skip to main content

Leading adult education through support for and the effective application of technology.

Stanford Education Group: Reading Like a Historian - Pocahontas

Example Web Site and/or Technical Equipment Required


Website Example:

Tech Product Equipment

Computer, Internet access, projector, speakers

Activity Description

In this activity, students use primary sources to answer the question whether Pocahontas saved John Smith’s life. The Reading Like a Historian curriculum engages students in historical inquiry. Each lesson revolves around a central historical question and features sets of primary documents modified for groups of students with diverse reading skills and abilities. U.S. History consists of the following Units:

  • Unit 1: Introduction
  • Unit 2: Colonial
  • Unit 3: Revolution and Early America
  • Unit 4: Expansion/Slavery
  • Unit 5: Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Unit 6: The Gilded Age
  • Unit 7: American Imperialism
  • Unit 8: Progressivism
  • Unit 9: World War I and the 1920s
  • Unit 10: New Deal and World War II
  • Unit 11: Cold War
  • Unit 12: Cold War Culture/Civil Rights


  1. Make sure that the Example Web Site (link above) is not blocked at your school if you want to project documents.
  2. In order to download the lesson plan and other materials you will need to create a free account. Select the Sign up link in the upper right corner near the Login button. Complete the form. You will then need to validate your account using the e-mail they will send you.
  3. Download detailed Lesson Plans, Original Documents, and Timeline  found under the picture in yellow text.
  4. Review the detailed Lesson Plans.
  5. Makes student copies of Original Documents and Timeline (links to these are also found in yellow text below the picture).
  6. Find a copy of Walt Disney’s Pocahontas Movie and cue it to the segment where Pocahontas saves John Smith. (Thrift stores or you local library might be good places to start if you do not have the movie.)


  1. Introduce topic and ask students about their previous knowledge of Pocahontas. Focus on the question of whether Pocahontas saved John Smith’s life.
  2. Play a short movie clip from Walt Disney’s Pocahontas Movie (the segment where Pocahontas saves John Smith). Ask the students if they believe the movie and suggest they look at primary sources.
  3. Pass out handouts and have students complete the John Smith Documents Worksheet in groups. Students will need John Smith Document A and B.
  4. Discuss why John Smith would write two different accounts.
  5. Review students’ claims/hypotheses.
  6. Continue with the lesson as you desire using the downloaded lesson plan.

More Ways

  • There are more than 75 lessons covering U.S. History and World History, which can be taught in succession, but are designed to stand alone and supplement what teachers are already doing in the classroom. Most lessons are designed to take a full class period, though some extend over several periods.

Select subjects and subcategories

Social Studies

  • U.S. History
Scroll To Top

OTAN activities are funded by contract CN200091-A2 from the Adult Education Office, in the Career & College Transition Division, California Department of Education, with funds provided through Federal P.L., 105-220, Section 223. However, OTAN content does not necessarily reflect the position of that department or the U.S. Department of Education.