Thanks to the Disney film, most students know the legend of Pocahontas. But is the story told in the 1995 movie accurate? In this lesson, students use evidence to explore whether Pocahontas actually saved John Smith’s life and practice the ability to source, corroborate, and contextualize historical documents.

Please note that there are two versions of the lesson plan available. The shorter version is designed for younger students.

[Longer Lesson Plan and Shorter Lesson Plan files updated on 9/27/17.]


I've done this two years in a row with 8th graders. I think that the "contextualization" section could be strengthened a bit by asking more direct questions, like "was Pocahontas alive to contradict his version of events". High school students might not struggle to make the connection between the commercial appeal of the second version and the sanctity of historical fact, but my middle schoolers did.
As a homeschool mom, I am so excited to happen upon this site. I will be using this for my 8th grader with my 5th grader sitting in. Thanks so much for these lesson plans. They are such a great addition to our history curriculum.
Relevance. Take pop culture (student schema of the animated tale of this event) to entice the student to travel backwards some 400 years to investigate source documents and come to a collective judgment. The particular situation in this lesson, on the surface, allows for what seems a whimsical debate of evidence and yet enforces the skills necessary to foster critical thinkers. Hats off for creating a lesson that produced a Social Studies room filled with laughter and excitement.
This is the second year I have used this with my 8th grade classes. This lesson is a great jumping off point. Students learn to look at primary sources and understand what actually occurred and compare that to contemporary ideas of what happened in early Virginia. It is a bridge to help them understand the reasons the English wanted to establish colonies in America.
This was amazing. I am so thankful for this lesson as a way to start off my year of examining American history. After doing the intro lessons provided by SHEG, this lesson was the perfect place for my students to start examining American history roots. They took what they had practiced and put it into action. I highly recommend this lesson for the high school level.
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