Instructional Unit Authors

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Instructional Unit Authors

Buffalo School District

Julile Blake

Amy Gandee

Mindy Henry

Kari Michal

Courtney Rank

Vonnie Sonnenberg

Based on a curriculum overview Sample authored by

Cheyenne Mountain School District

David Eick
Colorado Springs School District

Charlee Archuleta

Poudre School District

Andrea Delory

This unit was authored by a team of Colorado educators. The template provided one example of unit design that enabled teacher-authors to organize possible learning experiences, resources, differentiation, and assessments. The unit is intended to support teachers, schools, and districts as they make their own local decisions around the best instructional plans and practices for all students.
Colorado’s District Sample Curriculum Project

date Posted: march 31, 2014

Social Studies

5th Grade

Colorado Teacher-Authored Instructional Unit Sample

Unit Title: The Melting Pot?

Content Area

Social Studies

Grade Level

5th Grade

Course Name/Course Code


Grade Level Expectations (GLE)

GLE Code

  1. History

  1. Analyze historical sources from multiple points of view to develop an understanding of historical context


  1. The historical eras, individuals, groups, ideas, and themes in North America from 1491 through the founding of the United States government


  1. Geography

  1. Use various geographic tools and sources to answer questions about the geography of the United States


  1. Causes and consequences of movement


  1. Economics

  1. Government and market structures influence financial institutions


  1. Utilizing financial institutions to manage personal finances (PFL)


  1. Civics

  1. The foundations of citizenship in the United States


  1. The origins, structure, and functions of the United States government


Colorado 21st Century Skills

Critical Thinking and Reasoning: Thinking Deeply, Thinking Differently

Information Literacy: Untangling the Web

Collaboration: Working Together, Learning Together

Self-Direction: Own Your Learning

Invention: Creating Solutions

Unit Titles

Length of Unit/Contact Hours

Unit Number/Sequence

The Melting Pot?

6-8 weeks


Unit Title

The Melting Pot?

Length of Unit

6-8 weeks

Focusing Lens(es)

(National) Diversity/Adaptation

Standards and Grade Level Expectations Addressed in this Unit





Inquiry Questions (Engaging- Debatable):

  • How do diversity and adaptation contribute to and increase the likelihood of survival? (SS09-GR.5-S.1-GLE.2-IQ.2)

  • What challenges come from being new to a place?

  • Is there value in interaction with people who are different from you?

Unit Strands

History, Geography, Civics, Economics, Culture


Unity, diversity, perspectives, cause and effect relationships, discovery, exploration, technological development, migration, rights and responsibilities, citizens, regions, immigration, trade, adaptation, cultural interactions


My students will Understand that…

Guiding Questions

Factual Conceptual

Interactions among diverse groups change the existing cultural/traditional patterns through the introduction, assimilation, and/or preservation of cultural aspects (e.g., foods, celebrations, religions, and social norms) (SS09-GR.5-S.1-GLE.2-EO.a)

What are some examples of the outcomes of the Columbian Exchange that changed cultural patterns of Europeans?

What parts of current Thanksgiving celebrations originated from the interactions between the Puritans and the Wampanoag?

How do interactions between groups of peoples create change in cultural patterns and traditions?

Migration and interactions of diverse groups require individuals to adapt as a means of survival (SS09-GR.5-S.2-GLE.2-EO.a, b, c)

How did people in the first settlements adapt and survive? What challenges did they face and have to overcome?

Why is adaptation important to survival and immigration?

Regional resources frequently motivate migration patterns of groups and individuals (SS09-GR.5-S.2-GLE.1-EO.a, b, c)

Why did each European group choose particular locations to colonize?

What resources are necessary to sustain successful communities?

Economic desires to fulfill both wants and needs can often drive decisions to migrate (SS09-GR.5-S.3-GLE.1-EO.b)

What economic benefits did some colonists gain through migration to the New World?

How does economics motivate an individual or group to action?

Differences in beliefs and values can promote the desire for migration (SS09-GR.5-S.1-GLE.2-EO.b)

What reasons did the Puritans have for coming to the New World?

How were the motivations for settling early New England (Puritans, etc.) and Virginia (Jamestown, etc.) different and/or similar?

How does preservation of cultural beliefs, (e.g., religion) spur individuals to launch new endeavors?

Critical Content:

My students will Know

Key Skills:

My students will be able to (Do)

  • Cultural interactions of the Columbian exchange, between European and Native Americans, and between colonists and enslaved Africans. (SS09-GR.5-S.1-GLE.2-EO.a)

  • Significant individuals and groups to include Native Americans (e.g., Iroquois and Algonquin) and European colonists (i.e., French, English, Dutch, Puritans, Catholics, debtors, indentured servants) before and through the American Revolution. (SS09-GR.5-S.1-GLE.2-EO.a) and (SS09-GR.5-S.1-GLE.2-EO.b)

  • Physical and cultural regions of Colonial America using various geographic tools. (SS09-GR.5-S.2-GLE.1-EO.a, b)

  • Reasons associated with discovery, exploration and migration (SS09-GR.5-S.2-GLE.2-EO.a, b)

  • Explain the reasons for the settlement of the American colonies (SS09-GR.5-S.4-GLE.1-EO.c)

  • Identify outcomes of the interactions of native and non-native cultures. (SS09-GR.5-S.1-GLE.2-EO.a)

  • Explain how historical events, groups, and individuals contribute to diversity in the United States. (SS09-GR.5-S.1-GLE.2-EO.b)

  • Use various maps and other geographic tools to identify, locate and describe geographic information correctly. (SS09-GR.5-S.2-GLE.1-EO.b)

  • Explain migration, trade, and cultural patterns that result from interactions related to discovery, exploration and migration. (SS09-GR.5-S.2-GLE.2-EO.a, b)

Critical Language: includes the Academic and Technical vocabulary, semantics, and discourse which are particular to and necessary for accessing a given discipline.

EXAMPLE: A student in Language Arts can demonstrate the ability to apply and comprehend critical language through the following statement: “Mark Twain exposes the hypocrisy of slavery through the use of satire.”

A student in ______________ can demonstrate the ability to apply and comprehend critical language through the following statement(s):

Migration, immigration and cultural interactions create the need for adaptation of groups and individuals.

Academic Vocabulary:

Cause and effect, Illustrate, define, investigate, evaluate, analyze, identify, describe, locate, communicate, unity, diversity, perspectives, interactions, culture

Technical Vocabulary:

Discovery, exploration, technological development, migration, regions, immigration, trade, adaptation, economy(ies), government, colony, founder, charter, industry, motivation, market, trade, exploration, interaction, region(s), colonization, settlement, origination, destination, compass rose, absolute location, relative location, latitude, longitude, continent, ocean, explorer, navigate, Eurocentric, circumnavigate, cartography, religion, national pride, foreign goods, navigate, Columbian Exchange, economy, needs, wants, preservation, trade routes, conquest, rivalry, resources, physical features, climate, renewable/nonrenewable, land claims, oppression, economic benefits, settlement, religious intolerance, political oppression, debt, drive(motivation), population, indentured servant

Unit Description:

In The Melting Pot, students will learn about early explorers and explain the economic and political motivations for exploration and settlement of the New World. When the first explorers arrived in the Americas, they encountered native peoples who already inhabited those lands. Students will discover the motivating factors that prompted individuals to migrate to the New World such as oppression, persecution, and differences in beliefs and values. Throughout the rest of this unit, students will identify how native peoples and immigrants interacted, and how both groups adapted their environment in order to survive. Students will be able to distinguish among the varying perspectives of the relationship between the diverse groups and summarize the effects those interactions had on each other.


Teachers may want to start the unit with the first ongoing learning experience which focuses on map skills and are foundational to this unit.

Unit Generalizations

Key Generalization:

Regional resources frequently motivate migration patterns of groups and individuals

Supporting Generalizations:

Interactions among diverse groups change the existing cultural/traditional patterns through the introduction, assimilation, and/or preservation of cultural aspects (e.g., foods, celebrations, religions, and social norms)

Migration and interactions of diverse groups require individuals to adapt as a means of survival

Economic desires to fulfill both wants and needs can often drive decisions to migrate

Differences in beliefs and values can promote the desire for migration

Performance Assessment: The capstone/summative assessment for this unit.


(Key generalization(s) to be mastered and demonstrated through the capstone assessment.)

Regional resources frequently motivate migration patterns of groups and individuals

Stimulus Material:

(Engaging scenario that includes role, audience, goal/outcome and explicitly connects the key generalization)

The Smithsonian Museum has hired your team of experts to create a traveling exhibit entitled, The Melting Pot that will be showcased in your local museum. This exhibit will feature live wax figures that interact with the audience. These figures will represent those individuals who were instrumental in shaping early America. Your individual’s interaction should describe how resources in America motivated your decision to explore, re-locate or migrate. As experts on this historical era, your group has been asked to design the exhibit. In addition, each member of your team must become a historical figure who only becomes “live” when the “on” button has been activated.


(Expected product from students)

Students should complete the following elements for the museum exhibit:

  1. A 1- minute script to be recited at the museum exhibit

  2. A researched five paragraph essay about their historical figure (which may include birth and death dates, general information such as where they lived, how they made a living, etc.)

  3. Wear a costume that reflects the character’s time period

Teachers may decide to have students create an “environment” for each historical figure – could collaborate with an art teacher to develop the environment.

This assessment will necessitate the creation of a rubric with a set of criteria to determine the degree to which a student's performance meets the expectations of the summative/capstone assessment. Here is an overview of the steps in developing a performance assessment rubric.


(Multiple modes for student expression)

Consider the following differentiation strategies:

Students may…

  • Use pre-recorded speeches

  • Read from note cards during the interaction

  • Choose to work as an individual character (monologue)

  • Create still characters with recordings rather than live characters

  • Create a display of their character rather than do a performance

The teacher may…

  • Determine individual roles based on the strengths of students

  • Additional opportunities for practice

  • Collaborate with like characters to work on the five paragraph essay

Enrichment Ideas:

Discuss hypothetical scenarios…such as, “What if Christopher Columbus could not raise the funds to try a water route?” or “What if Native Americans had not taken the Pilgrims under their wing?”

Texts for independent reading or for class read aloud to support the content



Bulla, C. Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims. Lexile: 360

Levy, E. Cranky Colonials: Pilgrims, Puritans: 1560s-1740s. Lexile: 914

Maestro, B. The New Americans: Colonial Times: 1620-1689. Lexile: 940

Ransom, C. Why Did English Settlers Come to Virginia?: And Other Questions About the Jamestown Settlement. Lexile: 750

Ross, S. Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air. Lexile: 1120

Rossi, A. Seeds of Change in American History: Two Cultures Meet. Lexile: 720

Conrad, P. Pedro’s Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus August 3, 1492 – February 14, 1493. Lexile: 1030

Cooper, S. Ghost Hawk. Lexile: 940

Macdonald, F. You Wouldn't Want to Sail with Christopher Columbus!: Uncharted Waters You'd Rather Not Cross. Lexile: 850

Rohmer,H. The Invisible Hunters: Los Cazadores Invisibles. Lexile: N/A

Stelson, C.B. These old shoes remember: Colonial life in America. Lexile: 530

Waters, K. Tapenum's Day: A Wampanoag Indian Boy in Pilgrim Times. Lexile: 680.

Yolen, J. Encounter. Lexile: 760

Ongoing Discipline-Specific Learning Experiences



Think like a historian by identifying the origination and destination of the explorers who were prominent in discovering the New World maps of the continents and oceans using historical and current day maps

Teacher Resources: (World Map) (Customize a world map)

Student Resources: (Interactive map of continents and oceans) (An interactive exhibit of immigration)


Analyze maps to identify and locate natural resources, trade routes, settlement patterns, and patterns of migration


Students create a classroom world map and add information during the unit (e.g., explorer’s routes, names of new lands discovered, patterns of migration, locations of natural resources, etc.)



Think/work like a geographer by use geographic tools to interpret maps and to find relationship between patterns in human settlement and earth’s physical systems (i.e. lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere)

Teacher Resources: (Growth of colonial settlement interactive map from National Geographic) (Maps showing the physical systems of North America)

Student Resources: (Map of earth’s hydrosphere) (Maps showing the physical systems of North America)


Analyze maps to predict and infer about the locations of settlements based on location/access to resources


Students discuss (writing or oral) information gleaned from maps and other resources about the influence that access to resources and trade routes affect settlement patterns.

Students create a multipurpose map.



Think like a historian by examining and analyzing primary and secondary sources to extract historical information

Teacher Resources: (Reading Response Forms and Graphic Organizers) (Graphic Organizers for Reading Comprehension) (Read, Write, Think: Making Connections) (A Teacher’s Guide to Analyzing Primary Sources)

Student Resources: (Graphic Organizers for Reading Comprehension) (Primary Sources Analysis tool)


Use context and content from the past to make connections, predictions, and inferences to the present


Students create a classroom poster representing a “how to” guide for analyzing primary and secondary sources.

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