An Explorer’s View of Maryland: Can we Believe Him?

Students will practice using historical thinking skills including sourcing, close reading,
contextualizing and corroborating to evaluate John Smith’s Map of Virginia (1612).
Students will compare and contrast Smith’s map with Augustine Herrman’s Map
(1670) and a map of Maryland today. Students will draw conclusions about the reliability of the
Smith map as a primary source and explore the changes in Maryland through an analysis of
these maps.

Lesson Objective

By the end of this lesson, students will determine the reliability of John Smith’s Map and support their determination with conclusions about the changes occurring in Maryland as a result of English exploration and settlement that they have drawn by using historical thinking skills to evaluate Smith’s map. Students will complete an exit card to record their conclusion.



  1. Hand out copies of the lesson, and introduce it with a discussion of the definition of a map and a review of the historical thinking skills needed to evaluate a map.
  2. Tell a brief story about John Smith. Point out to students that this background information can also be found in their assignment packet.
  3. Divide students into six (6) working groups of 4-5 students. Each group will be responsible for completing two (2) graphic organizers. Two groups will focus on sourcing. Two groups will focus on contextualization. And, two groups will focus on corroboration. All groups will do a close reading of the map.
  4. Each group should follow the plans as designated: (a) Groups 1 and 2 – Complete sourcing first, then do a close reading; (b) Groups 3 and 4 – Do a close reading first, then complete contextualization; (c) Groups 5 and 6 – Do a close reading first, then complete corroboration;
  5. Pass out the Smith Map and the close-up crop of the Smith map to each group. Pass out the magnifiers to each student. Pass out the Herrman map and close-up crop of the Herrman map to Groups 5 and 6 only.
  6. While students are working in their groups, circulate to assist as needed. Give student groups ten minutes to complete each focus.
  7. After twenty minutes, pair up Groups 1 and 2, Groups 3 and 4 and Groups 5 and 6 to compare answers for the next ten minutes.
  8. Next, bring students back to a whole group audience and move from group to group to share answers with the class. Encourage students to take notes.
  9. As students point out things that they noticed during the close reading, use the Elmo to zoom in on the John Smith map by accessing the URL listed below.
  10. Pass out the maps of Maryland today to each student and lead them in a corroboration exercise of comparing and contrasting the Smith map to the map of today.
  11. Ask students to complete the exit card. Refer them to the conclusions they drew on their graphic organizers to help them complete the exit card.


Exit Card – Evaluate the reliability of John Smith’s map of Virginia (1612). Explain whether or not you believe the map to be reliable. Support your answer with conclusions you drew from using historical thinking skills.


“Augustine Herrman (1656-1697).” Exploring Maryland’s Roots: Library.

“Captain John Smith.” Historic Jamestowne: Unsettling America’s Birthplace.

“Charts and Maps Used by the Early Settlers of Maryland.” Maryland State Archives.