A Comprehensive Columbus Day Controversy Lesson Plan

by James
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Looking for a thought-provoking and engaging lesson plan that explores the Columbus Day controversy? Look no further! In this blog article, we’ll delve into the complexities surrounding Columbus Day and present a unique teaching approach that encourages critical thinking and open dialogue in the classroom. By incorporating a variety of resources and activities, this lesson plan aims to foster a deeper understanding of the historical context, diverse perspectives, and ongoing debates surrounding Columbus Day. So let’s dive right in and explore this captivating Columbus Day controversy lesson plan together!

A Comprehensive Columbus Day Controversy Lesson Plan

Columbus Day Controversy Lesson Plan

Teaching about Columbus Day can be a complex task due to the controversy surrounding the holiday. As educators, it is important to approach the topic with sensitivity and provide students with a well-rounded understanding of historical events. This lesson plan aims to delve into the Columbus Day controversy while promoting critical thinking, empathy, and cultural awareness. By engaging students in thoughtful discussions and activities, we can encourage them to explore different perspectives and develop their own opinions.


The objective of this lesson plan is to encourage students to critically analyze the Columbus Day controversy, explore differing perspectives on the topic, and develop empathy towards indigenous cultures.

Grade Level:

This lesson plan is designed for 4th to 5th-grade students.


This lesson plan is designed to be spread across multiple class periods, totaling approximately 3-4 hours of instruction time.


  • Books or online resources that provide different perspectives on Christopher Columbus and the impact of his arrival
  • Art supplies for a creative activity
  • Index cards or small pieces of paper for a discussion activity


Introduction (15 minutes)

Start by discussing Columbus Day and asking students what they know about it. Allow them to share their thoughts and ideas. Write down their responses on the board.

Explain to the students that Columbus Day is a holiday that commemorates the arrival of Christopher Columbus in the Americas in 1492. However, there is controversy surrounding this holiday due to the impact it had on indigenous cultures.

Activity 1: Exploring Different Perspectives (30 minutes)

Divide the class into small groups and provide each group with books or online resources that present different perspectives on Christopher Columbus. Ask the groups to read and discuss the information, considering the following questions:

  • What positive contributions did Columbus make?
  • What negative impacts did Columbus’s arrival have on indigenous cultures?
  • Why do some people support the celebration of Columbus Day?
  • Why do some people oppose the celebration of Columbus Day?

Encourage students to take notes during their discussions. Afterward, reconvene as a class and have each group share their findings and opinions. Write down key points on the board to facilitate a class-wide discussion.

Activity 2: Empathy and Cultural Awareness (60 minutes)

Explain to the students the importance of developing empathy and cultural awareness when discussing sensitive topics like Columbus Day.

Divide the class into pairs. Each pair will be assigned an indigenous culture from the Americas that was impacted by Columbus’s arrival (e.g., Taino, Arawak, Inca, etc.).

Ask each pair to research and gather information about their assigned culture, focusing on their traditions, customs, and daily life before Columbus’s arrival. Students should also explore the effects of colonization on that specific culture.

Provide art supplies and ask students to create a visual representation of their assigned culture, highlighting both the pre-Columbian era and the impact of colonization. This can be in the form of drawings, collages, or dioramas.

Once the students have completed their artwork, have each pair present their findings and creations to the class. Encourage them to explain the significance of their chosen elements and how colonization affected their assigned culture.

Activity 3: Discussion and Reflective Writing (60 minutes)

Write down a series of discussion questions related to the Columbus Day controversy on index cards or small pieces of paper. Each question should prompt students to think critically and reflect on the topic.

Distribute the cards randomly to students and give them time to read and think about the question they received. Then, facilitate a class discussion where each student shares their thoughts based on the question they received.

After the discussion, ask students to individually write a reflective essay expressing their own opinion on Columbus Day and the controversy surrounding it. Encourage them to consider the different perspectives they have learned about and the impact on indigenous cultures.


Assess students based on their active participation in group discussions, their artwork and presentation, and the thoughtfulness of their reflective essays. Look for evidence of critical thinking, understanding of different perspectives, and empathy towards indigenous cultures.

Through this lesson plan, students will gain a deeper understanding of the Columbus Day controversy, develop critical thinking skills, and learn to approach sensitive topics with empathy and cultural awareness. By encouraging them to explore different perspectives, we empower them to form their own opinions and engage in respectful discussions about historical events that continue to shape our society.

History vs. Christopher Columbus – Alex Gendler

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the controversy surrounding Columbus Day?

The controversy surrounding Columbus Day stems from the debate over how Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the Americas should be commemorated. Critics argue that celebrating Columbus Day overlooks the negative consequences of European colonization, such as the displacement and mistreatment of Indigenous peoples.

What are some alternative viewpoints on Columbus Day?

Alternative viewpoints on Columbus Day propose replacing it with Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which seeks to honor and acknowledge the history and contributions of Native American cultures. Some argue that celebrating Columbus perpetuates a Eurocentric perspective and fails to recognize the experiences and perspectives of Indigenous peoples.

How can teachers address the Columbus Day controversy in their lesson plans?

Teachers can address the Columbus Day controversy in their lesson plans by providing a balanced and comprehensive view of the history. They can include materials that present differing viewpoints and encourage critical thinking and discussion. Teachers can also highlight the experiences and perspectives of Indigenous peoples to ensure a more inclusive understanding of the impact of European colonization.

Why is it important to teach about the Columbus Day controversy?

Teaching about the Columbus Day controversy is important because it promotes a more accurate and inclusive understanding of history. By addressing differing perspectives and acknowledging the negative consequences of colonization, students can develop a more nuanced view of historical events and a greater appreciation for diverse cultures and experiences.

What resources are available for teachers seeking to incorporate the Columbus Day controversy in their lesson plans?

There are various resources available for teachers seeking to incorporate the Columbus Day controversy in their lesson plans. Educator websites, museums, and cultural organizations offer educational materials, lesson plans, and historical texts that provide different perspectives on Columbus’s arrival in the Americas and the subsequent impact on Indigenous peoples.

How can teachers ensure a respectful and constructive discussion about the Columbus Day controversy in the classroom?

Teachers can ensure a respectful and constructive discussion about the Columbus Day controversy by establishing clear guidelines for respectful dialogue and creating a safe space for students to share their perspectives. It is important to encourage active listening, empathy, and open-mindedness while addressing differing viewpoints. It may also be helpful to provide historical context and relevant primary and secondary sources to support students’ understanding and analysis.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Columbus Day controversy lesson plan provides a thought-provoking opportunity for students to critically examine history and its impact on our present society. By engaging in discussions and activities that explore multiple perspectives, students can develop a deeper understanding of the complexities surrounding this historical figure and the consequences of his actions. This lesson plan encourages students to analyze primary sources, evaluate evidence, and engage in respectful dialogue, fostering critical thinking skills and empathy. Through the Columbus Day controversy lesson plan, educators can facilitate meaningful discussions that promote inclusivity, cultural sensitivity, and a greater awareness of different historical narratives.

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