Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Exploration Innovation

European Exploration and Navigational Tools

Laura Halstied | Published: July 19th, 2022 by K20 Center

  • Grade Level Grade Level 10th
  • Subject Subject Social Studies
  • Course Course World History
  • Time Frame Time Frame 90 minutes
  • Duration More 1-2 class period(s)


In this lesson, students will explore the technology used by European explorers during the Age of Exploration. Through analyzing images, watching a video, and selecting an activity from a Choice Board, students will learn about four navigational tools and how this new technology influenced European exploration.

Essential Question(s)

What technological advancements paved the way for increased European exploration?



Students read three statements about the Age of Exploration and use the Fiction in the Facts strategy to decide which statement is false.


Students view images of four navigational tools and make observations and inferences.


Students watch a video about the navigational tools and fill out a graphic organizer.


Students select an activity from a Choice Board to extend their learning.


Students complete an Exit Ticket to demonstrate their understanding.


  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Painting a Picture: Image Packet (attached; one per group or class)

  • Painting a Picture: Chart handout (attached; one per student)

  • Painting a Picture: Chart Example (attached; for teacher use)

  • TIP Chart handout (attached; one per student)

  • Choice Board handout (attached; one per student)

  • Website Resource List (attached; one per student)

  • Pencils

  • Paper

  • Student devices with internet access (optional; for use in Extend activity)


5 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to guide the lesson. Display slide 3 to introduce the essential question and go to slide 4 to share the lesson’s learning objective. Review these slides with students to the extent you feel necessary.

Go to slide 5, which contains three statements about the Age of Exploration. Inform students that two statements are true and one statement is false. Ask students to use the Fiction in the Facts strategy to decide which statement is false.

Give students time to read the three statements and discuss their thoughts with nearby classmates. Then, ask for volunteers to share which statement they think is false.

After a class discussion, go to slide 6 to confirm with students which statements are true and which one is false. Let students know that the rest of the lesson is about the technology that paved the way for increased European exploration.


20 Minute(s)

For this portion of the lesson, inform students that their task is to analyze four navigational tools that European explorers used during the Age of Exploration.

Display slide 7 and introduce students to the Painting a Picture strategy. Explain that students should make observations about four sets of images, then use their observations plus their prior knowledge to make inferences about the content. In this case, students should use their observations to figuratively “paint a picture” of what the navigational tools are and how they might’ve been used by European explorers. 

At this point, if you have chosen not to hang up the image sets around the room, you may pass out the attached Painting a Picture: Image Packet to each small group. Alternatively, you may transition through slides 8–11 and have students view the image sets on each slide.

Pass out the attached Painting a Picture: Chart handout to each student. If you are using slides 8–11, pause on each image set and allow time for students to record their observations and inferences. Students should work individually to fill out their charts.

After students have finished, ask them to keep their charts on hand for use later in the lesson.


15 Minute(s)

Display slide 12 and pass out the attached TIP Chart handout to each student. Then, let students know that they should use the TIP Chart strategy to take notes on the following video. As students watch, they should write information from the video in the second column and draw a picture of each navigational tool in the third column.

Go to slide 13 to show students the video, titled “Navigation Tools During the Age of Exploration.” Consider pausing the video after each tool is described to give students ample time to complete that row in the chart. 

After students have watched the video and filled out their TIP charts, have them revisit their Painting a Picture charts from the Explore portion of the lesson. Ask students to pair up and discuss which of their inferences were correct and which were incorrect.

Go to slide 14 and bring the class back together. Use the guiding questions on the slide to have a whole-class discussion about the introduction of navigational technology from outside of Europe and how it was used for exploration. Ask students to reflect and share their thoughts on how European explorers’ use of these tools affected the world.


30 Minute(s)

Pass out the attached Choice Board handout to each student. Explain to students that using a Choice Board allows them to choose how to demonstrate their learning.

Display slide 15 to review the activity options. If students have access to internet-connected devices, pass out the attached Website Resource List to provide each student with a list of websites they can use to research their chosen tool.

Give students plenty of time to complete their chosen activities. If desired, you may allow students to work in pairs.


5 Minute(s)

To evaluate students’ learning, display slide 16 and have each student complete an Exit Ticket in response to the following question: How did the arrival of new technology influence European exploration?

Ask students to write their responses on notebook paper and turn in their sheets before leaving class. 

To further assess students’ understanding, you may choose to collect students’ completed TIP charts and Choice Board activities in addition to the Exit Ticket responses.