Jamestown Dilemmas

By: Sinead Williams



Students will explore the difficulties experienced by the English settlers in Virginia and subsequent struggles for survival in the early years of the colony. Students will be given four different dilemmas and will explore possible outcomes to the initial problems faced by the English colonists. After students help resolve the issues through collaborative groups, students will then learn what actually happened in Jamestown and the eventual survival of the colony through strong leadership and the development of tobacco.

Keywords: Jamestown, dilemmas, struggles, John Rolfe, John Smith


Students will:
1. work collaboratively to solve issues related to colonization of Jamestown
2. analyze information about the Jamestown colony
3. become familiar with the struggles of the colonists in the early years.
4. learn how strong leadership helped the colony to prosper
5. learn how tobacco helped save the colony from devastation


Standard 2: Examine the causes, course, and consequences of British settlement in the American colonies. (SS.8.A.2)
4.Identify the impact of key colonial figures on the economic, political, and social development of the colonies. (SS.8.A.2.4)


Academic Preparation

Students will be familiar with colonial settlement and the big four colonizers - English, Spanish, French and Portugese. Students will be able to locate Virginia on a map.


Warm-Up Activity: Students will respond to the following question - You arrive in Virginia in the 1600's in search of Gold - what is the first thing you do upon your arrival?
Have students come up with different scenarios they would do as they arrive as a new colonist in the New World.
Illicit student responses.
Clarify where needed and acknowledge positive responses.
Explain to students that the first colonies established in America faced many struggles upon arrival and many people died in an attempt to make a new life in this new land.
Explain to students how they are going to use their chart as they work with their partners. Assign partnerships based on student ability and teacher knowledge of students.
Begin PowerPoint introducing the first dilemma.
Give students appropriate time to work collaboratively in a Think/Pair/Share to respond to the dilemma.
Illicit responses, clarify and praise where appropriate.
Repeat for each dilemma.
Wrap-Up: Have student pairs design a 3 part plan to give to the first Virginia colonists in an attempt to help them avoid the problems they had during the initial early days of settlement.


Informal: Class group discussion/think pair share
Formal: Student Handout - Completion of chart, answers to dilemma questions.
Formal: Wrap-Up - Student design plan

Estimated Lesson Duration

1hr 30min


  • The American Journey - Appleby, Brinkley & McPherson


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