Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Must Read Mentor Text...Roanoke: The Lost Colony, A Unsolved Mystery from History

Pin It Now! I just learned about an EXCELLENT linky called Must Read Mentor Texts at Collaboration Cuties. In a nutshell, you link up your blog post about a content-area trade book that you recommend to teachers to read and use with their classes. The weekly linky alternates content area. This week it's social studies. Other weeks, there are link ups to language arts, science, and math. There's even a little graphic you post that shares what skills are used in the book and a one-word description of it.

Using trade books is one of my favorite ways to connect my students to subject matter. I highly recommend it! In fact, I tell them that one of the ways I learn more about a topic is to start by reading trade books...that I get from the children's department of the public library! I'm very excited to get involved with this linky not only to share what I've used but also to learn about more fantastic trade book options.

The text I'm sharing this week is Roanoke: The Lost Colony, A Unsolved Mystery from History by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Roger Roth.

This short, nonfiction picture book is aimed toward upper elementary students, but it could be used at the middle level as well. The story is the same at any grade level! Yolen and Stemple tell the story of Roanoke, the first attempt by the British to permanently settle in North America. The story is told from the perspective of a modern-day, young girl who lays out the mystery of the lost colony with details about the major figures from the colony and surrounding environs (Walter Raleigh, John White, the Croatoan Indians, Manteo, Virginia Dare); facts about the colony; descriptions of colonists' relationships with the local American Indians; related vocabulary, and other known information. At the end of the book, the authors provide the most popular theories about what happened to Roanoke:

1. The No Survivors Theory; 
2. Absorbed by Native People Theory; 
3. The Lost at Sea Theory; 
4. The Split Community Theory; and 
5. The White Doe Theory.

This book reminds me a lot of the You Wouldn't Want to Be... series as far as the layout and design. Each page not only tells the central story, but it also includes many different fun facts, vocabulary terms, and interesting illustrations to accompany the text.

I use this book as an introductory hook to our lesson on the Roanoke colony. It's a fascinating story, a true mystery from history, so students really become engaged. I read it aloud in class as it is short enough to do that. I walk around and show illustrations and stop at different points to further explain the story and to quickly assess by questioning students to make sure that they understand what is being read.

I also read the book aloud because students complete a response activity to this book. Prior to reading it, I tell students to pay close attention to the facts and information presented in the book because they will be making a prediction about what they think happened to the colony. After we read the book, I go over the five popular theories then give out the assignment: a newspaper article template on which students write a news story that explains what happened to the colony.

Sample template
Before allowing students to start work, we review the questions that should be answered in a news story: Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How? Because some of these questions are not answered in the book, students must infer or make their best guesses about answers to them using the information that was presented in the story. I also ask students to draw and color an image to go along with the story. Once students have completed the assignment, I allow volunteers to read their stories aloud. It's usually a good mix of theories presented.

This book requires skills such as cause and effect; understanding sequence; inference; and questioning, among others. It can be used to elicit higher-level thinking including analysis, evaluation, and ultimately, creation. I really like how this book engages students. It shows them that history can be very interesting, and they can think like historians to help solve a mystery that's hundreds of years old.


  1. This book looks fantastic! I just added it to my cart. My students and I love talking about Roanoke...this would be a great addition to our discussion. Thanks for sharing!

    Hunter's Tales from Teaching

  2. Oh my gosh! I need this book!! I'm so super thankful you linked up! I can't wait for you to link up each week! This is a fantastic post! I love how you laid out exactly how you use the book!

    We teach about the colonies and I like to start with Roanoake because of the mystery in it! I love how this book has the theories laid out and then you have them pick what they think!

    I have never heard of this book, but I love the You Wouldn't Want to Be series so I know I'll love this book!

    Thanks again for linking up!
    Collaboration Cuties

    1. Oh, and did you know that you are a no-reply blogger? Which means I can respond to your comments via email.

      Here's a link on how to fix it!

      It's just fun to be able to have a conversation back and forth! :O)

    2. I wondered about that! I think I just fixed it. I hope. :) Thanks! If you get a chance, do you mind testing it out?

  3. This book looks fantastic! I don't teach this time period but might look into simply because I think my students would love to read it! Thank!
    Brandee @ Creating Lifelong Learners

  4. Ooh I am going to get this book! I am always looking for nonfiction that addresses cause and effect and sequencing.

    The Eager Teacher


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