Mayflower Diagrams

Friday, March 25, 2016

We recently started reading about early English colonies like Roanoke, Jamestown, and Plymouth. Colonists had to have amazing constitutions to survive life in the new settlements, but what has been more amazing to my students (and me) is the trip from England to the new world on the ship.

We did a little extra digging into the voyages on ships like the Mayflower. The Mayflower was a merchant ship and not really intended for voyagers. The 102 passengers mainly stayed in the gun deck or "tween" deck in a space that was about 80' long, 24' wide, and a ceiling height of about 5 1/2'. To give you a little comparison, a school bus is usually 40' long, so the Mayflower is the length of two school buses parked one in front of the other.

In order to visualize the parts of the ship a little better, the students are creating cutaway Mayflower diagrams with 14 main ship parts labeled. We defined the ship parts first and then searched Mayflower diagrams and pictures to draw our own cross-sections of the ship.

I found this SITE and this SITE with reliable definitions for the students, but there were plenty of other online resources. Google images had great results too. I gave the students this Mayflower Ship Parts Handout, and they completed the definitions first. After we compared definitions, students used legal sized white paper (and rulers) to draw, label, and color their diagrams. We did not quite finish before spring break, but I love the way the diagrams look so far. This has been a great activity to enhance my history content as well as work with proportion and measurement.


Explorer Infographics

Thursday, February 18, 2016

I recently attended the SCCTE teacher conference where I gathered many great ideas, but my favorite session shared strategies for creating visual arguments with infographics as a variation on the persuasive essay. The presenters used this project with college and high school level students. I needed to make some adjustments but wanted to try it with my 4th graders. My students just finished reading about famous explorers, and I fiddled with some activity ideas until I came up with a way to use the infographics.

Explorer v. Explorer

  • We started with a little background reading to get a feel for the format of comparing two topics based on data. I paired students and had them read various Who Would Win? books by Jerry Pallotta. They noted the format of the book and how the author compared two wildly different animals. We then discussed how a "winner" is chosen based on the statistics and facts.
  • Keeping the Who Would Win? books in mind, the students chose two explorers we had studied during our explorer unit and spent a day doing further research. The students were looking for data or numbers they could compare between their two chosen explorers. The students located basic biographical facts as well as stats like number of voyages, length of voyage, size of the crew, sponsoring country, areas conquered, etc. 
  • The students completed this Explorer v. Explorer Planning Page.
  • We then created individual free accounts at I gave the students a class period to create a "test" infographic. We started with one of the free templates and clicked around on the tools and tested different formatting options. We had the most fun creating charts and tables and using the icons. 

  • Currently, my students are completing their Explorer v. Explorer infographic. The side by side comparison is forcing the students to think about why one explorer might be "greater" than another even though these men were often ruthless.

Now that the students have the hang of Piktochart, I think we will use the site again. It would be fun to create visual displays for other topics in science, math, reading, or really any subject. They work well for timelines or as a way to share small blocks of information about a single topic.

To see an explorer timeline activity that the students completed as a pre-activity leading up to the infographics, CLICK HERE.

Happy Comparing!