We use so many books in our unit studies. I usually start by reserving everything our library has, going through the books looking for supplemental material to our curriculum, and looking for lots of hands on activity options.
This time I used some of the non-fiction books to ear-mark pages for my oldest to use as sources in her writing, and I gave the kids their own required reading on top of our main curriculum and read-alouds. I’ll detail how we used the different books by section below.
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|Amplify/CKLA Grade 3 Unit 10 Colonial America Student Reader
Our main texts for this unit are Amplify/CKLA‘s Grade 3 Unit 10 Student
Reader and the accompanying Flip Book and Speaking & Listening text
in the Teacher’s Guide. The Speaking & Listening read alouds are factual,
while the Student Reader contains and mix of historical fiction and factual
I’ve heard that the individual student packs of the Student Readers
are no longer available. The content is all available for free at
coreknowledge.org and can also be purchased there. I believe you would
look under the History & Geography section for the factual read alouds,
but the Language Arts section for the Student Reader/historical fiction component.
I always include a lot of read alouds in our unit studies, and I particularly love to add in historical fiction. Though fiction we get a much deeper sense of trials and tribulations of the time and an idea of the how and why historical figures acted the way they did. We always discuss what does and doesn’t seem plausible. We always look for prejudice or attitudes to the information that may have changed over time. Of all the things we do in our unit studies, I don’t think they would be nearly as rich without historical fiction.
|Blood on the River: James Town, 1607 by Elisa Carbone tells the tale of the
Jamestown Colony from the point of view of a 12 year old boy, page to John
We felt that this book gave a well balanced idea of events at the time, bearing in
mind today’s viewpoint. My kids were engaged with the book, and we really felt
like it helped us understand the factual reading we were doing.
|The Adventurous Life of Myles Standish and the Amazing-but-True Survival
Story of Plymouth Colony, The: Barbary Pirates, the Mayflower, the First …
Much, Much More, by Cheryl Harness is a whimsical, very dramatic tale about the
man drafted to keep the Plymouth colony safe. My kids enjoyed this book, but
did think the writing style was a little odd. Great for a very different perspective.
|1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving from National Geographic by Catherine O’Neill
Grace in a non-fiction photo-essay text. While I assigned other independent non-
fiction reading to my kids, I wanted to make sure we read and discussed this
together. I’m not American, so I don’t know that my kids have ever heard the
“traditional” story of Thanksgiving. It was important to me that they hear a more
balanced account. This book was written in conjunction with Historic Plimoth
Colony and the Wampanoag Indian Program Advisory Committee and gives a
|I Walk in Dread: The Diary of Deliverance Trembly, Witness to the Salem Witch
Trials, Massachusetts Bay Colony 1691 (Dear America Series) by Lisa Rowe
Fraustino gives a journal style account of the events surrounding the Salem
Witch Trials. We were certainly amazed at some of the occurrences and came to
our own conclusions about the causes of these trials. The kids were really
intrigued to read the historical details at the end of the book, learning all the
characters were real people. We discussed how much of the book we thought was
accurate, and how much was invented by the author.
|Colonial America: An Interactive History Adventure, by Allison Lassieur was a great
book to end our unit study! This choose your own adventure style book contains
three different stories – traveling to the early colonies as an indentured servant,
life as a sailor, and life in the lead up to the Revolutionary War. The first two
stories were great review material, while the third was a great introduction to
the next period in American history. We’ve read several books in this series and
love them all. There is also a Salem Witch Trials version that I’ve ordered from
our library, so we’ll read that when it comes in.
In addition to the above read alouds, I also required some reading from the kids. Sometimes I gave them a choice of books, and sometimes I did not.
|Roanoke Choice 1: The Lost Colony of Roanoke, by Jean Fritz is an engaging
account of the Lost Colony of Roanoke. It is non-fiction, but written as a
narrative. Great for my 5th grader, but perhaps too much for my 2nd grader.
I really enjoyed this book, and it would have been my pick.
|Roanoke Choice 2: History Comics: The Roanoke Colony by Chris Schweizer
is a comic book presentation of the mystery of Roanoke. The book presents
many different possibilities – some very far-fetched! – and let’s the reader
make their own decision. My kids love graphic novels, so this was their pick.
|Pocahontas Choice 1: The Double Life of Pocahontas by Jean Fritz is a thin novel
describing the life of Pocahontas. This book was much more engaging and fun to
read than the other choice, even though the other was probably a better book.
Based on my recommendation, my kids both picked this book.
|Pocahontas Choice 2: Pocahontas by Joseph Bruchac tells the story of Pocahontas
from the perspective of a Native American author. Unfortunately I didn’t find this
book to be super engaging.
|Jamestown Required Reading: Our Strange New Land, by Patricia Hermes is a
journal style account of a girl’s journey from Plymouth, England, to Jamestown,
Virginia, and the beginnings of her new life. I required both girls to read this
book because they were writing journal entries as part of their unit work.
|Jamestown Optional Reading: The Starving Time, by Patricia Hermes is a
continuation of Our Strange New Land. My oldest chose to continue reading
this book, but my youngest did not. The books are nicely written, easy to read
and provide a relatable account of the time period written from the perspective
of a child.
|Pilgrims Choice 1: History Smashers: The Mayflower, by Kate Messner gives a
fast paced overview of the Mayflower voyage and early pilgrims. History Smashers
books appeal to upper elementary aged students because they also include
“gross” details that kids this age love. My oldest chose this book.
|Pilgrims Choice 2: Pilgrims (Magic Treehouse Fact Finder), by Mary Pope Osborne
is a lovely easy read with clearly presented information. It was perfect for my 2nd
|Salem Witch Trials Choice 1: Blast Back: The Salem Witch Trials by Nancy Ohlin is
a great length for a lower elementary student. It’s got a fun tone, and some great
comic style graphics to keep young readers engaged. I actually didn’t require my
little one to read a book for the Salem Witch Trials. As we were reading she had a
lot of questions and seemed a bit scared, so I pulled back on the topic for her.
|Salem Witch Trials Choice 2: What Were The Salem Witch Trials? by Joan Holub
the book chosen by my oldest. She’s read and loved so many of the Who Was/
What Were/etc books. We find them to be very clearly laid out, very informative
and easy to access.
Finally, here’s a list of other non-fiction books that we used or were available in our Colonial America unit. With the exception of the two Nomad Press books, all of these were available to the kids throughout the unit and were used for fact finding or activity inspiration.
|Colonial Kids by Laurie Carlson has so many hand-on activity options for the
younger crowd. The book covers cooking, clothing, household tasks, sailing,
games, school, and some many other activities. All are presented simply and are
appropriate for lower elementary students.
|Explore Colonial America! by Verna Fisher comes from one of my favorite
publishers, Nomad Press. We’ve loved so many of their books for so many topics
and unit studies. Unfortunately our library only had this as an e-book, so the kids
didn’t get to look at this one much, but I used it to plan activities. This book is
aimed at younger elementary students.
|Great Colonial America Projects by Kris Bordessa is the upper elementary/middle
school version of the Nomad Press books for Colonial America. The information
presented is more mature, and while a few of the activities are the same, most
are different and more involved. As I said, we love all these books – can’t
recommend them enough.
|Jamestown 1607 by Michael Cooper provided us with good reference book and
discussion of several primary source documents. Overall, the book is pretty
one-sided, focusing on the British point of view. My oldest used an excerpt
from this book as one source in a multi-source writing assignments.
|How’d They Do That? Colonial America by Patrice Sherman was a valuable
resource for us. The book has a series of short chapters about different tasks the
Colonial Americans needed to complete. It was an easy book to dip into and use
as a source for writing projects – including multiple sources in writing was a major
focus for my older daughter in this unit.
|The Dreadful, Smelly, Colonies by Elizabeth Raum presents similar information to
How’d They Do That? Colonial America, but in a different, more irreverent way.
My oldest compared similar selections from all three of the above texts in her
written work for this unit. All the books complement each other well on several
|Colonial Cooking by Susan Doiser was added to our shelves as an additional
option for experiencing Colonial America. This book contains a really wide variety
of recipes – not just the usual johnny cakes and hasty pudding. You could easily
cook some quite substantial meals from this book.
|Daily Life in the Pilgrim Colony 1636 by Paul Erickson was a nice reference book to
have on hand. Each topic such a food, clothing, jobs, and schooling has it’s own
page with plenty of images and little blurbs of information.
We did also have some other books on hand – whatever was available at our local library, but these are the main ones we found useful. Hopefully the list will help you find resources for your unit too.
We didn’t watch too many videos during this unit, but we did find a few gems. We enjoyed watching a full History Channel In Search of…Episode about the Roanoke Colony.
We also enjoyed watching a Timeline episode about John Smith and Pocahontas. To us it presented an updated viewpoint, with a lot of Native American voices.
The three videos in the “A Day in the Life of a Colonial Kid” series from Historic Bath were not the most engaging, but it turned out that my kids really liked them. They were a good way to see sites that we’re too far away to visit and see what visiting some of these historic sites might be like.
Finally, we watched the first episode of The Story of US: Rebels from the History Channel. I won’t say I regret watching it – it was a great way to review the time period – but we had a lot of discussions about the way the information was presented, who was presenting the information, who was missing, and what other viewpoints we’d already discussed.. Almost all the commentary in the episode was presented by a specific type of old white man. Before I’d even brought this up the kids had noticed and asked why there were only men in the video. You have been warned!