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Lesson Plan Drake's West Indian Voyage 1588-1589

Students will investigate a series of maps depicting a voyage by Sir Francis Drake which involved attacks on the Spanish settlements off the coast of Africa (Santiago), Caribbean (Santo Domingo), South America (Cartagena), and North America (St. Augustine). Students will then examine a map of the entire voyage. Students will look closely at the details of each of these depictions and draw conclusions about the individual events as well as the entire voyage.


Students will be able to:

  • Analyze maps as primary sources;
  • Analyze individual events of the voyage in specific detail;
  • Create an outline of events in each town;
  • Examine evidence of bias and point of view in the map collection.

Time Required

Two classes

Lesson Preparation

Before leading students through the exploration process, teachers should make themselves familiar with the background of this series of maps by reading Francis Drake’s Voyage in Early Maps. Each of the maps will print in 9 sections. Before class, collate the pieces of the location maps (St. Augustine, Santiago, Cartagena, and Santo Domingo) into a single stack, alternating pieces from each map (A, B, C, D). When distributed, students adjacent to each other will have pieces from different maps.



Lesson Procedure

Activity One - Map analysis (1 class)

Before class, photocopy one Primary Source Analysis tool for each student. Print out sets of the map necessary for each student to have a section. Students will analyze one of the 4 location maps (Santo Domingo, St. Augustine, Santiago, Cartagena).

  1. Prerequisite: Review of map characteristics. Prior to teaching this lesson, review the parts of a map, ideally while looking at an example of a map: compass rose, scale, title, legend or key, notations.
  2. Distribute the Primary Source Analysis Tool and briefly discuss what to record in each section. (This step may be completed after distributing the map pieces.) Before the students begin, select questions from the teacher’s guide Analyzing Maps to focus and prompt analysis and discussion.
  3. Close reading: Pass out the location maps (A, B, C & D), one piece per student. Offer guided practice with this first close reading with questions: Do you see a Title? What do you see? Flags, water, land, people, features, etc. Record answers in the first blank column. Students analyze the map, recording their thoughts on the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
  4. Have students find another student with a piece of their map. Students will share the information they found and explore what new facts they have found. Fill in more of the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
  5. Have students find other students with the rest of their map. (Give each group any pieces that were not distributed, if necessary.) Each group should assemble its map on a table and discuss what they observe, adding information to the Primary Source Analysis tool.
  6. Students create a bulleted list of events they discovered. Students should think like historians and ask questions, find possible answers, consider previous knowledge, and reflect on bias or point of view with this source. One student will be the recorder and write a list on the back of their analysis sheet of the group’s findings. Remind students to bring the Primary Source Analysis Tool for use in the next lesson, or collect and redistribute.
  7. Students will share their group findings with the entire class.

Activity Two - Voyage analysis (1 class period)

Before class, print 4 color copies of the map of the Entire Voyage, map E. Also, make sure students have the Primary Source Analysis Tool from the previous lesson, or distribute blank copies.

  1. Students will work in the same groups as the previous activity.
  2. Pass out sections of the Entire Voyage (map E), one full map for each group. Each student will work with one piece of map E (the Entire Voyage). Students will record their observations on the Primary Source Analysis Tool.
  3. Each group will assemble its map and find the location of their location map (A, B, C or D) from the previous lesson on Map E. (Return location maps (A, B, C, or D) to each group.)
  4. Ask students to speculate how their location fits into the entire voyage map: What do you think you know? Who created the map? What is the purpose of these maps? Who is the intended audience?
  5. Share student conclusions.
  6. Give students the background information: Francis Drake’s Voyage in Early Maps.
  7. Individually, students will list 5 questions they want to know more about. Consider questions for the map maker, the historian, Sir Francis Drake, or a resident of one of the towns that was attacked.
  8. Direct students to The Sir Francis Drake Collection: Drake Timeline and The Sir Francis Drake Collection: The Actors and their Stage to research the answers to their questions and compare their ideas.


Allow time for further research with supplemental resources from your library: biographies, non-fiction, reference, on-line resources from the Library of Congress.

  1. Create timeline of the journey. Write a story based on the evidence in the maps.
  2. Create a hypothetical narrative of the village battle from a resident’s point of view.
  3. Create a hypothetical narrative of the village battle from a sailor’s point of view.
  4. Analyze Drake’s motivation for this journey; was it Drake’s idea or was he sent on a mission?
  5. Propose how the United States history may have evolved differently if this voyage did not take place?
  6. How does Spain remember Drake (Draco)?
  7. How does England remember Drake (Sir Francis Drake)? Consider point of view in history.

Lesson Evaluation

  1. Teacher observation of collaborative work.
  2. Teacher observation of critical thinking.
  3. Evaluate the student analysis sheets and observations.