As part of Appendix A, this is the first of seven role-plays entitled “Travel through Time with the Story Genie: A Role-Playing Unit on the life and times of Christopher Columbus.”
This Creative Master’s Thesis I completed as part of the requirements for my master’s degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in storytelling. The purpose of this study was to create a role-playing program of the life and times of Christopher Columbus for use with fifth-grade social studies students. It was intended that this creative unit may either be used as a substitute for or in conjunction with a textbook approach. These seven role-plays are also appropriate for grades three and four. The links to all role-plays, tests, and teacher scripts will be included.
Please note: The links to the downloadable PDF files of the teacher script and the student role-play are included at the end of this article.
Travel through Time with the Story Genie: A Role-Playing Unit on the life and times of Christopher Columbus
© 1989 re-told by Debbie Dunn; © 2010 revision re-told by Debbie Dunn
• Photocopy each of the puppets in Appendix A. Color them or assign each student to color them. Add any sequins, yarn, and trim as desired. The genie puppet needs to have a large size jewel or sequin placed on its forehead. Choose either a male or a female genie for teacher use. Afterward, label all puppet characters on the back and attach a popsicle stick to each puppet. Laminate the puppets either with laminating paper or with clear Contact paper.
• To produce some moments of levity at the beginning of this Columbus unit, color and laminate the pictures of the hair attachments for the nine-year-old and fourteen-year-old Christopher Columbus puppets. These hair attachments can be attached to the faces of the completed Christopher puppets either by tape or by magnetic strip.
• To test prior knowledge on the life and times of Christopher Columbus, administer either or both tests on Columbus. These tests are in Appendix B.
• To check for prior knowledge and interest level on Christopher Columbus, conduct an oral discussion with the class. Ask the class the following two questions:
(1) What do you already know about Christopher Columbus?
(2) What would you like to learn about Christopher Columbus that you don’t already know?
• Choose a student secretary. The student should record the statements and questions dictated by the class either on the chalkboard or on chart paper. The obvious advantage to recording their comments on chart paper is that the class may refer back to their statements later on.
Teacher: We will spend the next few weeks learning more about the life and times of Christopher Columbus. But, we won’t be learning in an ordinary way. We will be travelling through time with the help of a . . . story genie. (The teacher should now display the genie puppet. The teacher will continue to display the genie puppet for the whole time that the genie is “talking.” The teacher should not read the words that are underlined inside the parentheses.)
Genie: Hello, boys and girls. Did somebody just make a wish? I distinctly felt somebody make a very strong wish to hear a story. So, here I am!
Does anybody know what a genie is? (The teacher should try to elicit relevant responses from the class. For example, some appropriate responses might be the genie who lived in a bottle from the “I Dream Of Jeanie” television series or the genie who lived in a lamp from the story of “Aladdin’s Lamp”, etc.)
I am a little bit different from those kinds of genies. I don’t live in a bottle or a lamp. I live in a book, for I am a . . . story genie. I do a very special kind of magic. Does anybody want to make a guess? (Teacher should elicit responses from class)
Yes. I can bring to this room a character from any time in history: past, present, or future. That character can then tell you all about his or her life.
Today, I felt someone in this room make a very strong wish to learn more about Christopher Columbus. So, with a little help from you, we will bring our time traveler to life. Will you help me? (Teacher should try to elicit affirmative responses.)
Thank you! As I walk around the room, each of you will need to touch the magic jewel on my crown and say “Christopher Columbus” as fast as you can say it. (The teacher should walk around the room as quickly as possible and have each class member perform this act. Afterward, the teacher should walk back to the front of the room.)
How many of you have ever read a fairy tale or a book about magic? If you have, you are aware that there is a magical number. Does anybody want to guess what that number is? (Teacher should elicit a class response.)
That’s right. It’s the number three. So, to complete our magic trick, all of you need to use your finger and point to the magic jewel in my crown and say, “Christopher Columbus” three times.
All: Christopher Columbus. Christopher Columbus. Christopher Columbus.
(At this point, the teacher should display the nine-year-old Christopher puppet with the hair attachment covering his face. The teacher will hold the genie puppet in one hand and the Christopher puppet in the other hand. Try to use one “voice” for the genie puppet and another “voice” for the Christopher puppet.)
Genie: We did it! Hooray! Here’s Christopher Columbus.
C.C.: Where am I? I can’t see anything. Who turned out the lights? What’s this in front of my eyes? Hey, that’s hair! My head is on backwards! Somebody, help me!
Genie: Oops! I forgot to tell all of you to cross your fingers.
C.C.: Story Genie. Is that you? (Christopher should say this in an accusing voice.)
Genie: Yes, Christopher. It’s me.
C.C.: Fix me, quick. I want to be able to see.
Genie: Oh dear! Oh dear! I’m going to need some help. (The genie will now ask a series of questions until she gets a “yes” response.)
1. Is there a Christopher in the room?
2. Is there a Christine in the room?
3. Is there anybody whose first name begins with the letter “C”?
4. Is there anybody whose last name begins with the letter “C”?
5. Is there anybody who has red hair as Christopher has?
6. Is there anybody who has blue eyes as Christopher has?
(Give the following directions to that student.)
I need you to come to the front of the room. Touch the magic jewel in my crown three times. Now, fix Christopher Columbus so that he can see again. (Student should pull off the hair attachment so that all in room can see his face.)
Thank you _____________. (child’s name)
(Teacher may now put the genie puppet down.)
C.C.: Hey. Thanks a lot __________. (child’s name) Phew! I can see again.
Where am I? (Teacher should elicit responses from class such as the name of their school, city, state, country, teacher, grade level, etc.)
Since the story genie brought me to this classroom, I know that I’m here to tell you about my life.
My name is Christopher Columbus. I’m nine years old with red hair and blue eyes. I live in Genoa, Italy. Who would like to find Italy on the map? (Teacher should choose a volunteer.)
That’s where I was born. Does anybody know in what year I was born? (Teacher should elicit a response from class.)
I was born in 1451. Do you know how long ago that was? (Encourage class to work out this simple subtraction problem.)
Current year minus 1451 equals the answer.
For example, 2010 – 1451 = 559 years ago that Christopher was born.
In my nine years of life, I have spent them with my father, my mother, my two younger brothers, and my baby sister. My father is a master weaver. My brother, Bartholomew and I have to card wool in the shop of my father. We also go to school at the Weaver’s Guild.
Every day, I live for the time I can slip away to go down to the harbor. There is always something exciting going on. Ships are coming in or are getting ready to leave. Mapmakers rush down to speak with the captains of each incoming ship. The mapmakers are always eager to learn of any newly discovered islands and towns that they can add to their maps. Fishermen come in to shore hauling in their big and little fish catches. Sometimes the fishermen even bring in strange objects they find that have washed in on the tide. I believe these strange objects may have floated here to Genoa all the way from India or China or Japan.
I want to be a sailor more than anything else in the whole world. I want to sail to every place that I have ever heard of. I also want to sail to places that no man has ever seen.
But I have a big problem. My father is a master weaver. He wants me to be a weaver also. He does not understand my love of the sea. I love to listen to all the stories told by the friendly sailors and fishermen. I love to study the maps stored in the shops of the mapmakers. My father thinks I am just wasting my time.
I wish I could make him understand how I feel. I don’t want to hurt his feelings. But I don’t want to spend my whole life in a weaving shop either. What am I going to do?
Hey, I just got an idea. Maybe you could help to convince my father how important it is that I should be a sailor. After I leave, would each of you write a letter to my father? In your letter, you could explain to him that a son should be allowed to do the work that he loves. Please reassure him that I still love and respect him. But do tell him I don’t want to give up my dream to be a sailor for anything in the whole world. I’m sure that he would listen to you. Would you do that for me? (Teacher should try to elicit an affirmative response from the class. The students can write this letter at the conclusion of the lesson, for homework, or during a language arts lesson prior to the next Columbus lesson. See Appendix A for the form letter.)
Wow! You’re the greatest. My father’s name is Domenico. Your teacher could deliver the letters to a place that would reach my father directly. Thank you very much! Well, what else can I tell you about?
C.C.: What’s that, Story Genie? Oh, yeah! Hey, everybody. She’s going to bring some other people in to see you right now. I’ll just wait over here. I’ll try to tell you one more story if there’s time. You won’t forget to write that letter to my father? (Wait for affirmative response from class.) Thanks.
Genie: We’re going to have several visitors come in. I’m going to need the help of several volunteers. I’ll need two narrators, a father, a mother, a little brother, a nine-year-old Christopher, a sailor, a fisherman, a mapmaker, and a captain of a ship. These volunteers will read letters written by the friends and family of nine-year-old Christopher. (Teacher should choose ten volunteers from the class. Hand them a script and either an accompanying puppet or hat. The narrators each wear one of these hats. Reassure the students who did not get chosen to play a part that they will get a chance to play a part the next Columbus session.)
Script for Lesson One on the life and times of Christopher Columbus
Note: Photocopy 10 copies of the student role-playing section. Choose ten volunteers to play the following parts. Those students playing the following characters require the use of a script:
1. Narrator 1
2. Narrator 2
3. Father named Domenico
4. Mother named Susanna
5. Nine-year-old Christopher Columbus
6. Seven-year-old Bartholomew
7. Sailor from Genoa, Italy
8. Fisherman from Genoa, Italy
9. Mapmaker from Genoa, Italy
10. Captain of a ship sailing to Genoa, Italy
The First Role-Playing Session on the life and times of Christopher Columbus
Narrator 1: Once upon a time, almost 500 years ago, there was a boy named Christopher Columbus. He lived in Genoa, Italy, with his family. His father was a master weaver. His name was Domenico. He weaved cloth and sold it to other people to use for clothes, curtains, bedspreads, table cloths, and many other uses.
Narrator 2: His mother was named Susanna. She helped in the weaving shop and took care of her four children.
Narrator 1: Christopher was the oldest child in the family, next came Bartholomew, then came Giovanni. Finally, there was a baby girl named Bianca. Their very youngest brother, Diego, was not to be born until Christopher was seventeen years old.
Narrator 2: Christopher wanted to be a sailor more than anything else in the whole world. There was a problem though. Domenico, Christopher’s father, was a master weaver. He was a proud man. He expected his sons to want to be weavers when they grew up. He would have been very hurt to know that his oldest son wanted to be a sailor instead.
Father: My son shall be a great weaver like his father. That’s me. My father and grandfather were weavers. I myself have been weaving cloth since I was eleven years old. My greatest wish is that my sons and grandsons will want to be weavers also.
Susanna, my wife, has mentioned that Christopher fancies the sea. Chris thinks he wants to be a sailor. He is just a child. When he gets older, he will realize what nonsense that is. The Columbus men in our family have always been weavers. My sons must be weavers too. That is my dream!
Narrator 1: Christopher’s mother wishes to speak now.
Mother: I am Susannah. My husband is Domenico. He is a master weaver. People come from great distances to buy his cloth. He does very fine work. I have three sons and a baby girl. My boys are named Christopher, Bartholomew, and Giovanni. My daughter is named Bianca.
There is a problem in my family. Domenico wants his sons to be master weavers when they are older. He is proud of his job and believes that all his sons should be proud to follow in his footsteps. He will be very hurt when he realizes that Christopher does not want to be a master weaver or any kind of weaver.
Christopher has always had a faraway look in his eyes. He loves the sea and all the mighty adventures he hears about. Christopher wants to be a sailor more than anything else in the world. He is still a young boy, but I don’t believe he will change his mind.
Poor Christopher. Poor Domenico. How am I going to keep peace in my family? Perhaps Bartholomew or Giovanni would like to be a weaver instead.
Narrator 2: Bartholomew is Christopher’s younger brother. He has a story to tell also.
Bartholomew: Hi. My name is Bartholomew. I’m seven years old. My big brother’s name is Christopher. We live with our father, mother, little brother Giovanni, and a baby sister named Bianca. Our sleeping quarters is upstairs over our father’s weaving shop. Our father is a master weaver. Our mother helps our father in the shop. She also cooks, cleans, and takes care of us kids.
Sometimes, when trade is slow, Father will close up shop and take Christopher and me fishing. Giovanni stays with Mother, because, when he cries, he scares all the fish away.
Christopher loves to go down to the port to listen to the sailors and fisherman tell stories, look at maps, and watch everything that goes on. Sometimes he takes me with him. I love that! My parents won’t let me go alone. I like it the best when Chris takes me to the mapmaker’s shop. I love to draw. Maybe I could be a mapmaker when I grow up.
Narrator 1: Christopher loved to hear stories. His very favorite stories were told by the sailors. One of the sailors plans to tell a story to Christopher.
Sailor: The Sea of Darkness is a most terrible place. Once, me and my mates was sailing to the edge of that sea. We had to check our fishing lines that we had dropped there. We began to draw up our nets when a terrible churning and crashing of the sea began. We almost dropped the net in our surprise. But we were curious and kept pulling. We pulled and pulled.
We expected to see a big load of fish or maybe a whale. Instead, we found the tail of an enormous sea dragon. The tail wasn’t all by itself either. It was connected to a most terrible monster. As we dragged the net in some more, that dragon raised its head out of the water and glared at us. He had a terribly ugly face. It gnashed its teeth at us and growled and roared horribly loud. Its head was near as big as one of our sails.
We knew that we had to depart quicker than a cat could blink its eye or we might become mincemeat. Me and my mates dropped the fishing net back into the ocean. We turned the ship about slowly and carefully. Then the rowers got busy in the pit of the ship and began rowing for our very lives.
We lost a good net that way, but at least we got away from the sea dragon’s sharp teeth. As far as I know, that dragon’s still guarding the border of the Sea of Darkness with our net caught on its tail.
C.C.: Wow! Didn’t you want to go back and see if the sea dragon was still alive?
Sailor: No, me laddie. We never went back, as we value our lives more than that. One look at a sea dragon is plenty enough for me!
Narrator 2: Another teller of tales that Christopher loved to hear was the fishermen. One fisherman is going to tell Christopher a story.
Fisherman: Once, I was out in my fishing boat at the first crack of dawn. It was a clear, summer day. I could tell it was going to be a real scorcher. It was my job to pull in all the fishing nets and lobster traps that I had set the day before. Line after line and trap after trap I drew in. Each net and trap was just as packed full as it could be. All the fish were as long as my arm and as thick as my leg. The lobsters were all full grown. My boat almost sank, it was getting so full. My pocketbook certainly felt good and heavy after I sold it all. Lady Luck was certainly on my side that day.
C.C.: Wow! Did you ever catch so many fish and lobsters again?
Fisherman: No, Sonny, that I did not. But it certainly seems that tomorrow will be another scorcher. Would you like to come with me to help bring in my lines?
C.C.: Could I? I’ll ask my father.
Fisherman: Be here at 5:00 in the morning if you get permission to come. Tell your mother I’ll send you home with a big fish for your suppers.
C.C.: Okay! Thanks. I’ll see you in the morning. I can hardly wait!
Narrator 1: Another place that Christopher loved to go was to the shop of the mapmakers. They kept fascinating maps in their shops. The mapmakers kept track of all the newly discovered spots in the world. Every time a ship came in, the mapmakers rushed down to the harbor to interview the captain of the vessel.
Mapmaker: Captain, have you explored any new regions?
Captain: As a matter of fact, we went farther up the coast of the Mediterranean Sea than we had ever gone before. I noticed a new island. Show me your most current map and I’ll spot it out for you. We sailed all around it so I have a good feel for the size and shape of it.
Narrator 2: The mapmaker and the captain of the ship bent over the map. They spent much time in eagerly looking at the map.
Mapmaker: Thank you so much. Here is some gold for you.
Captain: Any time! Any time!
Narrator 1: As the mapmaker was hurrying home, he spotted his old friend, Christopher.
Mapmaker: Christopher, come to my shop tomorrow and I’ll have a new island of the Mediterranean Sea to show you.
C.C.: Thanks. I can hardly wait.
Narrator 2: Christopher loved to study maps and hear new, exciting stories. Someday, he was determined, he would see all these new regions for himself.
C.C.: Someday, I will have my own ship. I will make a map of everything that I discover. I will be famous–someday.
THE END of the Student Role-Play
Please note: There is an Optional section called “The legend of St. Christopher” you can use of how Christopher Columbus got his name. Due to the religious content, you may or may not wish to include this story and role-play as part of your study. The link to the Optional Section is included below. If you wish to use it, use it at this point in the program before the wrap-up.
Wrap-Up Page for Lesson One
Teacher or Storyteller: Hi. I’m back now. I hope you enjoyed your first meeting with the Story Genie and nine-year-old Christopher. Before I have to go too, let’s take a couple of minutes to talk about what you learned today. (Conduct a brief review session with class.)
Good-bye. Thanks for helping out the Story Genie and Christopher Columbus. See you next week.
Links to Teacher Scripts and Role-Plays
* TEACHER SCRIPT: Teacher Script for Lesson 1: The Life and Times of Christopher Columbus
* STUDENT SCRIPT: Role-Play #1 of 7: The Life and Times of Christopher Columbus
* OPTIONAL: The Legend of St. Christopher. Optional role-play to be used at the end of Role-Play #1
* PUPPETS PART 1 to color and laminate (pp. 1 to 23)
* PUPPETS PART 2 to color and laminate (pp. 24 to 46)