God, Glory, and Gold -- Zentangle Explorer Ships

Our Explorer unit is in full swing now and things are moving along quite nicely.  After a brief oral retelling by me about how the  world was, for all intents and purposes, two separate entities, since the oceans kept the two major hemispheres apart, we launched into a reading about the various reasons why the early European explorers decided to explore in the first place.

Now, each year I do this with the students and, in the past, I had the students create a little flipbook of those reasons (I wrote about it here in this post). This year, I took a little different approach.  We talked about how there are three main categories that historians have classified European desire to explore -- God, Glory, and Gold.

I gave the students this article which outlined these three reasons fairly well. (but be forewarned.  This article came from a homeschooling blog and it a bit religious.  I had to do some cutting and pasting of a few of the paragraphs before I gave it to my students.  This is a new link as well, so hopefully it will work....the article is on page 4)  Before we read, I talked to them about how when reading informational text, we generally do it with a purpose in mind.  We created this anchor chart together.

Then, I had the students write the purpose of our reading at the top of the passage.  They wrote, "What were some reasons early European explorers explored?"  I also had them write "God", "Glory", and "Gold", using a different color crayon for each of those three words.

As we read the informational article, whenever we came across information answering our purpose question, the students highlighted it with the crayon that best suited the categorization of that information.  For example, if the passage was talking about how the explorers wanted to convert those who they came into contact with, they would highlight with the "God" color.  Just from this simple color coding, they were able to see that a majority of the reasons for exploration were based in the desire to find gold and wealth.

Then, after some discussion, I had the students create a Tree Map on a plain piece of paper.  They then categorized the information, in their own words, from the article they read.

Finally, as a way to display this information, with a little (ok, a lot) of inspiration from Susie the Panicked Teacher, I had the kids draw an explorer ship.  They needed to draw three masts, with two triangular sails on each mast.  At the top of the mast, they drew a little flag that read either "God", "Glory" or "Gold".  On each of the sails, the students wrote the information they had summarized on their tree maps.

The actual boat section took an artistic turn.  Susie gave me a sheet that had about 20 different zentangle patterns.  I asked the students to divide their ship hull into 4 or 5 sections, then draw a zentangle pattern in each one.   They were free to use the patterns I had or to create their own.  They then outlined them in black marker, colored the patterns in shades of brown, and cut the boats out.

My kids loved the zentangle.  They were so focused and zen while drawing.  All in all, I think this was a great way for them to think about the reasons for exploration while still getting in a little art.  Want a step by step for the zentangle art?  Click the link to Susie's blog above.  She outlines how to do it so well....and you can pick up the free zentangle sample sheet I used in my class as well.

How do you introduce the reasons for early European exploration?


  1. I am in the middle of planning now and got sidetracked reading through my blog list. YET, this post came at the perfect time! I am just starting my unit on explorers this week. Thanks so much for posting this. I am adding it my plans right now! :)

    The Organized Plan Book

  2. I like how you have the kiddos categorize their information. The info on the sails is very nice. Thanks for sharing.

  3. I love this project. I am def. going to be doing this. What articles did you use for your readings? I don't use a textbook and would be interested in the articles.

  4. Where did you get the article you had them read?

  5. Great way to engage the students and incorporate writing. Would you be willing to share the article you used?

  6. Please share the articles. I think this would be a great compliment to our European Explorer unit.

  7. HI! Love this! I am going to try it in my classroom. Would you please share the articles?

  8. I also would love the articles that you use. This is a great idea!

  9. Love the idea-- I too would also love to know the article you used.
    Can't wait to get started!

  10. This is such a great idea! I am doing this right now with my students and they love the art aspect along with gaining an understanding of why the explorers explored. We are comparing our information with great leveled texts I got from TPT and our textbook. Thank you SO much for sharing!!!!

  11. The article is no longer available. I found one to use but it was pretty complex with my kids. Do you have any other suggested sources of articles?


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