Activity 4: Addressing the Essential Questions across Sources

 What was the impact of the European settlers encounters with the New World?

  • Are the Spanish encounters characterized better as conflict or coexistence?*
  • What happened when European settlers met the people of the Americas?
  • How did the attitudes of European colonizers shape the way they colonized the New World?


  • To introduce the idea of sourcing (Goal 2: Historical Thinking) (Link to Goals)
  • To help students learn how to corroborate across sources (Goal 2: Historical Thinking) (Link to Goals)
  • To help students begin “close reading” (Goal 1: Close Reading) (Link to Goals)
  • To consider the affordances and limitations of primary documents (Goal 2: Historical Thinking) (Link to Goals)
  • To learn how Zinn and De Las Cases depict Columbus’ contact with the “New World”
  • To consider why an author (in this case, Zinn) might use certain sources (in this case, De Las Cases) and not others.

De Las Casas

Activity 4.1: T-Chart


  1. Introduce T-Chart
  • Return to the original map and remind students of the questions (What was the impact of the European settlers’ encounters with the “New World? Are the Spanish interactions characterized better as conflict or coexistence?)
  • Have students generate a T-chart. The left side is “Coexistence” and the right side is “”
  • Share thinking about organizing notes into a T-chart: Why did I create a T-chart? Notice how I used the question to help me organize my notetaker.  This particular question asks me to consider encounters”—not a very descriptive word.  Encounters could mean coexistence or   In order to create an interpretation of the Spanish interaction, I have to have a clear definition of vague words; this will help me develop a coherent argument.  A clear definition of vague words also help give me a frame for analyzing my sources; I look for evidence of either coexistence or conflict, which I think helps define the vague word encounters.  Does this structure work for every question?  NO.
  • Discuss with students the definitions of the two words, coexistence and conflict.
  • Model what a note should look like, using the Zinn text.
  • Have students analyze the Zinn chapter using the T-Chart.

Sourcing Introduction.

  1. Sourcing Introduction—Source: de Las Casas.
    • With final five minutes of class remaining, distribute copy of de Las Casas primary source to students.
    • Direct students to “Source the document” and then read it, annotating as they read.
    • Allow students remaining time in class to interact with text.
    • Collect the primary source paper from students at the end of .

Eventually, I want students to engage in sourcing in a deep way, but I am intentionally vague with the directions here.  I am informally assessing the way students interact with primary sources.  I’m interested to see the ways in which they make sense of the text through their annotations.  I photocopy their pages to have a copy of their initial thinking around the skill of sourcing at the beginning of the school year.

Activity 4.2Characteristics of Primary Source Documents (e.g. De Las Casas)

Purpose:  To help students distinguish between primary and secondary sources in terms of their characteristics and the affordances and limitations they bring to the study of the past.

Materials:      De Las Casas


 “Write Now”—What are the characteristics of primary source documents? Students write individually, then share.  We write a class list of characteristics. Here is an example of the list generated by one class at the beginning of the school year. 

It is important to begin the discussion early, and continue through the school year, about the characteristics that define primary and secondary sources.  I have learned not to assume that students understand the characteristics, and so I find this to be an important question to ask and debrief.

Activity 4.3: Reading De Las Casas using SOAPStone and “Close Reading”


  1. Introduce the idea of “sourcing” using SOAPStone. I model the thinking for .
  2. Engage in a close reading of De Las Casas.
  • ModelI explain that to read closely students may need to read the text several times for different purposes. This time, I am asking them to go back into the text to find evidence to support their thinking about how De Las Casas views the Columbus contact with indigenous peoples (coexistence or conflict).  I model by reading a part of De Las Casas.  In the model, I ask myself these questions:  What attitude is expressed by De Las Casas?  How do I know?  What words or phrases support my answer?  I annotate the text with these questions in mind.
  • Guided PracticeStudents practice close reading to determine what De Las Casas’ main claim was and to revise their T-charts if necessary, using evidence from the text.
  • FeedbackDiscuss students’ thoughts about the De Las Casas piece.

Student Responses: Here are some example student t-charts.

3. Zinn’s use of De Las Casas as a source

  • Ask the following questions to guide small group discussion.
    • What does Zinn conclude about the encounters between the Spanish and Native Americans? (Thus began the history of European invasion…a history of conquest)
    • How does Zinn use evidence from Las Casas to construct his account?
    • Knowing what you already know about Zinn, why do you think Zinn would depend so heavily on this particular account?
  • Share out in whole group discussion

Activity 4.3Characteristics of tertiary sources (textbooks and resources)

 Purpose:  To help students distinguish among primary, secondary and tertiary sources in terms of their characteristics and the affordances and limitations they bring to the study of the past.


  • “Write Now”—How is a textbook, which is an account of past events, different from primary and secondary sources?
  • Share out. Generate a list of characteristics

ReflectionThis is an important conversation to have with students, considering that most students view the textbook as an absolute authority.

Activity 4.4Addition of Bailey Text


  • To determine what perspective Bailey has on Columbus’ encounters with the New World
  • To consider the type of evidence Bailey uses to construct his account of history
  • To understand the argument Bailey is making about the Columbian Exchange.


De Las Casas


  1. Introduce: Introduce Bailey text (students’ main textbook).  Ask students to review it, looking at the kinds of evidence represented in the various features of the chapter on the Columbian Exchange (Columbian exchange map, smallpox drawing, maps, drawing of Tenochtitlan and Cortes).  And why those features are significant (what they can tell from them about how Bailey views Columbus’ encounters.
  2. Read: Students read the text chapter information on the Columbian Exchange to do the following:
    • Identify where the products in the Columbian Exchange originated.
    • Describe the ways in which lives and lifestyles could change based upon the exchange of goods.
    • Determine which area of the world benefitted the most from the Columbian Exchange.
    • Besides disease, determine the element had the most profound impact on Africa, Europe, and America.

3. Discuss: Students discuss answers to these questions.

4. Show other interpretations of Columbian Exchange. Google other depictions of the        Exchange.  Ask what the differences are compared to that in Bailey.  Ask why he chose          this particular version.

5. Close Reading of Bailey: Students read the chapter in Bailey to see how he                        characterizes European’s encounters with the “New World”  (coexistence or conflict).              Ask, “What evidence do you have to support your answer?”  They record this into their          T-Chart.  They are also asked to discover how Bailey uses De Las Casas. They discuss in        class.

Student Responses: Here are some example student t-charts.

6. Compare and Contrast Bailey and Zinn—Students are asked

  • How does Bailey’s use of Las Casas compare with Zinn?
  • How are the interpretations of the two historians different?
  • How can one primary source document be used to support two different interpretations?
  • What does the use of Las Casas by both Zinn and Bailey have to tell us about history?

Students can discuss in small groups and then share out.

Key UnderstandingWhen texts disagree, that disagreement tells us that the authors are interpreting history in different ways.  Historians may have paid attention to different sources or looked at history from different perspectives.  Recognizing differences can help us as readers of history to develop a deeper understanding of historical events, thus becoming more capable of making decisions about which interpretation to support.

Activity 4.5:      Other texts on Spanish Exploration


  • To determine what perspective El Requerimiento provides on the Spanish contact with the New World
  • To determine what students have learned about the Spanish Exploration


  1. Assessment: Quiz on Spanish Exploration—This is a standard MC quiz

   2. El Requerimiento

  • Sourcing—Allow students the five minutes to complete a SOAPSTone on El Requerimiento
  • Thinking aloud as I Question the text—I discuss with students the kinds of questions they can be asking when they analyze a source. Some answers to the questions may appear in the text or notes or an outside source.  I want students to understand not only what the text says, but also what it means in relation to the inquiry question.  So I model some of the kind of questions that can be asked.  El Requerimiento is a list of requirements of the native population by the Europeans.  It was meant to be read aloud in either Spanish or Latin.  Did the Indians understand what they heard?  What evidence exists that the native population comprehended their fate?  What motive did the King have in making these requirements?  Why would the King place blame on the natives for not converting?  How many native peoples in lands conquered by the Spanish actually converted?
  • Reading—Students read the text and fill in their T-Chart. Then they are asked to source Declaration of Josephe for homework.


Activity 4.6:  Reading the Declaration of Josephe


  • To determine what perspective the Declaration of Josephe provides on the contact with the New World
  • To assess students ability to construct claims and evidence.


  • The Declaration of Josephe


  1. In their small discussion groups, direct students to discuss their findings from sourcing the document (homework assignment from previous night). Prompt students to consider the following questions:
  • How did the Pueblo Indians resist?
  • What point were the Pueblo Indians trying to make to authorities?

2. Close reading of Declaration of Josephe.   

Students continue working in their small groups, but focus students’ close reading of the document on this question:

  • How does Josephe feel about the revolt? Does he sympathize or not?  What evidence do you have for your answer?

After students spend time discussing in their small groups, debrief as a whole class.

Students then work to fill in the T-Chart using evidence from the Declaration of Josephe.

3.Claim-Evidence Construction.  Students submit a paragraph response to the main inquiry question to give me an idea of where students are in their writing.

Student Responses: .   

4. Returning to the original definition of What is history?Ask students, “Based on what you now know, what is present and absent in your definition? If you were to rewrite your definition, what would it be?

  • Students return to their previous definitions of history and revise, if necessary.
    • Example:
      • Original Definition: History is a story of events that tells us why things are the way they are today. It’s everything that has happened before us and will be everything that will happen after us. History is about perspective. Who recorded the events and how does that influence what we learn from it
      • Revised Definition: History is a story of events that tells us why things are the way they are today. It’s everything that has happened before us and will be everything that will happen after us. Known History is told through various perspectives, some more accurate than others.
    • Example:
      • Original Definition: History is a story of the events of the past.
      • Revised Definition: History is a story of the events, people, and ideas of the past as seen through many perspectives.