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Students write a postcard from the perspective of a Spanish sailor in this lesson about Columbus’ first encounter with the Taino Indians


Language Arts, Social Studies  


4, 5  

Title – First Encounter: Columbus and the Tainos

By – Alison Wager

Primary Subject – Social Studies

Secondary Subjects – Language Arts – Writing

Grade Level – 4-5

Duration – 45-50 minutes

Standards and Benchmarks:

    Colorado History Standard 3.1: Students know how various societies were affected by contacts and exchanges among diverse peoples.

    Colorado Reading/Writing Standard 2: Students write and speak for a variety of purposes and audiences.


    Students will demonstrate their understanding of the first encounter between Columbus and the Taino Indians by writing a postcard from the perspective of a Spanish sailor using the RAFT technique.

    (RAFT = Role, Audience, Format, Topic)

Resources and Materials:

  • Encounter

    by Jane Yolen
  • half sheets of cardstock (I copy a template for a postcard on one side, with lines for an address and a box for a stamp)
  • pen/pencil
  • coloring utensils


    Anticipatory Set:

    • Ask students if they have ever met someone from a different country who spoke a different language.
    • What was the encounter like?

    Instructional Input:

    • Explain that when Christopher Columbus reached the New World, he met people who were from a different culture—the Taino Indians.
    • Ask students what they already know about Columbus.
    • Explain that although he did many positive things, he also did things that hurt the people he encountered.
    • Read the book


      by Jane Yolen, which tells about Columbus’s first meeting with the Native Americans from the perspective of a young Taino boy.

    Guided Practice:

    • Explain that Jane Yolen chose to write her story from a particular perspective. If she had been given a RAFT writing assignment, what would it have been?


        ole = young Taino boy


        udience = “all children and all people in every land”


        ormat = narrative story


        opic = first encounter with Europeans
    • Demonstrate how to make a postcard using a half sheet of cardstock.
    • Show a real postcard and discuss the elements that should be included (address, stamp, letter, picture, etc.)

    Independent Practice:

    • Students will write their own RAFT assignment.
    • In their writing, they should include several facts about Columbus’s first encounter with the Taino Indians in the New World, but they should write from the perspective of a Spanish sailor instead of a Taino boy.


        ole = Spanish sailor


        udience = family member in Spain


        ormat = postcard


        opic = first encounter with Taino Indians


    • Allow several students to share their postcards. Discuss how the story changed when it was told from a different point of view and how most stories have more than one side to them.
    • Additional activities you could do:

      • Ask students to make a T-chart showing both the positive and the negative things that Columbus did.
      • Ask students to think of a situation in their own lives where there were two sides to the story. Share with the class.


    Students will turn in their postcard, which will be assessed on the accuracy and inclusion of facts as well as if the student used the RAFT format for their writing.


  • Some students may need additional instruction in how a letter/address is formatted or in using RAFT writing.
  • The letter can be scribed for those students who struggle with the physical act of writing.
  • Gifted students can do additional research on the Taino Indians to present to the class or write a longer narrative story.


Alison Wager


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