ALEX Lesson Plan

Hernando de Soto in Alabama

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  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Virginia Henshaw
System: Madison County
School: Central School
The event this resource created for:Alabama Department of Archives and History
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 35071


Hernando de Soto in Alabama


Students will use primary sources to gain information about Hernando de Soto, his route, and his interactions with Native Americans in Alabama. Students will read two articles in order to identify information about Hernando de Soto and his journey through Alabama. Students will also learn about the impact of European Exploration on the Native Americans who were in Alabama in the 1500s. 

This lesson was created in partnership with the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
10 ) Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text. [RI.4.1]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.4.10- Answer who, what, when, and where questions to demonstrate understanding of an informational text.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
12 ) Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text. [RI.4.3]

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
ELA.AAS.4.12- Identify events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in an informational text.

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
16 ) Interpret information presented visually, orally, or quantitatively (e.g., in charts, graphs, diagrams, time lines, animations, or interactive elements on Web pages) and explain how the information contributes to an understanding of the text in which it appears. [RI.4.7]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
18 ) Integrate information from two texts on the same topic in order to write or speak about the subject knowledgeably. [RI.4.9]

English Language Arts
ELA2015 (2015)
Grade: 4
32 ) Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on Grade 4 topics and texts, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly. [SL.4.1]

a. Come to discussions prepared, having read or studied required material; explicitly draw on that preparation and other information known about the topic to explore ideas under discussion. [SL.4.1a]

b. Follow agreed-upon rules for discussions and carry out assigned roles. [SL.4.1b]

c. Pose and respond to specific questions to clarify or follow up on information, and make comments that contribute to the discussion and link to the remarks of others. [SL.4.1c]

d. Review the key ideas expressed and explain their own ideas and understanding in light of the discussion. [SL.4.1d]

Social Studies
SS2010 (2010)
Grade: 4
Alabama Studies
2 ) Relate reasons for European exploration and settlement in Alabama to the impact of European explorers on trade, health, and land expansion in Alabama.

•  Locating on maps European settlements in early Alabama, including Fort Condé, Fort Toulouse, and Fort Mims
•  Tracing on maps and globes, the routes of early explorers of the New World, including Juan Ponce de León, Hernando de Soto, and Vasco Núñez de Balboa
•  Explaining reasons for conflicts between Europeans and American Indians in Alabama from 1519 to 1840, including differing beliefs regarding land ownership, religion, and culture

Alabama Alternate Achievement Standards
AAS Standard:
SS.AAS.4.2- Using maps, demonstrate an understanding that people from Europe explored and settled in Alabama.

Local/National Standards:

NCSS Standard II. Time, Continuity, and Change: d. identify and use various sources for reconstructing the past, such as documents, letters, diaries, maps, textbooks, photos, and others;

Primary Learning Objective(s):

1. I can identify a European explorer and his reason for exploration. 

2. I can explain the impact his group had in Alabama. 

3. I can infer based on visuals and text evidence. 

4. I can interpret visuals and written text in order to gain an understanding of and discuss European exploration in Alabama. 

Additional Learning Objective(s):

 Preparation Information 

Total Duration:

31 to 60 Minutes

Materials and Resources:

Copies of an article from ReadWorks: 

Copy of Photograph of Panel of the meeting of Chief Tuscaloosa and Hernando de Soto 

Copy of Mural of the Meeting of Chief Tuscaloosa and Hernando de Soto

Copy of Portrait Sketch of Hernando de Soto

Copy of Route of de Soto through Alabama

Fact List about European Exploration Impact

Graphic Organizer for Part 1 of the lesson

An article is provided for teacher review in the attachments. It is called "De Soto March of Destruction." The teacher may choose to share parts of this as she/he deems appropriate with her/his students. 



Encyclopedia of Alabama Article on European Exploration 

Bridges, Edwin C. Alabama The Making of an American State. Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama, 2016. Print. 

Technology Resources Needed:

If available, utilize a computer and projection screen in order to project the map of de Soto's Alabama route. 


Students should have prior knowledge about Native Americans in Alabama. They should understand their way of life. Teachers need to prepare the materials for the carousel activity and have copies of the graphic organizer and articles ready for the lesson. Teachers also need a copy of de Soto and European Exploration fact sheet. Teachers should also decide if they want to do this lesson in an hour session or in two, thirty minute sessions. 

Students should have an understanding of inferring and have experience inferring when reading. 

An article is provided to build teacher understanding of the Battle of Mabila. It can be found in the attachments section of this lesson. 

A T-chart can be created ahead of time for charting student prior knowledge. At the top of the left column, the teacher should label, "What I Know about Native Americans." At the top of the right column, the teacher should label, "What I Know about Explorers."  

Place the four visuals around your room (map of de Soto's route, the portrait of de Soto, the mural of the meeting of de Soto and Chief Tuscaloosa, and Copy of Photograph of Panel of the Meeting of Chief Tuscaloosa and Hernando de Soto). Number each visual. 

Information on the Carousel Learning Structure: When conducting a carousel learning opportunity, students are moving around the room like a carousel. In this instance, there are four visuals in different locations in the room. Students are divided into four equal groups. Students stay at a given station for approximately five minutes to complete the task, then rotate or carousel to the next station, and repeat the process. When students have stopped at each poster, a time of debriefing should be held. 

Background Information from Encyclopedia of Alabama: Hernando de Soto, European Exploration


Before: Have students turn and talk about what they know about Native Americans in Alabama. The teacher should chart on a T-chart what students know after they complete the turn and talk discussion. 

Have students turn and talk about what they know about explorers. The teacher should chart on the T-chart what students know after the turn and talk discussion. 

Inform students that they'll be learning about Native Americans, explorers, and the impact of exploration. 

During: Divide your class into four groups. Give each student a copy of the graphic organizer. Instruct students to record the number and the focus of the graphic source, their observations, and finally they can record any inferences based on their knowledge of history and the visuals. Encourage students to talk to their team about their observations and inferences. 

Send each group to an assigned station. Allow them approximately five minutes at each station. This will give them time to observe the visual and record their observations and thinking. While students are working, the teacher should monitor student work and discuss observations and inferences with students. The teacher should also question students if he/she notices that students aren't understanding the visual. 

Within the five minutes, students should finish their first observation and notes. The teacher should signal for the class to come to attention. Then the teacher should give directions on how to rotate to their next station. They will move to the next station and work for about five minutes to observe and record. The teacher should continue to monitor and question as appropriate.

Continue this process until students have rotated through all four stations.

Possible Observations and Inferences: weapons, dress of both groups, expressions, body language, who had horses, similarities between groups, possible interactions with other groups as he traveled the state, how de Soto is depicted in different visuals.

After: After the carousel activity, have students share their observations and inferences from the visuals. This can be done as a table discussion, a turn and talk discussion, or a whole class debriefing discussion.

"In the next part of the lesson we are going to be learning about Hernando de Soto the explorer, and his interactions with Native Americans in Alabama." At this point either collect student inferences to revisit after the lesson or reinforce strong inferences and if needed correct any illogical observations and inferences by referring back to the visual.  

At this point, you can continue this lesson or stop here and continue later. 

Before:  Remind students that in your last session you looked at visuals related to de Soto and his exploration through Alabama. If possible, project the map of his journey and discuss his route through Alabama. 

During: Have your students read the article from ReadWorks about Hernando de Soto. Consider having them read with a partner, stopping after each paragraph to discuss the text, write in the margins, highlight, underline things of importance, interest, and record questions as they read. If needed, guide students through this by focusing on one paragraph at a time, students read, annotate, and discuss; then have a whole class share. 

Then have them answer these questions on the 5W Map sheet: Who (did we read about)? What (did he do)? When (did he explore)? Where (did he go on his exploration)? Why (was he exploring)?  

The teacher should now guide students in tracing his route and identifying locations in Alabama where he explored. Students can trace his route in color as they complete this part of the lesson. The teacher should explain his route through Alabama and highlight important information about his explorations in Alabama during this part of the lesson. The teacher should use a projected copy of the map during this part of the lesson. 

If you have access to Alabama, The Making of an American State by Edwin C. Bridges, there is information about the European explorers and their impact on Alabama. Facts from this book are included in the lesson materials, you may want to share these with your students. If you do not have access to this book, please see the fact list. It will provide information about impact and the Battle of Mabila.  Additional background information is provided in an attachment "De Soto March of Destruction." The teacher may wish to share part of this document with the students as well. 

After: Have students complete an exit slip on a note card or piece of paper. What was something positive about European exploration? Why do you think this? What was something negative about European exploration? Why do you think this? Do you think other Native American groups in the southeast were impacted in similar ways? Why? 

At this point, you can also come back to the student inferences and determine which were correct and which were incorrect based on visual and text evidence. 

Also, review students work to ensure they were able to use the map to identify where he traveled in Alabama. 

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Assessment Strategies

Observation of student discussions can be conducted in order to determine if students are working toward the outcome successfully. Teachers can also use the graphic organizer students completed, and the 5W Map sheet about Hernando de Soto to determine if students grasp the information provided about him and that they can trace his route through Alabama. The exit slip can be used to determine if students understand that European exploration had an impact on Native Americans in Alabama. 


Students who have questions about explorers, impact, etc. could be given time to research and locate the answers to their questions. These students should be allowed the opportunity to share the information found with the class. 

For further acceleration, students could research to learn of the positive and negative impact of exploration across the country and around the world. 

Students could also read and research about other explorers and their impact on areas they explored. 

Suggested Reading List for Acceleration: 

List of articles related to European exploration on Encyclopedia of Alabama

Alabama History Timeline



Intervention: can be used to simplify text.

Read and Write for Google Chrome is an extension that can be added to Chrome to support students. 

Teachers can provide an opportunity for oral exit slips or multiple choice exit slips if needed. 

Students could also read the articles in a small group with the teacher. 

View the Special Education resources for instructional guidance in providing modifications and adaptations for students with significant cognitive disabilities who qualify for the Alabama Alternate Assessment.