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The Thirteen Colonies

The Thirteen Colonies

How it works:

In this unit, the Internet and Microsoft Power Point are used to integrate language arts and social studies. Fifth grade students study the history of the United States and the colonial period. They also develop research skills and write research papers. At my school, the students traditionally write a state report at the end of the school year. The activities in this unit combine the state report and the study of the colonial period and teach computer skills. Students select one of the thirteen original colonies. They work in pairs and use the Internet to research the colony and the modern day state the colony has become. The participants produce a multimedia project using Microsoft Power Point to present the information they obtained. The first lesson has the students visiting some of the sites they will be using and evaluating and comparing the sites for ease of navigation, reliability, bias, readability and content. In the second lesson, the activities include saving graphics and photos from the Internet and citing an Internet source. In the remaining lessons the students research using the Internet and build their Power Point slides. Worksheets and how-to handouts are included in the unit.


Students are evaluated on their participation in classroom discussions, their completed worksheets, and their Power Point presentations.


United States History and Geography:

Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions that evolved in the colonial era.


Establish a topic, important ideas, or events in sequences or chronological order

Create simple documents using electronic media and employing organizational features (e.g., passwords, entry and pull-down menus, word searches, the thesaurus, spell checks).

What you need:

Estimated number of class periods for students to complete this project: Eight

Software or Materials Used:

Computers for every pair of students with access to the Internet are required. Microsoft Power Point is also needed to create the presentations (though other programs can be used such as HyperStudio or KidPix). If the team members work at separate computers or some work is done at home, disks will be needed to save graphics, slides and to combine slides into a show.

Keywords:  American History, Colonial Period

The Students:

The students in my class are fifth graders and more than half are English language learners. We have a new computer lab at school of 34 laptops (ibooks) and a computer teacher for the first time this year. Most of the students had never been on the Internet nor had they used Power Point. At the beginning of the school year they learned word processing using Microsoft Office, so the transition to Power Point was fairly seamless. They also did Internet activities during the course of the school year in preparation for this culminating activity.

Overall Value:

One of this unit's best features is that it combines required curriculum (social studies, language arts and technology) into one project. Students learn about the colonial period, modern era states, how to do research on the Internet and how to create multimedia projects. My class enjoyed using Power Point. In fact, it is so motivating that many students learned quite advanced techniques for their presentations. It was delightful to see students discovering these techniques and then showing others.


Subject Area: Social Studies

          Second Area: Language Arts

          Starting Grade Level: Fourth

          Ending Grade Level: High School

          URL of project or unit:

Tips for the Teacher: The Internet research is the most difficult for the students, especially for English language learners. Be sure to model how to navigate the sites and discuss what information is relevant. You may need to help the teams divide the tasks when they are building their Power Point presentations. I found that it is easier to have both students work on one computer together while researching and using Power Point so they can help each other.




Martha McIntyre is a teacher at Aliso Elementary School in Carpinteria, California. This year she is dividing her day between teaching fifth grade and teaching computer technology to students in grades K-5. She has taught in the Carpinteria Unified School District for twenty-three years, eleven as a special education teacher. Martha has been a Santa Barbara County CTAP Technology Mentor for the last two years