Lesson 3: Hardships in Virginia & Role of Native Americans

Time Estimated: 2 days



Students will:

  1. Understand the initial hardships that the colonists faced.
  2. Understand that without the help of the Powhatans, the colonists would not have survived.







  1. Hook: Have students brainstorm what they know about the interactions between the Native Americans and the Colonists. Much of this may come from movies (i.e. Pocahontas) or the books that we have been reading in Language Arts class. Record this brainstorm session on newsprint and keep it so it can be referred to later.
  2. There are two dates that the students need to know about the struggles of the colonists: 1607-1608 winter (Freezing Time), and the winter of 1608-1609 (Starving Time). These were two of the harshest winters of the early colony. Most of the first two groups (over 500 total) died in these two winters.
  3. Use the writings of Percy and Smith to create a juxtaposition of the colonists' suffering and the different things that the Powhatans did to help them.
  4. Students should be put into small groups (two to three) with examples of the excerpts. Each group should read at least one example of the colonists and one of the Native Americans.
  5. Using the information gathered, have students write a journal consisting of at least four entries. For each winter, the diary should have an entry from the perspective of a colonist and the perspective of a Native.
  6. Students then need to create a sample person. This person is based on one of the entries that he/she created. The person can be Native or English. The student can create this person as a Jumping Jack, a paper-doll, a clothespin person, etc. This person should be dressed in a traditional way. Each student then needs to create a biography of the person that he/she created.
  7. Closing: Students will present their sample person by reading their biographies and one journal entry. These sample people will be saved to be included in the museum final project.
  8. Assessment:
    1. Students will be graded on the historical accuracy of their journal entries. Do they accurately describe the hardships of the Freezing Time and the Starving Time? Are the journal entries written from the perspective of a colonist and a Powhatan? (10 points)
    2. Students are assessed on the quality of their sample person. Does the person accurately depict either a Powhatan or an English Colonist? Is it thoughtfully and carefully created? (10 points)
    3. Students are assessed on the quality of their biography. Their biography should include information on that person's role in Jamestown. What did this person do for the colony? What was this person's life like before he became a colonist, or before the colonists arrived? What did this character do after these horrible winters? Did he/she survive? (10 points)




Students are using different writing strategies in this project. They are also creating an artistic representation of their person. This can be as complicated or as simple as the students choose.