Spanish Explorers Lesson Plan

Instructor: Sharon Linde

Sharon has a Masters of Science in Mathematics

Teach your students about explorers from Spain with this lesson plan. Students will watch an informational video explaining who the Spanish explorers were and their significance as well as describing the encomienda system and purpose. Discussion questions, hands-on learning, and a quiz mean learning lasts.

Learning Objectives

After this lesson, students will be able to:

  • describe the significance of Spanish explorers
  • explain the encomienda system


1 - 1.5 hours


  • Books about Spanish explorers and/or access to technology
  • Chart paper
  • Markers
  • Index cards

Key Vocabulary

  • Conquistadors
  • Patron
  • Peones
  • Campesinos

Curriculum Standards

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.2

Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary of the source distinct from prior knowledge or opinions.

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.3

Identify key steps in a text's description of a process related to history/social studies (e.g., how a bill becomes law, how interest rates are raised or lowered).

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RH.6-8.4

Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including vocabulary specific to domains related to history/social studies.


  • Start the lesson by writing names of the seven Spanish explorers on the board and asking students to talk to a partner about what they know and can infer about these men, such as nationality and connection.
  • Tell students they will be learning about Spanish explorers. Have them share prior knowledge and preview vocabulary.
  • Have students number off one through seven and assign each an explorer on whom to focus. Instruct them to take notes during the lesson on their explorer.
  • Start the lesson video New Spain: Spanish Explorers and Spanish Colonies and pause at 0:37. Ask:
    • What was the motivation for Spanish explorers?
    • Why did they need to establish a new system after conquering lands?
  • Restart the lesson and pause at 3:59. Discuss:
    • Which explorers were actually Italian?
    • Who realized the Americas weren't in Asia? What method did he use?
    • What are conquistadors? How are they the same and different than explorers?
    • Why did conquistadors always travel with a priest?
  • Resume the lesson and pause again at 6:17 and define vocabulary with students.
  • Divide students into partners and have them sketch a triangle on paper, then use it to explain the encomienda system. Ask:
    • What was the purpose of the encomienda system?
    • What was Ferdinand and Isabella's idea of the encomienda system? Why did it not often happen?
  • Play the remainder of the lesson video and allow students to ask any remaining questions.

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