Lesson: Day 2: 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

Continuation of yesterday: Students will put their illustrations on the whiteboard in order like a comic strip.  Then have groups quickly summarize their translation. 


When finished, put two columns on the board: one for Native Americans and one for John Smith.  Go back through groups and have each group highlight one sentence that showed either Smith’s opinion of himself or the Native Americans.  (Students may use homework.)  Analyze these on the board while students copy down chart into notes.

Key points:

·      Smith used the third person

·      Smith makes all other leaders (Wingfield, Ratcliffe, and Powhatan leaders) seem inept but makes himself seem industrious and good at motivating/organizing others

·      Smith makes it seem that he is the only reason that the settlers stick it out since he foils their plans to escape in the pinnace

·      Smith makes the Native Americans seem violent and stupid – connotations of the word savage, calling their clothes “dressed more like a devil than a man”, their fascination with compass, their fear of the cannon shot

·      Smith makes it seem that he saved the settlers from starvation by making friends with the Native Americans

·      Smith makes it seem that the Native Americans respect him more than their own people

·      Smith does not explain the irrational decision of Pocahontas to fling herself onto him to save his life – is he just that handsome?


Writing Assignment: Retell a section of John Smith “General History of Virginia” from the perspective of a Native American. 

  • How do they see John Smith? How do they see the settlers, their palisades, and their technology?
  • How do they see themselves? Why do they treat Smith as they do?

Lesson Resources

Translation Sheets  


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