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Teaching Guide

Teaching Jamestown & Early Colonial Virginia

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It seems like people used to just plop down wherever they wanted and name a place after someone. Jamestown. Georgetown. Williamsburg. Of course, there was always more to it than that, and we can help your students explore that early Colonial vision.

In this guide you will find

  • activities analyzing key historical documents of the time period.
  • discussion questions on race, politics, and the economy.
  • historical resources on Virginia's neighbors to the north, Puritan New England, and on Spanish Colonization.

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What's Inside Shmoop's History Teaching Guides

Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring history to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 3-5 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

Instructions for You

Four centuries after she lived and died, Americans remain intrigued by Pocahontas. Her story and her image are still important parts of American folklore; heck, she's now a popular Disney cartoon! In this exercise, your students will analyze several images of Pocahontas and consider her role in American culture.

1. Share these images with your students. An alternative approach might be to ask your students to locate as many images of Pocahontas as they can on the internet.

2. Discuss these representations with your students, emphasizing the following questions:

  • Which do you think is the most accurate representation of Pocahontas?
  • When did the manipulation/exploitations of her image begin?
  • Are there any recurring themes or suggestions in the use of her image?
  • Are these treatments generally positive?
  • Is any other figure from Jamestown as recognizable?
  • Why has Pocahontas become such a central figure in the story of this colony?
  • Is there an analogous figure for Massachusetts Bay?
  • Does she in any way represent the real history of Jamestown?

3. Close this exercise by asking your students to write a one paragraph response to the final question.

Instructions for Your Students

Did Pocahontas look like this?

 How about this

In reality, she probably didn't look much like any of those people.  Yet these images of Pocahontas pop up all over the place in 21st-century America.  So why are Americans still so fascinated with the image of Pocahontas, a Native American woman who lived and died 400 years ago?

See how many images of Pocahontas you can find on the internet and think about why she has become the most identifiable – sort of – figure to emerge from the history of the Jamestown colony.


Check out all the different parts of our corresponding learning guide.

Intro    Summary & Analysis    Timeline    People    Facts    Photos    Best of the Web    Citations    
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