Colonies: The Disgusting Details About Life in Colonial America by Elizabeth Raum

The New Americans: Colonial Times by Betsy Maestro

American Colonies: Setting of North America by Alan Taylor

Who’s That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? by Jean Fritz

Informational Text

If you don’t have a social studies book to follow that includes accurate information, find credible sources for informational text. Make sure to provide information on the following:

Columbian Exchange

Spain in the New World

France in the New World

England in the New World

The 13 Colonies

The Southern Colonies, including Roanoke and Jamestown

The Middle Colonies

The New England Colonies, including Plymouth Rock

Triangular Trade

Comprehension Ideas

When teaching social studies, there are so many great opportunities to use different reading skills and strategies.

INFERENCE: Inference is an idea developed from evidence and reasoning. It is another way of saying ‘make an educated guess,’ which is a simple way to explain it to students. Using inference-type questions help readers gain a deeper understanding of the material.

For example:  What do you think happened to the settlers at Roanoke? This gives them the chance to use the information they have to consider what possible conclusions to this question there are, as supported by the available evidence given in the material.

This blog post offers teaching strategies for inference.  Click Here.

TEXT EVIDENCE: In order to prove an answer or conclusion that is logical and valid, ask students to provide evidence from the text.

This blog post gives step-by-step instructions for text evidence.  Click Here.

WRITING: Writing Across the Curriculum (WAC) is known to advance how students grasp the subject matter. It helps transform students into critical thinkers.

For example:  Have students pretend they lived during the colonial era and discuss their experiences in-depth, which also encourages imaginative learning skills.

This blog post offers more ideas for WAC.  Click Here.

CAUSE AND EFFECT: Using cause and effect questions helps students think about the subject more critically.

For example:  What is the effect? Robert LaSalle discovered land up and down the Mississippi.

What is the cause? The settlers had no political rights.

This blog post offers more ideas for teaching cause and effect.  Click Here.

GRAPHIC ORGANIZERS: When students gather information and categorize it, it helps them retain the information.

For example:  England in the New World: categorize information for resources, religion, government, and Native Americans.

COMPARE AND CONTRAST: Venn diagrams are a great way to get students thinking! I even like triple Venn diagrams!

For example: Compare and contrast Spain, France, and England in the New World.

Research, Charts, and Maps

RESEARCH COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE: Divide your students into three groups: plants, animals, and diseases. Give them a list of items from each category, and have them research where they originated- in the Old World or the New World. They can make a T-Chart with their findings.

COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE FOOD RESEARCH: Research the ingredients in one of your favorite meals. Determine if the ingredients came from the Old World or the New World, or both. If the ingredients came from both, choose the Old World or the New World. Explain how the meal would taste if you didn’t have the ingredients from the other world. What would the differences be between the meal prepared either way?

VOCABULARY CHART: Have students record new words they find in their reading. Include a space for the definition.

EUROPEAN TERRITORY MAP: Provide a map of North America. Have students draw the territories for Spain, France, and New England in 1682.

13 COLONIES MAP: Provide a map of the United States. Have students draw and color territories fo Southern, Middles, and New England Colonies.

TIME LINE PROJECT: Review the directions and model for the students on how to make the time line. These directions are for a digital time line, but you can certainly have them do it with a pen and paper.

  1. Choose 10 dates related to the 13 colonies.
  2. Find a digital picture related to the 13 colonies and download it onto your computer.
  3. Go to Timetoast and create a username and password (you will need an email address).
  4. On the website, create a title and upload the picture you downloaded earlier.
  5. From the 10 dates you chose, create a time span.
  6. Next, add each of your events: type in your yours (months and days are not required for this time line), a title for each date, and a brief explanation.
  7. Add either a web link to an illustration or insert a picture to represent each event.
  8. Check your mechanics (capitalization, usage, punctuation, spelling)!
  9. Click “View This Time Line.”
  10. Copy your browser link and share it with your teacher.

Crafts, Projects, and Activities

COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE MODELING: Have each student create a picture go an item from the Columbian Exchange. To make sure they don’t draw the same picture, make a list of items and have students pick one out of a hat to draw. Create a space in the room for the Old World and another for the New World. Students must carry their illustration to the correct spot in the room. Give a signal to start moving, and have students move to the new area. This models the exchange.

LOG HOUSE: Create a log house: Click here! Use pretzel sticks instead of rolling the logs with paper!

QUILL WRITING: Tell students to pretend they are signing the Mayflower Compact! It is worth it to buy a few cheap quill pens to use in writing centers that week. Use them year after year!

DRESS UP: Have students dress up as a colonial boy or girl. Have a feast or give extra credit for dressing up while presenting a project.

BAKE COOKIES: Find recipes from the different colonies.

CRAFT A WAMPUM BELT: This blog has instructions:


  1. To set up the game, draw a large circle on the floor. The circle must be 10 feet around (you can use chalk or masking tape).
  2. Make a big X (or criss-cross) in the middle with 13 marbles.
  3. Give each player a big marble, which is called a shooter.
  4. Next, take the big marble and rest it on the bottom of your index finger.
  5. Put the nail of your thumb under your index finger, and flick your thumb up to hit the marbles.
  6. Try to knock the targets out with your shooter.
  7. Now, three things may happen; you could knock a marble and your shooter out of the circle you can knock a marble out but not your shooter, or you can hit nothing at all. The marbles you knock out are yours. You keep your turn if the shooter stays in the circle.
  8. The winner is the one who collects seven marbles first!


I hope you found some useful tips to use for your colonial unit. All of these ideas, along with informational text, comprehension questions, charts, maps, study guides, quizzes, tests, and useful links for videos and articles are included in my Colonization Unit! You won’t need a textbook. Just download and teach! There is also an edition for students to use on tablets, along with an informational text booklets as a separate file included in the download.