Fourth-Grade Lessons on the Settlement of North Carolina

Students should understand the role of geographical features in settling places like Wilmington, N.C.
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Teaching the English settlement of North Carolina involves adequately demonstrating both the European and Native American views of the subject. This is especially important for fourth-grade students, who are often learning about the subject for the first time. Properly informing students about the settlement of North Carolina, therefore, involves understanding the geographic, economic and political forces that shaped the state.

1 Native American Perspectives

Any lesson plan about the settlement of North Carolina should begin with Native American perspectives. A class on this subject could begin by breaking students up into groups, and then assigning each group a Native American tribe from the North Carolina region to examine. These groups include the Cherokee, Catawba, Tuscarora and Algonquian. Give each group colonial-era primary source documents about their tribe, and have them explore questions about the tribe's language, customs, religion and government. Have each group present to the other students about their tribe. This informs students both about the natives and about primary source research.

2 Exploring the Colony

Students can learn about the settlement of North Carolina by recreating the experience of exploring a new land. To do this, break students into groups of three or four students. Assign each group a primary source document that narrates an explorer's view of North Carolina. Examples include John Lawson's "New Voyage to North Carolina" and William Bartram's "Travels Through North & South Carolina." Have each group either examine multiple characteristics of a specific region of North Carolina, or identify a specific characteristic throughout the state. These might include topography, fauna or flora. Students should specifically identify what explorers thought was especially strange.

3 Pirates of North Carolina

Piracy is a unique part of the history of the settlement of North Carolina, and students should have fun with this exercise. Most students will have heard of Blackbeard, so a good starting point is to watch one of the many Hollywood movies on this colorful figure, such as the 2006 and 1952 versions. From here, students should have a class discussion about why North Carolina was so attractive to pirates. Additionally, students should have an understanding of how early colonial settlement was impacted by piracy; they can use examples from the movie or from readings to learn more.

4 The Slave Trade

No lesson plan on the settlement of North Carolina is complete without a discussion of the colonial slave trade. At the fourth-grade level, students should be able to read and understand primary-source first-hand account narratives of the slave trade. In particular, students should look at the journey across the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to North Carolina, and read accounts of the challenges and difficulties of that trip. Students should read and reflect on the feelings of the characters involved. This could involve writing a short essay that details the process of enslavement, and how observers viewed the situation, for better or for worse.

Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan,, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.