3 Exciting Ways to Make Colonial History Come Alive

Colonial History is lots of fun to teach, but planning for it can be overwhelming. This post includes grab and go lesson ideas.

Whether you live on the West Coast, in the Midwest, or on the East Coast, you most likely spend a little time on the history of the first Thanksgiving, Colonial History, or the Revolutionary War. Here in Virginia, Colonial History is our country’s history, and today’s post will pull together ideas to make that history come alive for your students.

To start with, I have pulled together a list of great literature you might ask your librarian for or pull for your students to read during your unit. They are on a variety of levels, so some would be for student reading and some would be used as read alouds. Using literature helps your students visualize the time and better grasp what life was like..

best book options for colonial history:

Colonial History is lots of fun to teach, but planning for it can be overwhelming. This post includes grab and go lesson ideas.

One of my favorite books to use during studies of Jamestown and the colonial period is the book, A Lion to Guard Us by Clyde Bulla.  It has wonderful details of the period and yet the book is controlled and perfect for struggling fourth graders. [This unit] may be helpful if you wish to give it a try.

Other favorites of mine include:

The Courage of Sarah Noble
The True Story of Pocahontas
The First Thanksgiving
Molly’s Pilgrim
If You Lived in Colonial Time

As a read aloud, I’d highly recommend Blood on the River. It is a high level book, but my colleagues have used it with reports that the students totally loved it and could not wait to hear the next chapter.

These resources may be helpful with the books I mentioned:


Half the fun with colonial history studies is the hands-on activity options you have. Years ago, we would have Colonial History Day. We had a group from the Jamestown Foundation come to run the stations. Certainly, it made the unit memorable for the students.

Interested in going all in with colonial time? Check out [this post] from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6. I just loved it. She walks through her whole unit, and I love how the kids set up colonial stores, displayed their projects, and made their learning come to life. You can just tell it was lots of fun. Here are a few images of colonial art you might try out.

colonial history quilt
colonial history stamps
thinking about colonial history silhouette
homes in colonial history

If you are wanting to carry this theme across the curriculum, you might include colonial games during your PE period, and colonial songs in music. There are so many fun options for extension. I love these project ideas. There are also great lapbooks and foldable options out there too like this one from First Grade Parade. (image linked to the blog post). I think this could be done with the ships to Jamestown too
There are many other great ideas you might adapt to Colonial Life in this post..

Paper bag book about the trip to Jamestown and colonial history

This last one is a replica of the Jamestown. I could not find the original posts on Pinterest. However, I had to share this idea. We used to do models in small groups and the kids always loved them.

Jamestown Fort


Finally, I want to share links to a few websites you might use for research if you have your students dig for more information on Colonial History. It really is fascinating.

Do History

Virtual Jamestown

Mayflower History

Whether you are teaching the Pilgrims for Thanksgiving, Virginia History, Colonial History, or are tying in activities to go with historical fiction, I hope you can use these resources.


    What ideas do you have?  Please share them below.

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    Colonial History is lots of fun to teach, but planning for it can be overwhelming. This post includes grab and go lesson ideas.


    Carla is a licensed reading specialist with 27 years of experience in the regular classroom (grades 1, 4, and 5), in Title 1 reading, as a tech specialists, and a literacy coach. She has a passion for literacy instruction and meeting the needs of the individual learner.

    This Post Has 3 Comments

    1. I just love your "book collages" and so appreciate your quality recommendations for each week's theme! Thanks also for the opportunity to share in the linky fun!
      Stories and Songs in Second

    2. Hi Carla,

      I love all the ideas you shared in this post! The model of Jamestown is so cute, and so is the ship. Students would love making those! I will have to check out the book A Lion to Guard Us. I've never read that one!
      I just linked up some of our Colonial America ideas. Thanks for letting us join in!
      Collaboration Cuties

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