Settling the New World and Colonial Life Unit

Hands-on, literature-based Colonial Times unit study with a great notebooking component

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During the elementary and middle school years, our history studies – for the most part – take place as unit studies.  In a relatively short amount of time, we can cover SO much material in fun and interesting lessons.  And this unit was no exception!

Over the course of about six weeks, we thoroughly covered everything about Colonial history – from the first colonies of Roanoke, Jamestown and Plymouth to the settlement of the 13 original colonies to life in colonial times.


We used two main “spine” books during this unit.  Hands-On History: Colonial America provided us with fantastic notebooking activities!  Through unique reproducible notebooking pages and mini-books, my children documented the time period thoroughly and beautifully.

Take a look at some of their pages!

I used colorful cardstock to make the pages exciting for my children.  The colors make the final journals look great, too!

Hands-on, literature-based Colonial Times unit study

Hands-on, literature-based Colonial Times unit study

Hands-on, literature-based Colonial Times unit study

Hands-On Learning

Not all our units are as jam-packed with hands-on activities as this one.  Too many hands-on activities can become over-kill in most cases, but we just never got tired of trying new things during this unit!  Thus, the heavy load of hands-on projects.  Most of the ideas came courtesy of Colonial Kids.

Believe it or not, the pictures below don’t show all the hands-on activities!  Some of the other included playing leapfrog, bb gun target practice, sewing, knot tying, candle making, knitting, decoupage, and making hasty pudding.

Hands-on, literature-based Colonial Times unit study

{Colonial style boxes painted with typical Colonial designs | Homemade butter | Clay buttons}

Hands-on, literature-based Colonial Times unit study

{Silhouettes | Bread dough figures | Homemade honey cough syrup}

Hands-on, literature-based Colonial Times unit study

{Embroidery hand-prints using the clay buttons | Writing with feather pen and berry ink | Homemade soap}

Living Literature

My oldest, 12, was assigned the two books below.  I asked her to complete a “report” on one using a resource called Better Than Book Reports: More Than 40 Creative Responses to Literature.  From the many project-based ideas – mobiles, dioramas, timelines, etc. – she chose to write a traditional book report and give an oral presentation.

My son, 9, only had to read one simple book as part of the unit.  (He was in the midst of other readings in other subjects.)

As a family, we enjoyed two wonderful books of historical fiction.  I read aloud Night Journeys and we listened to The Witch of Blackbird Pond on CD in the car.

Online Resources

Jamestown Online is a fun game that allows you to make decisions like the original settlers would’ve had to make.  In the end (it only takes a few minutes), you see how well your colony survived based on your choices.  My kids loved it!

Colonial Williamsburg Kids Zone has all sorts of historical online games that also reinforces academic skills.  They are short, sweet and fun!

PBS’s Colonial House site has several fun interactive games and quizzes.  Would you have survived the colony?

Quia has a fun colonial quiz.

This Salem Witch Trial Site has a neat video about the trials.

Enjoy one more research-based project idea!

Thirteen Colonies Travel Brochure


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