Video: Explorers in North America

Explorers in North America explains how Rob Cuddi, a fifth-grade teacher in Winthrop, Massachusetts teaches a social studies lesson about the explorers, the “first people”, and the economic impact of exploration. Mr. Cuddi explains at the beginning that it is his goal to tie everything into the national standards and the essential questions.

Into the first five minutes of the video, I noticed right away that Mr. Cuddi uses the 5E method to teaching, which is why I believe he was so successful with his students in this particular lesson. He incorporated and integrated several literary strategies into his lesson to make this unit on explorers more meaningful for his students.

He engages his students throughout the entire unit. He first off makes newspaper “explorer” hats with his students to get peak their excitement. Then he introduces the essential questions (something his students are already familiar with) and has them react and respond to the questions in their “logs”. Through this process, he is discovering what they know, establishing a foundation, and discovering his students’ preconceptions – these will be his building blocks for the rest of his unit.

From there he leads his students to explore. They come up with more specific questions to fuel their research. Here, students break off into “explorer groups” to research and discover a specific explorer.

After students have “finished” their discovering, Mr. Cuddi brings them back in and begins the explain phase of the 5E approach. He starts with allowing his students to share what they have learned. He then begins to connect this knowledge with vocabulary terms that relate and connect to the essential questions (economics, type of governments, traveling terms, discovery, etc.) all for the purpose of creating deeper meaning. Up to this point, his students have been figuring out the concepts and now he’s providing terms to make sense of the concepts.

After a period of discussion, he begins to elaborate with his students; he makes their learning fruitful. He starts helping his students make connections between past governments and our government today. He has his students present what they’ve learned in the format of an “Explorer Presentation”, which utilizes literary devices and creative thinking.

It’s very clear that Mr. Cuddi has done quite a bit of work to get his students to the point where they can integrate language arts concepts with social studies concepts. The students get 24 hours to work on their group presentations. When it comes time for presentations, they are required to not just simply present what they have learned, but they must be sure their facts are historically accurate, they must present their literary poem, they must write an epitaph to commemorate their explorer, and it must be creative.

Following the presentations, students assess each other based on the rubric posted at the front of class and they discuss the facts presented. It was very interesting to watch each student present questions that showed not only a depth of knowledge, but also an attentiveness to detail. These students could intellectually discuss history facts about these explorers as if it were something taking place in modern day.

The final thing Mr. Cuddi had his students do is respond to the essential questions again. He had them write down, as a group, what they had learned, and then respond to the questions in their logs based on what they had learned. Through all of this, Mr. Cuddi was practicing the final ‘E’ of the 5E approach: Evaluation. Not only was he evaluating, but he was building on his knowledge about his what his students knew so that he could help them attain a deeper level of understanding about the explorers and about learning. In the end, Mr. Cuddi did more than simply teach his students about explorers, he taught them a love for learning and equipped them with the tools to pursue learning for the rest of their lives.

I did not notice any strategies that did not seem to work. Mr. Cuddi’s teaching style was very effective. I’ve seen the 5E approach in Science, I’ve seen it in Language Arts, and it was fascinating to see it again in Social Studies.


(Paper hat picture by Kate Ter Haar from Cedarville, MI, USA (I wear my newspaper hat) [CC BY 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons)


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