Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Roanoke: The Lost Colony


Roanoke, by Jane Yolen, offers an interesting and fun way for students to look at the story of the lost colony of Roanoke.

This book offers factual information about the lost colony of Roanoke.  It begins with the settlement of the Roanoke colony and then focuses on John White and his journey back to England for more supplies for the colonists.  It includes this factual, non-fictional information, however it is written as if a young girl were being a detective in this situation.  She wants to learn more about the lost colony because she wants to try to figure out what happened to it.  It opens…

“When I grow up I want to be a detective, just like my dad.  He says I was born curious, and curiosity is the best tool a detective can have.”

Each page also has an insert of a piece of notebook paper, which are supposed to be the young girl’s notes, as well as sticky notes that have vocabulary and definitions on them. For example,

“Colony/colonists: a group of settlers in a new country, still subjects of their mother country”

At the end of the book, the young girl gives five examples of the most common theories of what happened to the lost colony.  They also offer good questions that would be asked if students were trying to test the theories (these make for good discussion questions!)

Curriculum Connections:
This book is good for helping students understand the hardships and uncertainties of life during the early colonial period.  It also presents a mysterious topic that may be interesting for them to further investigate.

Additional Resources:

  1. This is a link to a lesson plan for the lost colony of Roanoke.  It is a multi-day lesson plan that involves working with interactive internet sources for a deeper understanding.
  2. JamesQuest is a website that includes a multitude of activities and tasks for students to work on that allow for a fun and deep rooted understanding of what life was like in the early colonial period.
  3. This is a link to a website of maps of the lost colony of Roanoke.

General Information:
Book: Roanoke: The Lost Colony
Author: Jane Yolen
Illustrator: Roger Roth
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 3-5
ISBN#: 0689823215

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