Pirates and economics
In this lesson, students will learn the basics of a market economy and how pirates impacted the economic system in colonial times. Students will read one Mini Page about the famous pirate Blackbeard and another about economics. Students will map out the colonial economic system to demonstrate their knowledge of both economics and pirates' interventions. At the end of the lesson, students will imagine they are colonists and write a letter to the governor either in support or in opposition to piracy. This allows students to utilize economic vocabulary in a variety of creative ways.
A lesson plan for grade 4 Social Studies
Provided by UNC Libraries / Southern Historical Collection
- use economic vocabulary effectively.
- describe how pirates impacted the economy in colonial America.
- write a letter demonstrating their historical understanding of, and expressing their opinion about, colonial economics and piracy.
Three or four one-hour class periods
- Copies of the A Pirate Economy handout — one per student
- Copies of the Our Economic System handout — one per student
- Copies of the Letter to the Governor Instructions — one per student
- Copies of the editions from The Mini Page Archive used in this lesson (if students will not be accessing them on the computer)
- Chart paper, poster board, or other large paper
- Markers, colored pencils, or crayons
- Notebook paper
- Copies of a scroll paper template for the letter-writing activity (optional)
- Interactive whiteboard or computer with internet connected to a multimedia projector
- Computer lab or individual student computers (if students will be accessing The Mini Page Archive online)
- Access to the following editions from The Mini Page Archive:
This lesson is best completed during a unit on colonial history and after students have some background knowledge about the lives of the colonists.
Activity one: Blackbeard the feared
- Ask students if they have heard of Blackbeard, and facilitate a short discussion on what students have heard. If it does not come up, ask students what they know about how pirates made money. Tell students that in this lesson they will learn about Blackbeard and other pirates and what their connection was to the economic system of colonial America.
- Project the Blackbeard the Feared Mini Page for students to see. Explain to students that they will be reading and answering questions from this edition.
- Switch the projector view to the A Pirate Economy handout, explaining that in order to complete the front side, they will use the first page from the Blackbeard the Feared Mini Page, and they will use the second page to complete the back of the handout. Clarify any questions.
- Have students access the Blackbeard the Feared Mini Page (or hand out copies) and give students copies of the A Pirate Economy handout and instruct students to begin working. Walk around the room to monitor and answer in any questions.
- When students are finished, facilitate a short discussion about Blackbeard and pirates, asking students to share what they found interesting/surprising, etc. Collect student work if not moving immediately to the next activity.
Activity two: Our economic system
- Tell students that now that they have read about Blackbeard, pirates, and colonial economics, they will learn more about the American economic system.
- Project the A Mini Guide to Economics and It’s Income Tax Time Mini Pages, and explain to the students that they will use these editions to complete the Our Economic System handout. Point out that the first page asks them to match the definitions with the correct word, and the second part asks them to relate some of the terms to pirates. Tell students that after they learn these economic terms, they will be more prepared to talk about the economic impact of pirates on the colonies.
- Have students access the A Mini Guide to Economics and It’s Income Tax Time Mini Pages on the computer (or hand out copies of both) and give students copies of the Our Economic System handout and instruct students to begin working. Walk around the room to monitor and answer any questions. If this activity is completed on a different day than the first, hand back students’ work from the activity in part one so they can use it for the back side of the handout. Note: You may wish to have students complete the vocabulary side of the Our Economic System handout and go over it as a class before asking students to complete the second side.
- Walk around the room to monitor student work and answer any questions. When students are finished, facilitate a discussion about economics and the connection to pirates. Collect student work.
Activity three: Pirate economics concept map
Note: Before implementing this activity, you should decide how you will divide students into groups.
- Begin by asking students what they have learned about the economy and pirates. Facilitate a short discussion, and use this time to clarify any misconceptions.
- Tell students that in this activity they will make a concept map to illustrate the economic system and how it relates to pirates.
- Project the Pirates and Economics Concept Map Instructions and review them with students. Clarify any misconceptions. If students have never made a concept map before, you may wish to use this slideshow to model the activity.
- Divide students into groups, pass out poster-making materials, and instruct students to begin working. Walk around to monitor and answer any questions.
- When students are finished, have groups share their maps with the class and explain their choices. Facilitate a class discussion about the activity and what students have learned overall about pirates and economics.
Activity four: Letter to the governor
Note: Before implementing this activity, you should decide how long you want the letters to be and add this to the instructions.
- Begin by having a short class conversation about everything learned so far.
- Explain to students that in this final activity, they will each write a letter to the Governor of Virginia as if they are a colonist.
- Project the Letter to the Governor Instructions and review them with the students, clarifying any questions.
- Project the Letter to the Governor Rubric for the students to see, noting that their knowledge of economics and pirates are the most important parts.
- Instruct students to begin working. You may wish to incorporate direct writing instruction here.
- Walk around to monitor and answer any questions.
- Collect students’ letters once they are finished. Ask how many students chose each role, and ask a few to tell the class what they wrote to the Governor. If desired, you could take a class vote on whether the Governor should attack Blackbeard or not.
- Answer keys are provided for the A Pirate Economy handout and the Our Economic System handout.
- The main assessments are the group mapping activity and the letter-writing assignment. Check to be sure that students complete them accurately and in their entirety, following the guidelines provided. A rubric has been provided for the letter-writing assignment.
This lesson plan is based on concepts developed by Alice Langrall, Jordan Stokes, and Megan Lavalley.
Students could research some of the topics mentioned in the Blackbeard Mini Page but not covered in this lesson, such as: scurvy, typhoid, privateers, types of ships used by pirates, places important to Blackbeard’s story, other pirates mentioned on page four, etc.
- North Carolina Essential Standards
- Social Studies (2010)
- 4.E.1 Understand how a market economy impacts life in North Carolina. 4.E.1.1 Understand the basic concepts of a market economy: price, supply, demand, scarcity, productivity and entrepreneurship. 4.E.1.2 Understand how scarcity and choice in a market economy...
- 4.H.1 Analyze the chronology of key historical events in North Carolina history. 4.H.1.1 Summarize the change in cultures, everyday life and status of indigenous American Indian groups in North Carolina before and after European exploration. 4.H.1.2 Explain...
- Social Studies (2010)