Colonial America to Civil War

The settlement of Jamestown, Virginia, by English colonists in 1607 was funded by a joint stock company, the Virginia Company. The "Starving Time" refers to the experience of the colonists in Jamestown during the winter of 1609-1610, when the number of colonists fell from approximately 500 to 60 due to crop failure, hostilities with local Indians, and general leadership failure. Representatives of the Virginia Company wrote about this time in A True Declaration of the Estate of the Colonie in Virginia in 1610, and another version of the starving time was written by John Smith in The Generall Historie of Virginia in 1624.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
Compare and contrast a primary source and secondary source of the same event or topic.
Interpret different texts and primary sources to describe the major components of history and culture including language, clothing, food, art, beliefs, customs, and music.
Trace and explain the founding of Jamestown, including:
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.
Analyze a case in which two or more texts provide conflicting information on the same topic and identify where the texts disagree on matters of fact...
Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on grade 8 topics, texts,...
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence
Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, relevant descriptive details, and well-structured event...
GLE 0801.2.7
Participate in work teams and group discussions.
GLE 0801.3.3
Organize ideas into an essay with an introduction, developing paragraphs, conclusion, and appropriate transitions.
GLE 0801.4.2
Gather relevant information from a variety of print and electronic sources, as well as from direct observation, interviews, and surveys.
GLE 0801.4.3
Make distinctions about the credibility, reliability, consistency, strengths, and limitations of resources, including information gathered from websites.
GLE 0801.5.5
Explore the concept of premises, including false premises.
SPI 0801.2.7
Select the most appropriate strategies for participating productively in a team (e.g., gain the floor in orderly ways, meet or set deadlines for completing each...
SPI 0801.2.8
Identify the functions and responsibilities of individuals within an organized group (i.e., reporter, recorder, information gatherer, leader, timekeeper).
SPI 0801.3.11
Identify individual written selections as technical, narrative, persuasive, and/or descriptive in mode.
SPI 0801.3.5
Select appropriate time-order or transitional words/phrases to enhance the flow of a writing sample.
SPI 0801.3.8
Select vivid words to strengthen a description (adjective or adverb) within a writing sample or passage.
SPI 0801.3.9
Select illustrations, explanations, anecdotes, descriptions and/or facts to support key ideas.
SPI 0801.4.2
Identify levels of reliability among resources (e.g., eyewitness account, newspaper account, supermarket tabloid account, Internet source).
SPI 0801.8.14
Identify the authors purpose for writing.
Determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how the author acknowledges and responds to conflicting evidence or viewpoints.
Analyze how similarities and differences in the points of view of the audience and the characters create effects such as suspense, humor, or dramatic irony.
Prepare for collaborative discussions on 8th grade level topics and texts; engage effectively with varied partners, building on others' ideas and...
Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.
Write narratives (fiction and nonfiction) to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective techniques, relevant descriptive details, and...
Alignment of this item to academic standards is based on recommendations from content creators, resource curators, and visitors to this website. It is the responsibility of each educator to verify that the materials are appropriate for your content area, aligned to current academic standards, and will be beneficial to your specific students.
Learning objectives: 
  • Students will identify hardships faced by Jamestown colonists.
  • Students will locate Jamestown on a 17th-century map.
  • Students will analyze primary sources regarding the “Starving Time.”


Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

This lesson provides a great opportunity for creative extension ideas. For example:

  • Have students compare and contrast the different cultures at Jamestown. Or divide students into groups and have them answer questions in a role playing format.
  • Students can take a virtual tour of Jamestown. After students navigate through the site, have them divide into groups of 4 or 5 and pick a site (Indian village, English settlement, ship dock) and write a brief “day in the life” using prior knowledge and previous instructional content.
  • Students can evaluate the impact English colonists made upon American Indian tribes. Have students investigate the interactions between the English and American Indians during the seventeenth century in Virginia and surrounding areas. 

Helpful Hints


  • Projector and screen for PowerPoint
  • Worksheet: John Smith “Starving Time” excerpt (3rd & 8th grades)
  • Worksheet: Virginia Company “Starving Time” excerpt (8th grade)
  • Index cards for exit ticket/investigative question