NCTA/CGP Lesson Plan Greg Hamilton

NCTA/CGP Lesson Plan Greg Hamilton

NCTA/CGP Lesson Plan—Greg Hamilton

7.26 Draw evidence from informational texts to analyze the contributions made during the Ming Dynasty such as building projects, including the Forbidden City and the reconstruction of the Great Wall , isolationism, and sea voyages.

Christopher Columbus v Zheng He: Who was the Better Mariner?

Lesson Plan for Seventh Graders

Objectives: Students will:

  • Compare and evaluate Christopher Columbus and Zheng He as sailors.
  • Participate in debate/discussion about the two mariners.
  • Write argumentative essays expressing opinions and supporting them with factual material.

Time: two 50-minute class sessions.


1. Start with the question: Who was the greatest sailor (mariner) in history? Make copies of pictures of famous sailors and place them around the room when students enter, or show them on a projection screen: Columbus, Zheng He, and others such as Vasco de Gama, Ferdinand Magellan, Henry Hudson, Samuel de Champlain, James Cook, or others. Name the explorers and ask students to consider who was the greatest.

2. Give students 45 seconds to turn, talk to the students around them and nominate who they think was the greatest sailor in history. When time is up, tally their nominations on the board.

3. Explain that today we’re going focus on two of these explorers who lived in the 15th century: Columbus and Zheng He. One is famous, the other is the most famous explorer they never heard of.

4. Explain that they’re to carefully watch a video about Columbus and Zheng He. Give each student Handout 1.1 and go over the directions. Either read or have the students read aloud the terms on the handout before watching the video.

5. Show segments from the video clip, Crash Course: World History Columbus, de Game, and Zheng He! 15th Century Mariners on a projection device, computer screen, or television.

Video note: the first 4:26 is about Zheng He. Teachers may want to skip the section from 1:40 to 2:05 where the narrator talks about Zheng He’s castration.

Skip the section on Vasco de Game and the Treaty of Tortesillas.

Resume from 8:15-10:00 when the discussion is about Columbus.

6. When the video is over, divide the students into groups for about 5 minutes to complete Handout 1.

7. When time is up, have student groups explain how they grouped the terms. Write their findings on the board or projection device and then select the 5 most important facts about each mariner. This should generate some discussion.

8. At this point have students vote for Columbus or Zheng He as the greatest sailor (mariner) based on what little they know now.


Give the students the Facts about Asia handout and Handout 2. Begin the assignment in class, and find examples of facts which support one mariner or the other. Have the students complete the assignment independently, as homework if necessary.

Day Two:

1. Informal discussion/debate. Students revote on who they consider the better mariner. After the vote ask for comments or questions. Allow students to make their points; teacher’s role is to be a facilitator/questioner.

2. Writing assignment. Students write a 4-paragraph essay comparing the two mariners: an introduction, a paragraph on Columbus, a paragraph in Zhen He, and a conclusion. Paragraphs will be graded on organization, topic sentences, and supporting evidence. Handouts 1 and 2 will provide factual information for the writing assignment.


Students interested in further research can read two other articles from Calliope magazine, listed below.


Columbus, de Gama, and Zheng He! 15th Century Mariners. Crash Course: World History #21. YouTube

Jin We. “Zheng He’s Voyages,” Calliope, February, 2007

“Two Significant Maritime Achievements. Facts about Asia. Vol 10, Number 3, Winter 2005, pp. 46-47.

Weston, Beth. “Columbus Sets Sail,” Calliope, September, 2011.