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Units October 24, 2023

Before and After: Transatlantic Exchanges and Outcomes


Lesson Summary: Students apply literacy and writing skills to investigate the profound impact of the Columbian Exchange, colonization, and Transatlantic slave trade on the world’s economy and culture, and ultimately reflect their analyses through expository writing and designing infographics.
Downloads: Unit resources

This unit was created by the Audubon Gentilly team as part of the 2022 cohort of The 1619 Project Education Network. It is designed for facilitation across approximately 20 lessons.


Students will be able to...

  • Understand how multiple perspectives on an event shed light on the truth.
  • Understand and be able to articulate various ways in which the Columbian Exchange irreversibly changed people’s lives and civilizations.
  • Use informational texts to compare and contrast individuals, events, ideas and concepts
  • Explain the course and consequences of the Columbian Exchange, including its cultural, ecological, economic and political impact on Europe, the Americas, and West Africa.
  • Compare and contrast the convergence of trade, cultural diffusion, and innovation in the Western Hemisphere after 1492. 
  • Describe the interactions between Native Americans (including Mesoamericas), Europeans, and Africans.
  • Identify the major European powers that colonized North America and explain the economic motivations using concepts of scarcity and supply and demand, as well as the material outcomes of colonization

Unit Overview:

In this integrated unit, students will use nonfiction reading and writing skills to investigate the irreversible and profound impact of the Columbian Exchange, colonization, and the TransAtlantic slave trade on the world’s economy, agriculture and culture. Analysis of texts from The 1619 Project, as well as leveled nonfiction texts and several primary source documents, will help students compare and contrast the lives of communities in Europe, West Africa, and the Americas before and after these events.

Students will understand that these historical events profoundly impacted world history, that they continue to impact current events, and that different groups and stakeholders were impacted in different ways. Students will ultimately apply their analyses by writing three short essays documenting the impact of the Columbian Exchange and creating an infographic capturing key details explored in the unit.

Performance Task:

Mid-Unit Essays: 

  1. Write an essay describing the impact of the Columbian Exchange on people around the world after 1492. Make sure to include at least three supporting reasons and evidence from the articles we’ve read to prove the reasons you’ve stated. [.pdf][.docx]
  2. Students compare and contrast the reaction of the Indigenous  Americans to the European explorers with the way that the European explorers reacted to the Indigenous Americans. [.pdf][.docx

Final Essay: Students write an informative essay exploring the prompt, “The exchange of people, goods, diseases, ideas, animals, and crops began after  Christopher Columbus landed in what is now Haiti in 1492.  This led to changes that impacted the world and its peoples, harming some and benefiting others through what is now called the Columbian Exchange.  [.pdf][.docx]

Compare and contrast the impacts of the Columbian Exchange on European people, West African people and the Indigenous people of North and South America from 1492 through the 1700s. Be sure to include how some groups of people benefited while others were harmed.” 

Essay Rubrics [.pdf][.docx]
Project: Students apply their knowledge of infographics to create one that illustrates the impacts of the Columbian Exchange on a specific population (ex- The Taino, the Mbundu people, the Aztec, Europeans, Colonial explorers, Monarchies)


  • Daily formative assessment including text dependent questioning and discussion. 
  • Weekly summative assessment through expository writing to assess informational literacy skills and questioning to assess historical content knowledge.
  • Mid-Unit Essays and final essays evaluated using the Essay Rubrics [.pdf][.docx]
  • Performance tasks (see above) can be evaluated using a teacher-generated rubric in a similar style to this one.
  •  Standardized Unit assessment for historical content knowledge


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