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Creating Shared Meaning around the Idea of Colonization

On February 21, 2012, Daily Page prompt that greeted the students was, “What do you know about the word colonize?  You may write and/or draw your response.”


Later that morning, the children were invited to share what they had written and drawn.


UJ:  I drew a picture.  The two English flags stand for the two English colonies.  The little dots all around here stand for spreading and connection.  The guy with the hat is John Smith and the people with the crowns are the King and Queen and the thing that looks like a puddle is the land (that is getting colonized.)

KB:  What are the little dots inside the land?

UJ:  The spreading – spreading religion to the savages.

AA:  Why did you choose to put Captain John Smith lower than the king and queen?

UJ:  The king and queen control John Smith and they work together to control the people and the colonies.

SBM:  Maybe the dots would be, maybe it’s the people who were moving and spreading the colony like building more houses and as you said, spreading religion and making it European, spreading their traditions.

ER:  I will share RS’s (reading it in order!)

How to Colonize by RS

0.    Get a Charter.

½.   Find a new land.

1.    Go to new land.

1½. Plant a flag.

2.    Make settlement.

2½. Fill out all requirements.

3.    Conquer all natives.

4.    Set up a governor.

5.    Please your leader.



Levia:  I am connecting to our work from yesterday with what River wrote in his notebook.  Is it reminding anyone else of the Doctrine of Discovery?

SBM:  I have a question and I’m not sure if you can answer it, but maybe you can give me a thought, I wonder, when you’re like, why is the finding, I don’t know how to phrase this question.

Levia:  Let’s give Senan a minute.

SBM:  I have a question and this will answer if I need to ask this question.  Are these steps in order?  Do you have to do step number one first?

ER:  Yes, they are mostly in order.  There are more steps in there, but I am mostly positive they are all in order.

SBM:  If I were to make one, I might put conquer all the natives before get a governor, maybe after find the land, because I feel like that is pretty important.

ER:  True, so it would go claim the land, then plant the flag, then they need to build a settlement.  You can’t really conquer natives if they don’t have a place to go back to.

Levia:  You are asking a good question that lawyers like to ask.  Do you have to do it in that order to make it legally binding?

SBM:  Would it work in that order?  If you did it all in that order, I’m not sure it would work.  If I was John Smith and I was going to conquer some natives, I am not sure every situation would work like this.  If they’re really savage Indians or really savage natives, you might have to build a settlement later because building a settlement takes a really long time.  In our book, it didn’t because the natives weren’t too aggressive and they didn’t need to conquer the natives to build a settlement ‘cause the natives were nice.  I think it kind of depends on what natives you got.

ER:  If you have natives that are aggressive, savage, then even if you tried to build a settlement – whether you tried to build it or not, chances are you’re going to die.

WK:  You’re going to die either way.

Senan:  You have your boat to go back to.  Just get your big cannon and blast it.

Levia:  In our book, Pocahontas (by Joseph Bruchac), we had this problem.  They had to protect themselves really quickly and they didn’t have so much time. What did they do?

RC:  They build walls.

WK:  Palisades.

Levia:  And where did the people sleep?

ER:  In holes!

Levia:  Right, in holes in the ground.

Levia:  Let’s have another sneak peek from a notebook.

NF:   I will share my Recipe for Colonization


Levia:  Obviously this is a metaphor, but what part of colonization is this for?  Is it the beginning?  The middle?  Where are you in your colonization process if you need servants and ships and flags?

NF:  The beginning.

Levia:  You’ve got this frozen bit, and you plop it down in Virginia, and what happens to it?

RC:  It defrosts!

Senan:  And then it grows… mold.

RC:  It rises.

SBM:  It grows mold, it spreads.

RC:  You should sprinkle it with yeast, because it grows.

NF:  Here are the ingredients in John Smith


Levia:  What was the word before gelatin?

NF:  Power.  And he may contain traces of London, England.

SBM:  Yeah, I might contain traces. (Note: SBM plays John Smith in the class’ “historically accurate play.”)

RC:  Doesn’t he need yeast?

SBM:  No, I don’t.  I’m at a good size right now.

Levia:  But what about your power?  How does your power spread?

SBM:  Oh, yeah, I don’t need yeast to make my power grow.  My power is mold, mold just spreads.

WK:  Nice power, Senan.

RC:  Yeast is a mold, or a fungus.

ER:  You need the gentlemen.

Levia:  Are those required, Nomi?

SBM:  No.

Levia:  Are they required in River’s how to?

ER:  No, it doesn’t say anything about people.

UJ:  I have a metaphor.  Say you have a piece of toast, and that is the land you want to colonize and you are spreading the butter, and you don’t want a piece to be left out or otherwise it will just taste like toast you want to make sure that whole piece of toast is covered with butter so it will be colonized.

Levia:  What other layers do you need on the toast?  Do you ever put jam on top of your butter?

UJ:  The butter is the beginning of colonization,

SBM:  – The Charter –

UJ:  and say you want to add some cinnamon and sugar on top,

SBM:  – That could be more ships coming in –

UJ:  So if the butter doesn’t work, you can bring in the cinnamon and sugar.

Levia:  Oh, so it’s like each layer is another try to colonize.

ER:  It’s like weeds.  They all start in Spain or England or those places over there, and they spread over to America, South America, Central America,

WK:  Prickly Weeds

(Levia writes invasive species on the board)

SBM:  Invasive species!  Like ivy.

RC:  Wrigley has to share now.  Wrigley, share what you wrote in your notebook.

Levia:  That’s a good brain buddy.


WK:  It’s evolution.  The colony –it starts out just as a piece of land with a little Christianity or English ideas or ways and then it evolves or it grows bigger and it drops things that don’t work – the things that don’t work die out.  The things that do work, they grow up and become different and change and become America and it everything evolves into the next thing.

ER:  It’s like the Jenga tower.  Each block – you just stack them on top of each other until the last one’s on and this is America

WK:  And you can pull things out along the way

SBM:  It’s like the food chain.  The things that can’t survive die out.

ER:  Natural Selection

WK:  That’s evolution!

EJ:  It’s like the game we just played (in PE).  It’s like nature.  If there’s tons of frogs and no insects, the frogs will die out then there will be more insects.

ER:  Natural selection!

WK:  Which is all evolution!

SBM:  Things that don’t work die out.  When all of the frogs die out, it goes back to balance.  There needs to go be a balance going on.

WK:  Evolution is broad balance.  It’s a wide berth balance, it makes balance more powerful, it includes all of the little things we are talking about here that make a colony.

RC:  It’s like the ones that spread better are the ones that are there because the ones that don’t spread enough, the one’s that are really appealing, everyone moves from the less amazing colonies to the more appealing ones and that one spreads and the other ones drops in population and dies out.  Some work and some don’t. That’s why weeds are weeds.  The weeds spread so much.  Like grass.  There is so much of it – grass thrives here.

SBM:  It’s like trillium – if you pick them it takes seven years to grow back, so there aren’t as many of them so therefore they aren’t a very successful plant.

ER:  Natural Selection.  The things that survive go on.  Like the last colony of Roanoke.  They are like the trillium, they didn’t spread.

SBM:  And if they don’t spread, they have a little bit of land and things that they were working out, the land maybe when they came there it was full of deer and things to eat, but then they eat it, the deer leave, and they did not spread out because they have a colony and it’s safe where they are, but they have no food.

RC:  It’s safe (air quotes)

ER:  So they didn’t survive.

EC:  They didn’t leave their comfort zone!

SBM:  Yes.  They stayed in their comfort zone and didn’t get to their optimal performance zone (Note: for more on this idea, see http://opalschoolblog.typepad.com/opal_4/2012/09/community-camp-collins-and-comfort-zones.html).

BK:  Adding on to Senan.  So, Roanoke, they ate all the deer, the deer ran out further into the land and Roanoke didn’t have anything to eat, and they stayed in their comfort zone, and when winter came they died out

RC:  (choking noises) “I’m so hungry!”

SBM:  This is like land zones, this is not just…

BK:  because the Indians killed them

SBM:  The Indians were successful with the lost colony of Roanoke.

RC:  We need to take a trip to Roanoke!

SBM:  The Indians were a culture who were not scared to venture out from where they were, but the people of Roanoke were.  They had a little colony set up and they had a nice warm fire, so they decided maybe I’ll go out tomorrow, but they didn’t.

RC:  And they died!

SBM:  People keep dying.

WK:  Jamestown was the opposite of that.  They were working well and they decided to spread out to The Point – I don’t know what the problem was, but there was some danger and a bunch of the people moved over to

BK:  Point Comfort

WK:  for the winter because there wasn’t very much food in Jamestown, and in Jamestown that winter, things didn’t go well for the people who stayed there.  But most of Jamestown evolved away.

ER:  Survivors!  Natural selection!

BK:  Why they moved to Point Comfort is because the Indians were going to raid Jamestown.

ER:  One more thing, Una has a clay piece of toast.  You put clay butter on it.  So when Roanoke doesn’t survive, the butter just slips off the toast and falls in to the garbage and they die.

WK:  That piece of toast didn’t work out very well, nobody bought that toast.

We were ready to leave the stage, and a group of students came up to the white board and drew this:


Creating shared meaning and creating a theory, Colonization is, “Natural Selection.  The survivors become invasive species, that is how the world evolves and works.  Mother Nature!”

I am also noticing the role of “Power” in the diagram and the emphatic, EVERYTHING!

Teacher Reflection:

I hadn’t intended for this to be a Science Talk, a dialog where the students are encouraged to come up with theories to answer the posed provocation, but that is exactly what happened.

I was also reminded so clearly of the roles of metaphor, materials, and collaborative thinking in supporting meaning making through this dialog.  I transcribed this conversation from an audio recording, and caught so much more of the interjected thoughts that moved the group’s thinking along. I also noticed that each time a new metaphor was introduced, the children were inspired to move their thinking forward.

I am also amazed by the depth of recall the children are demonstrating. They are remembering their interdependence work from third grade, vocabulary from earlier this fall, perspective taking from dramatic play experiences, schema from historical fiction book clubs and from recent text deconstruction.

This theory will become another step in the meaning making process and in our project work. How will these theories of colonization change as we explore more?  How will this perspective influence how these students come to understand the history of our country? I am looking forward to seeing where we go from here!


February 25, 2013