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A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia

Conducting the Activity

Take what follows as a suggestion.  Feel free to modify it in any way you think appropriate given the group with which you work.

  1. Present the warm-up activity.
  2. Give each student a copy of the student assignment sheet.
  3. Explain that
  1. the sheet is a copy of one page from a book published in 1590 by a member of the first English colony in North America
  2. historians use documents like this (original sources) as part of their efforts to decide what happened in the past
  3. they will be given 5 minutes to read and translate the document into modern English
  4. you know that this will be difficult, but you want them to do their best without asking questions or talking with each other during this 5 minute period
  5. after the 5 minutes are up, they will have a chance to discuss the sheet and their translations with each other
  1. Give the class 5 minutes to work individually on their translations.
  2. When the 5 minutes are up, divide the class into groups of 4 or 5.  Explain that each group should arrive at a consensus translation of the document.  Have each group appoint one member to act as the recorder who will prepare the written consensus translation.
  3. Allow the groups up to 15 minutes to discuss the document and prepare their consensus translations.
  4. When the 15 minutes are up, reconvene the class.
  5. Allow one member from each group to read its consensus translation.
  6. Identify the differences among the groups' efforts, and work out one translation acceptable to all.
  7. Pose and discuss the following questions.
  1. What differences are there between 1590 English and modern English?
  2. How did each group resolve translation issues?
  3. How do they think historians deal with documents like this one, or those that are even more difficult?
  4. In what ways might contemporary documents be more difficult to interpret than the Briefe and True Report?
  1. Distribute the sheet of plausible translations.
  2. Review the translations and compare them to the translation upon which the class agreed.
  3. (optional) Distribute and discuss the list of language lessons learned.

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original web posting: Thursday, July 8, 1999
last modified: Friday, April 08, 2005