To kick off our study of Columbus and colonization, we started with a Venn diagram about our previous knowledge of the explorer, and we conducted a brainstorm around the words "primitive" and "civilized." Next, we checked our bias around those words by deciding if various activities and capabilities of societies seem primitive or civilized. This particular lesson comes from Teaching Tolerance, which is a fabulous resource.
With our own pre-conceptions of what makes a civilized society in mind, we read about and researched many sophisticated components of pre-Columbian Native American society. Everyone was responsible for creatively presenting on one component, but could work together if they wanted.
While reading the chapter about Columbus, the Arawak Indians, and Colonization, students took turns as "picture master," meaning they could look up images related to what I was reading in real time, thus giving the group visuals while they listened. Some students also toon notes or sketched on-topic while listening.
Students presented to the group on the aspects of Pre-Columbian Native American life they researched during the day. Ben and Alex write haikus about water pipe systems and navigation techniques, Sophia gave a visual PowerPoint presentation on the oral traditions and written language systems used to pass history down through generations, John and Sebastian showed us pictures and explained how elders were respected and about minimally violent warfare practices, and Katherine shared a photo slide show about sustainable hunting and natural resource use.