Lesson plan

Explorer Letters

Step into the shoes of an explorer. Students will learn more about the lives and accomplishments of important explorers, and they'll demonstrate their knowledge through a creative writing assignment.
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Main Idea and Supporting Details pre-lesson.
EL Adjustments
Grade Subject View aligned standards
Need extra help for EL students? Try the Main Idea and Supporting Details pre-lesson.

Students will be able to explain the most important accomplishments of an explorer.

The adjustment to the whole group lesson is a modification to differentiate for children who are English learners.
EL adjustments
(5 minutes)
  • List the following names on the board: Ibn Battuta, Zheng He, Amerigo Vespucci, Marco Polo, and Leif Ericson. Tell students that all of these people have something in common—see if they can guess what it is.
  • Tell students that all of these people are explorers. Ask students if they know of any other explorers. Add these to the list.
(5 minutes)
  • Explain that students will be learning about one of the explorers originally listed on the board more in depth.
  • Show students the four worksheets. Tell students that they will choose one of the explorers to learn more about. As they read the worksheet, they will highlight the explorer's most important accomplishments.
  • Project the Ibn Battuta worksheet on the board so students can see it. Read the first line: "Ibn Battuta was born in Tangier, Morocco, in 1304 to a family of judges." Ask students: Is this an important accomplishment? Is it something we should highlight? (No, it simply tells us where he was born.)
  • Read another sentence: "He became obsessed with travel, and covered a distance of 75,000 miles in 30 years. This averages to about 7 miles a day..." Ask students: Is this an important accomplishment? Is it something we should highlight? (Yes, it is remarkable that he traveled that far in that amount of time.)
(30 minutes)
  • Hand out the Famous Explorers worksheets. Have students work in small groups with others who have the same explorers.
  • Students should read their texts in their small groups. As they read, students should discuss and highlight any important accomplishments they find.
  • Once students are finished reading and highlighting, discuss some of the accomplishments that were found as a whole class. Prompt students to share the supporting details from the texts that support the accomplishments.
(25 minutes)
  • Tell students that now, they will be stepping into the shoes of the explorer they read about.
  • Students will pretend to be that explorer on an expedition. They will write a letter to someone back home discussing at least two of the accomplishments they achieved while on their journey. They should include the supporting details that help describe the major accomplishments.
  • Remind students the components of a letter (date, salutation, body, closing).
  • Give students ample time to write their letters.


  • Strategically place struggling students in groups with students who can help them determine important accomplishments.


  • Have advanced students read about another explorer and compare and contrast the two explorers with one another.
(5 minutes)
  • Use the students' highlighted worksheets, as well as the explorer letter, to determine their understanding of the explorer's accomplishments.
(10 minutes)
  • Have students get in groups of four with other "explorers."
  • Students should share their letters with their group.

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