Who Should Get Credit? Leif Erikson or Columbus?

This TpT resource guide is a great way for students to learn about the debate surrounding the European discovery of the Americas. Columbus has become a controversial figure in American history and many teachers are looking for an alternative. Let your students learn the facts and decide for themselves.

As many American cities and states debate the importance of Columbus and whether or not his day should be celebrated in schools, teachers are beginning to look for an alternative to traditional narrative. Leif Erikson has been debated among scholars and teachers for decades as to whether he is in fact the first European to discover America.


The case for both Erikson and Columbus have been presented in two readings your students will complete. Students will learn about their journeys but also about the criticisms for each. For example, Erikson’s life and journey are known through writings by unknown authors with uncertain dates. Until the 1960’s there was no physical evidence of his trips to Canada.

On the other hand, Columbus has been criticized for his treatment of the native population. It is also debated that because he actually believed in alternative facts and thought he had landed in Asia, this should disqualify him from being considered the first European.

Regardless of your personal feelings on the subject, students have an opportunity to read information about two historical figures, form an opinion based on facts, and defend their position through writing prompts. It is an excellent opportunity for students to practice fact-based opinion forming – a skill that will transcend all subjects.

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This resource also comes with my original Leif Erikson/Columbus lesson. You get a PDF presentation that you project on your whiteboard and present to students. Sometimes teachers need to have a Columbus lesson ready to go but can’t spend an entire class period on the topic. The PDF presentation solves that problem for you which is why when I updated the product to include the readings, I left the original presentation in the product.

Pictures of actual slides from original presentation

Finally, this lesson is Common Core aligned with the History/Social Studies writing standards for grades 6 – 12. This resource will be good for teachers who may be teaching various grade levels at once or who know they will be changing grades in future years. No need to purchase the different grade levels at different times – they all come to together.

Common Core Standards Aligned in Resource

  • RH.6-8.1
  • RH.6-8.2
  • RH.6-8.8
  • RH.9-10.2
  • RH.9-10.8
  • RH.11-12.2


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