Lesson: Day 1: John Smith's 'The General History of Virginia'

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Lesson Objective

Read excerpt from “The General History of Virginia” by John Smith. Analyze Smith’s use of the third person & compare his account of the Native Americans to our understanding of their culture (based on reading the Origin Myths last week.)

Lesson Plan

Text: “The General History of Virginia”

Meaning: “John Smith is the bomb; Native Americans are violent and stupid”


New Material: (10 minutes)

·      Students will take notes on first versus third person based on the Do Now

o   Which of these sentences is more believable “Ms. Molleur is the best teacher in the whole school.  She might even be the best teacher in the state.”  OR “I am the best teacher in the whole school.  I might even be the best teacher in the whole state.”

·      Students will generate brainstorm about when each is usually used

·      Students will analyze how 1st/3rd person affect the ethos of a text (3rd person sounds more objective, 1st person sounds more subjective)


Introduction to Text: (10 minutes)

Before reading preview historical context: (also provide visuals with powerpoint)

Author: John Smith, English settler

Time: 1607

Location: Jamestown, VA, one of the first settlements in America

Life in Jamestown:

-       The Virginia Company planned the trip, once in Jamestown they had a President in charge of the settlers (who was replaced several times)

-       Arrived on boats after difficult sea journey from England which dropped them off, leaving only a small “pinnace” (project map – explain distance 7 times to NYC)

-       Life is difficult (no modern technology like grocery stores or electricity, no other Englishmen, must build houses from scratch, no crops planted) (project picture of the palisades)

-       Native American’s were usually peaceful and provided the settlers with food that prevented them from starving


Guided Practice on Reading Skills Needed for Text: (10 minutes)

I will introduce the idea that language in the 1600’s sounded much different than today and is difficult to read!  Students will need to “translate” it into English they can comprehend. 


For each sentence, they will first ask “WHO?” is the sentence about, then “WHAT” is that person/thing doing.  Then they will try to get the overall sense.


Tips if you get stuck:

(1) look for the words you DO know and highlight them

(2) read chunks of the sentence at a time

(3) rearrange the syntax of the sentence

(4) read the sentences before or after the difficult sentence


I will model how to find the “who” and “what” and how to use the “if you get stuck” pointers by translating the first three sentences of the passage (projected on the board).


I will then pass out a “translation” of the entire first section as an example and we will read through it.


Student Practice: (25 minutes)

Students will receive small sections of ‘The General History of Virginia” in pairs. 

They will have 25 minutes to:

(1)  “Translate” using the skills we just used

(2)  Illustrate a visual (following my model on the board)



(1)  Find 1-2 sentences from your passage in which Smith makes himself sound awesome.  What SPECIFICALLY is he saying is awesome about himself?

(2)  What is Smith’s attitude toward the Native Americans? Cite SPECIFIC words or details from his account to support your answer!

Does Smith’s account seem accurate? Why or why not?

Lesson Resources

Translation Sheets  


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