Jamestown People and Their Environment

Role Play

Elementary; Middle


Students will research historical figures and simulate interaction with the early Virginia environment through the eyes of Captain John Smith, young Pocahontas, young Henry Spelman, and Angelo.

Standards of Learning:

Virginia SOLs:  VS 2a, b, c, d; 3b, c, d, e, f; 4a
National Standards for History:  Historical Research

Materials Needed for Activity:

Young Pocahontas – Biography
John Smith – Biography
Henry Spelman – Biography
Angela – Biography
Role Play – Sample Questions

Teacher Background:

Researching and examining historical figures is a valuable way to gain insights into their way of life, their thinking and their relationships with others.  In 17th-century Virginia, people from three cultures came together at Jamestown – the native Powhatan Indians, the English colonists and Angolans who were transported from African against their will.  Four short biographies are provided so that students can gain a better understanding of these three cultures.


Students will either research one of four historical figures or be assigned the role of a reporter who will interview the historical personalities.

Step 1:  The class should be divided into five groups.  There should be one group for each of the four historical individuals who lived in Jamestown or the surrounding area during the early 17th century – Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, Henry Spelman, or Angela.  The fifth group will be the reporters.

Step 2:  Students assigned an historical person will work in small groups researching that person.   Distribute the appropriate biography to each student group. Students may also be instructed to conduct more research on their specific individual in books, the Internet or other sources.  Have students write information about their person on index cards. The reporters should also constitute a group working together.  Students assigned to be reporters will develop interview questions for all four people.   The reporter group should receive all four biographies.  Provide all students with the Role Play Sample Questions to help them get started.  Ask students to focus on how the individuals lived, how they were influenced by and adapted to their environment, and how their interactions with the other cultures changed them.

Summary Activity:

After students have had time to prepare, the information that the students have gathered will be shared with the class through an interview with the reporter.  Have each group select one student to participate in the interview session.  The selected reporter will conduct an interview with the group of four students selected to speak for their assigned person from the past.  Those who have researched an historical person will portray that person and interact with the other historical individuals, talking about their experiences and adaptation to the Virginia environment.

Other Helpful Resources:

Cultures at Jamestown – Essay

Lesson plan materials made possible by Archibald Andrews Marks.