Beacon Lesson Plan Library

A Colony is Born : Lesson 5 - Dear Mem

Katie Koehnemann
Bay District Schools


The primary informational source of journal writing is the focus. Journal entry traits and rubric expectations are established. Identified and charted by students, they'll be used to assess examples and be a guide for students' required journal writing.


The student reads text and determines the main idea or essential message, identifies relevant supporting details and facts, and arranges events in chronological order.

The student uses a variety of methods and sources to understand history (such as interpreting diaries, letters, newspapers; and reading maps and graphs) and knows the difference between primary and secondary sources.

The student extends previously learned knowledge and skills of the fourth grade level with increasingly complex reading texts and assignments and tasks (for example, explicit and implicit ideas).

The student reads and organizes information from multiple sources for a variety of purposes (for example, supporting opinions, predictions, and conclusions; writing a research report; conducting interviews; taking a test; performing tasks).

The student compares and contrasts primary and secondary accounts of selected historical events (for example, diary entries from a soldier in a Civil War battle and newspaper articles about the same battle).

The student constructs and labels a timeline based on a historical reading (for example, about United States history).

The student knows significant events in the colonization of North America, including but not limited to the Jamestown and Plymouth settlements, and the formation of the thirteen original colonies.

The student understands selected aspects of everyday life in Colonial America (for example, impact of religions, types of work, use of land, leisure activities, relations with Native Americans, slavery).




- The book,
Laskey, Kathyrn. A Journey to the New World: The Diary of Remembrance Patience Whipple.
- A wall chart or graphic organizer titled Historical Facts
- A wall chart or graphic organizer titled Personal Insights
- A wall chart or graphic organizer titled Journal Characteristics
- A wall chart titled Rubric Expectations
- Copied and hole punched handouts for each student:
Journal Entries at a Glance (In Associated File)
Rubric Expectations (In Associated File)
Journal Writing Rubric (Located in the
Summative Assessment B file. See Extensions
for a link to this file.)
Excerpts from the book with scoring space (In
Associated File)
Student response sheet (In Associated File)
- Transparencies of the excerpts from the book with scoring space
- Transparency of a first-hand account from one of the suggested Web sources
- Tape of ocean sounds (no music, only wave sounds)
- Tape recorder
- Overhead projector
- Screen
- Vis-ŗ-vis markers
- Students should have their Colonial Notebooks
- Markers for the events that will be recorded on the timeline during this lesson. (For example, you may want to have small sailing ships with an event and year printed on each one, so they can be attached to the classroom timeline.)
- One colored construction paper piece to fill a cargo section in the hull of the bulletin board ship


(1) Have a copy of the book titled A Journey th the New World: The Diary of Remember Patience Whipple from the Dear America series by Kathryn Lasky.
(2) Create a graphic organizer on chart paper titled Historical Facts.
(3) Create a graphic organizer on chart paper titled Personal Insights.
(4) Create a graphic organizer on chart paper titled Journal Traits.
(5) Create your own list of historical facts and personal insights that are included in the selected journal entries that you read aloud to students
(6) Copy and hole punch for each student these handouts:
(a) Journal Entries at a Glance (In Associated File),
(b) Rubric Expectations (In Associated File),
(c) Journal Writing Rubric (In Summative Assessment B File. See Extensions for a link to this file.),
(d) Excerpts from the book with a scoring space (In Associated File),
(7) Optional for Center Activity: Hole punched copies of the Student Response Sheet (In Associated File),
(8) Make transparency of the excerpts from the book with scoring space.
(9) Select a first-hand account from a Web site suggested, print, and make a transparency of it.
(10) Get a tape of ocean sounds.
(11) Get a tape recorder.
(12) Make corresponding colored shape labeled Journal Writing to fill a cargo section of the ship.
(13) Make markers for the classroom timeline to record events that will be discussed during this lesson. (Idea: You may want to have small sailing ships with an event and year printed on each one so that they can be attached to the classroom timeline.)
(14) Gather these items:
- Colored markers
- Overhead projector
- Screen, and
- Vis-ŗ-vis markers
(15) Students should have their Colonial Notebooks.


NOTE: One assessment of this unit is progressive journal entries for which the students will be responsible. In this lesson, you will build an understanding of the expectations of the journal entries and the journal rubric. You will find suggested entries to read aloud, along with suggested ideas for purposeful listening for students. The Read Aloud with purposeful listening experience, will enable students to develop, using exemplars, an understanding of the type of journal entries on which they will be assessed. Read Aloud is a daily component of a well-balanced reading program and the Four Blocks Reading Framework. (This book is excellent and the students may enjoy reading it in its entirety as an example of a historical fiction piece.)

TIME NOTE: This lesson was designed with the idea that students have extensive experience with assessing written work with writing rubrics. If that is the case, suggested time length for this lesson should be fairly accurate, even with classroom differences considered. However, if you are working with a class of students who are unfamilar with using writing rubrics, you may find the time allotment to be inadequate. There are several possible time variations: (1) Do entire lesson as written, (2) Do entire lesson as written, stopping at # 7 and doing # 8 - 15 the next day or at a different time of the same day. If this is the option you choose, be sure to include a brief review of what was taught in # 1 - 7 first, or (3) Complete # 1 -15, but move only # 10 to another day or different time of the same day.

(1) Turn the classroom lights off and begin a tape of ocean sounds. Give an adequate amount of time for the waves to silence the children's minds so they might focus and become very attune to the cadence of the sea. Read aloud the first journal entry in the book, October 1, 1620. Read deliberately, with voice and expression, and slowly enough for the words to soak in. Keep a rhythm that is as moving as the background sounds of the sea. At the completion of the reading, say: Today the cargo we will be loading onto our ship is journal writing.

(2) Discuss with students: What have you just listened to? Is it a primary or secondary informational source? Justify your opinion, and tell why you think as you do? Let students justify their opinions as to which source it is. (Students may consider it a primary source since it is written as a daily journal of 1620. Explain that this is actually a simulated primary source. The author has taken information that she researched from both primary and secondary sources and has written it down as if she were actually a colonial child on a ship coming to the New World. The author has made it to sound like a primary source, as if it was being written right then when the crossing was taking place. In fact, however, it is a secondary source because it was written hundreds of years later. (Turn to the last page of the book and read for students the disclaimer paragraph and the copyright date at the top.)

(3) Direct students' attention to the Historical Facts wall chart (graphic organizer) that you have displayed. Ask them if they recall any historical facts that were included in the daily entry that was read. Record all that are mentioned on the Historical Facts organizer. (It may be helpful to make your own list of included historical facts on a sheet of paper to which you can refer, rather than having to go back and search the text and slow down the flow of the lesson.)

(4) Direct students' attention to the Personal Insights wall chart, or graphic organizer, that you have displayed. Ask them what is meant by personal insight and if they can give examples from the reading where they felt like personal insight was evident. Chart these as best you can, choosing to write fragments instead of entire quotes, if they get too lengthy. The point is, students will need this as a reference chart with examples of personal insight to refer to as they write their own journal entries. (It may be helpful to make your own list of personal insight examples on a sheet of paper to which you can refer, rather than having to go back and search the text and slow down the flow of the lesson.)

(5) Explain that you will be reading several more entries, and that they are to be listening for three things. First, you want them to listen for how the character, Mem, includes historical facts within the everyday things that she writes about in her entries. Secondly, we want them to listen for examples of personal insight. And thirdly, you want them to notice characteristics of journal entries. What do you notice that separates them from a secondary source of historical information, such as a textbook?

(6) Read selected entries and after each, ask for student responses to these questions:
What historical facts were included?
What are some examples of personal insight?
What are some characteristics of historical journal entries?
Add students' responses to the appropriate wall chart or graphic organizer.

NOTE: What you need to present, or read, are entries that are exemplars of the type of entries you expect from the children and that are aligned with the journal rubric. The entries you read aloud should include the following criteria:
Good organization and sequence,
Reference to real events and/or historical person(s) of the Colonial Era,
Authentic information about the environment, event, or situation,
Personal insight,
Character voice, and
Reasons why they are in the New World.

NOTE: This activity is to afford students the opportunity to assess sample journal entries with the same rubric as their self-generated journal entries. You need to realize and point out to students that when the rubric refers to a particular number of entries, it is in direct reference to how many is expected of them for the summative assessment. The number of entries has nothing to do with content characteristics of journal entries, and they need only score these samples with regards to the content. You and students need to be concerned with inclusion of historical facts, personal insights, and the characteristics of journals, which are one form of a primary source.

(7) Hand out copies of these items to students:
Journal Characteristics (In Associated File),
Journal Rubric (In Summative Assessment B file. See Extensions for a link to this file), and
Rubric Expectations (In Associated File).

(8) Hand out to students the first of three journal samples taken from the book. (In Associated File) Put the same on the overhead. Students will use the rubric and traits handouts to assess the first sample. This first entry sample will be scored as a class. Discuss. Score. Students write the score in the appropriate space on their sheets. Pass out and display the second journal entry sample. Students pair with their neighbor to score this entry using the rubric. Students share the score they gave. Discuss. Enter the correct score on their sheets. Pass out the third sample. Using the rubric, students will independently assess and score. Share. Discuss.
The important thing here is to have students change the score given initially if it differs from the score you have assigned it. This sheet will act as their scored examples to use as they write their own journal entries.

(9) The class will now create a next day entry to follow the last entry read above. (For example, whatever was written in the third journal entry handed to students in number 8, they will now assume the role of Mem, and write a journal entry as if it were the next day. Of course, there is no right or wrong answer as long as journal traits and rubric expectations are followed. What they write about will be what they think could logically come in the next day's journal entry if they were actually Mem.) Record the entry on clear transparency on the overhead as the students dictate.

(10) (OPTIONAL: Procedure #10 of the lesson can be done as a separate activity apart from this lesson. See TIME NOTE at the beginning of Procedures.) Share, by reading aloud to students a first-hand account that was selected from the suggested Web site. Make a transparency of the selection so that it can be displayed on the overhead as you read it aloud, in order for them to experience what people talked like and how the spelling differs from today. Use the rubric to assess this first-hand account.
NOTE: Center Activity: Have available copies of the student response sheet. (In Associated File) Students evaluate the primary source of journal writing and explain what they like, or don't like, about them as compared to a textbook account. This activity is something students can do while the teacher is conducting small guided reading groups at another time.

(11) Again, put on the tape of the sea, and as students finish the last few, routine items listed below allow them to listen to the waves upon the shore.

(12) Ask students where they think the handouts should be placed in their notebooks. Be sure all are filed in the Journal section. The Journal section should now include the handouts: journal traits, journal rubric, rubric expectations, and sample entries with scores.

(13) Have students turn to the Timeline section of their notebooks and correctly add Mayflower crossing and Plymouth founding. Students will check their timelines by observing where you place these events on the classroom timeline.

(14) Have them locate Plymouth on the map in their notebooks.

(15) Choose a student to load the bulletin board ship with a colored construction piece labeled Journal Writing.


These formative assessments lead to summatives at the end of the Unit Plan: A Colony Is Born.

The created wall charts (organizers) will formatively assess the studentsí abilities.

FOR SCORING: To assess if a student is successful and to what level, check the accuracy of identifying historical facts, interpreted personal insight, and characteristics of the primary informational source of journal writing.

The modeled journal entries will formatively assess the studentsí abilities.

FOR SCORING: To assess if a student is successful and to what level, check the accuracy of incorporating within the written entry, historical facts, personal insight, and the ability to use the graphic organizer as a source for information to guide the contents of the entry.

The Timeline will formatively assess the studentsí abilities.

FOR SCORING: To assess if a student is successful and to what level, check the timeline for accuracy of identifying significant events and properly placing and labeling each on the timeline.

The Notebook will formatively assess the studentsí abilities.

FOR SCORING: To assess if a student is successful and to what level, check the notebook for accuracy of placing handouts within the proper tab of the notebook and in the correct order within that section.


The Beacon Unit Plan associated with this lesson can be viewed by clicking on the link located at the top of this page or by using the following URL: Once you select the unitís link, scroll to the bottom of the unit plan page to find the section, Associated Files. This section contains links to the Unit Plan Overview, Diagnostic and Summative Assessments, and other associated files (if any).

It is highly recommended that the writing of the daily journal entries be treated as the class Writing Block lesson each day. What is the point of trying to cram into an already overly ample day, both social studies journal writing and a writing lesson? Donít over task your time, your studentsí energy, or your energy! Make your daily writing lesson an integrated part of what they are studying. It makes both the social studies and writing experiences purposeful, focused, and far more meaningful.

The reasons for having the colonial journal entry as each dayís writing lesson rather than just as a requirement to do the last five minutes of the social studies period, is twofold. First, it would enhance studentsí writing abilities through providing more time for mini writing lessons, thinking, using the rubric, scoring, feedback, revising, and sharing from the Authorís Chair. Secondly, it would be a means by which students would strengthen their learning of the selected Social Studies standards. It would afford students an opportunity for evaluating, inventing, organizing, composing, predicting, pretending, imagining, visualizing, and expressing. Giving an adequate amount of time for the journal writing component of this unit provides a means by which the aspects of everyday life of colonial America can be better digested and synthesized, both of which are higher order thinking skills.

A well-balanced reading program includes writing each day. This is a great way to have your students writing within the discipline of Social Studies.

For practice comparing primary and secondary sources and as a formative assessment, have as a center activity, a response sheet for students to tell what they like about the primary informational source of journal writing as presented by a novelist and an actual colonist.

Web Links

The best site for first hand accounts of the Plymouth Colony. Once you get to the site, click on Message to Teachers in the left-hand column, scroll to Mountís Relation: A Journal of the Plymouth Colony and/or William Bradfordís Journal. Both give students a true taste of a period journal entry.
Mayflower Web Pages

Gives an example of a colonial period journal entry.
The Colony at Roanoke

An excellent site for acquiring copies written in original text of charters and documents dating from 1584 to 1612.
Jamestowne Society

Offers first hand accounts. Excellent ones to share with students are Observations of Master George Percy 1607 and Thomas Harriot: A brief and true report of the new found land of Virginia, 1590. These are excellent examples of actual letters or diary-type accountings.
Virtual Jamestown

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