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The Roanoke Mystery
In July 1585, the first English settlers began their attempt to build a
colony in North America. They survived one year before abandoning their efforts and
returning to England. In April 1587,
John White, one of the first colonists, led a
second attempt to establish a permanent colony. Within a few months, a supply
shortage forced him to sail back to England. He was unable to return until 1590 when
he found that all other members of the second colony had disappeared.
The story of that second colony forms the basis of this
activity. It not only provides a way to get your students up and moving about
the classroom in a purposeful manner, but also illustrates a key activity that
makes up the professional lives of research historians - taking what often seem
to be random bits of information found during research, and organizing them into
a coherent story. It also can be used to help students develop the skills
necessary to function effectively in groups.
- Before you start, you'll need a set of 3 by 5 index cards printed with
story segments; one for each student. You may create those by downloading
and editing the Microsoft Excel 2007 file
RoanokeMystery.xlsx to create the exact number of story segments you'll
need, then using Microsoft Word's merge printing feature to print them onto
Avery 5388 (or equivalent) index card sheets from the Word 2007 file
RoanokeMystery.docx Be sure to note
the location on your hard drive where you save these two files, so you can
locate them and make the merge process work properly. Instructions for
editing the Excel file (and printing the story segments) are contained
within the Excel file, on its Instructions tab. If you do not have MS Word
and Excel, click here for a page that
contains the 35 story segments. You may copy them to any word processing
program for editing into the number necessary to match the number of
students in your class, and then to print them onto Avery 5388 (or
equivalent) index cards.
- If you like, you may use A Briefe and True Report
of the New Found Land of Virginia with your students before they explore
The Roanoke Mystery.
- Conducting this activity.
- If you need to, you may adapt this activity for those with reading and
- Divide your class into small groups, no bigger than 10 each.
- Instead of distributing the segments I've provided, identify a
sentence for each group, print each of its words and punctuation marks
on 3 by 5 cards, then distribute these to the members of the small
groups. Adjust the instructions
for conducting the activity to accommodate the smaller group sizes,
and the fact that they'll be assembling sentences rather than the
complete story; then set the groups to work. Once the allotted time is
up, allow each group to present the sentence it assembled. Call on the
groups in the order that their sentences tell at least a coherent
section of the Roanoke story. Discuss problems the groups had, how they
dealt with them, and how they might better deal with them in future
activities of this type.
- After you finish, you may try variations of this activity using
- a different history story.
- proverbs and the adapted instructions for less able readers.
Assembling proverbs in this way leads to great discussions of their
- On May 3, 2012, the New York Times published a report on work
done on an original John White map that might lead to information as to the
fate of the Lost Colony. You may read the article at
The British Museum report that presents the new findings may be read at
- You may also want to try other Classroomtools.com activities that deal with
- History and other Social Studies
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original web posting: Saturday, June 18, 2011
Saturday, May 05, 2012