Lessons & Classroom Games for Teachers
Columbus day, observed on the second Monday in October, is a celebration in the United States that commemorates the discovery of the New World by European explorers. Most countries in North, South and Central America recognize at least one day during the year in tribute to discovery. In the United States, however, some Native American groups view it as a celebration of the destruction of their civilization. In an English as second language class, present the pros and cons of recognizing Columbus Day while focusing on vocabulary comprehension for the Age of Discovery.
Provide students with a one to two paragraph article written by yourself, downloaded or copied from a book explaining what is Columbus Day. Also provide a short biography on Christopher Columbus and why the celebration is controversial. Once the class has read it through out loud and individually, conduct exercises that test reading comprehension. Provide alternate copies of the text that that contains word gaps for students to choose or listen for the correct word to fill in the blank with. Separate the paragraph into small sections and have the students put the sections back in order. With the texts away, have the students write their own recap article about Columbus Day and read it to the class or to a partner.
For fun, low key activities that focus on the vocabulary concerning Columbus Day and the Age of Discovery, download, photocopy of create your own word searches and crossword puzzles. The games should include vocabulary such as Columbus, Spain, Nina, Santa Maria, Pinta, king, queen, Atlantic Ocean, voyage, hardtack, discovery, West Indies, sailors, scurvy, ships and Native Americans. Only do word searches and crossword puzzles after the story of Columbus and discovery are discussed with texts to connect the meanings to the visual words.
Older students, such as middle or high school, can participate in a classroom debate on whether Columbus Day should be observed. After discussion of the history or the day and the controversy, assign half of the class to be for Columbus Day and the other half against it. Have the groups discuss the pros and cons and make arguments for their ideas. The group arguing for Columbus Day must base its argument on the historical connection and how there would be no America, Canada, Mexico, Brazil and all other Central and South American countries as we know them without the Age of Discovery and the birth of globalization. The group against Columbus Day must argue that it is insensitive to the Native Americans whose cultures were affected.
There are many printable hands-on activities to conduct with young children, including coloring sheets, word matching, songs, cut outs of items on a ship and cut outs of colonial life. Match the cut outs to their appropriate location on a ship or on land. Young students should engage in activities only after an age-appropriate explanation of the history of Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. If available, cartoon documentaries are helpful for young children.
All age groups of ESL students benefit from video media as it contains audio and visual subtitles. There are many documentaries concerning the age of discovery and the life of Christopher Columbus. Documentaries are appropriate for older students while cartoons or historical picture books are appropriate for younger students.