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Lesson 17
Documenting an Historic Journey

Learning Objectives

Students will:
  • Demonstrate the concept of writing from a first person point of view;
  • Analyze and describe life in North America during the early 1800's;
  • Incorporate details to make writing come to life;
  • Consolidate and organize ideas using a graphic organizer.


This lesson correlates to the national McREL standards located online at

Language Arts
Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Standard 2: Uses the stylistic and rhetorical aspects of writing
Standard 3: Uses grammatical and mechanical conventions in written compositions
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media

Standard 2: Knows the characteristics and uses of computer software programs Standard 3: Understands the relationships among science, technology, society, and the individual


Time Needed

Two or three 45-minute class periods.

Teaching Strategy

  1. Introduce students to Lewis and Clark’s journals by reading the entry from Lewis dated August 13, 1805. It may be helpful to provide photocopies or an overhead version of this entry for use later in the lesson.

  2. Discuss the vivid, visual picture Lewis creates of the scene and interaction between himself and the Native Americans. Review the importance of accurate description when recording these interactions. Use this opportunity to point out how Lewis uses first person point of view in his journal. Discuss the difference between first and third person voice when writing.

  3. View the film. Encourage students to take notes about main events, key people, and interesting information they learned.

  4. After viewing, take time to discuss the film using information from students’ notes as topics for discussion.

  5. Return to the August 13, 1805 entry by Lewis. On the board or overhead, draw a sample of the graphic organizer that appears on the Lesson 17 Student Activity Sheet. Explain to students that by using a graphic organizer, they can organize and assemble the details of the story told by Lewis in the journal entry.

  6. Begin by explaining to students that since Lewis wrote this journal entry, "Lewis" belongs in the center of the graphic organizer.

  7. Add details in the boxes on the perimeter. For example, two females, an elderly woman and young girl, were mentioned in the journal. Place them in one of the boxes and add some details pertinent to these two women. Continue this process by working as a group to complete all of the boxes in the graphic organizer.

  8. Explain to students that their assignment is to choose a member of the Corps of Discovery and write a journal entry on a day's activities from that person's point of view. Distribute the Lesson 17 Student Activity Sheet for students to complete as part of the planning process.

  9. Before students choose a person, list some of the main people that were part of the expedition. Provide further details about these people by reviewing the following recommended journal entries:

    Lewis: June 3, 1805
    Whitehouse: September 24, 1804
    Clark: May 5, 1805
    Gass: July 1, 1805
    Ordway: August 5, 1805

    After the list is compiled and the journals are reviewed, the students should select a Corps member and enter that person's name in the center of their graphic organizer.

  10. To help students with ideas and details, encourage them to read about the person they have chosen from the “Inside the Corps” section of the website and refer to the notes taken while viewing the film.

  11. To further focus student writing an assist them with completion of the graphic organizer, have students imagine themselves as the character they chose, living during the years 1804 to 1806. They should write main ideas in each of the ovals on the graphic organizer. Some questions that might direct and assist students are:
    • Whom did you meet?

    • What is the status of your supplies?

    • What are the weather conditions?

    • What difficulties of challenges did you encounter?

  12. Now students should expand their main ideas into precise, descriptive terms by adding "fingers” to the ovals.

  13. When the graphic organizer is complete, students should use this information to write their own journal entry. From the writing, it should be clear whose voice the student is writing from and which leg of the expedition the person is experiencing. Emphasize the use precise, accurate details in the journal entries to give credibility and make reading more interesting for others.

  14. Distribute Lesson 17 Student Self-Assessment Sheets and review them with the class so students know how they will be evaluating their work before they begin writing. Have students share journal entries in small groups and post them for others to see.

  15. Students should evaluate their own work using the Student Self-Evaluation Assessment Form.

Assessment Recommendations

  1. Each writer should complete the Student Self-Assessment Form to evaluate their own writing skills.

  2. A participation grade could be assigned for involvement in class discussion and graphic organizer activities.

  3. A completion grade could be given for finishing the journal entry and Student Self- Assessment Form and for sharing their work with classmates.


  • Pair with students from another classroom and/or grade level studying the Lewis and Clark expedition and share the journal entries with one another. If younger students are involved, consider having students dress as the person whose point of view they have chosen to write from and have them present their journal entry in character.

  • Special needs students may need additional help with paragraph construction.

  • For the more advanced writer, emphasize the use of "active voice" rather than "passive voice." (Grammar check on a word processor becomes a powerful tool to learn this concept.)