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Tuesday, 19 May 2015 11:31

First English Colony in America: Roanoke Island, North Carolina

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Today a class of middle schoolers in Taiwan studied this lesson about Roanoke Island, a "mystery in history" about a group of English settlers who came to what is now North Carolina in the late 1500s.

This is what we did in our online class today:

I read the passage first, so the students could hear how the words are pronounced.

Then, we discussed some of the words I thought they might not know (ship), plus, some of the harder words are already in Chinese (colony-- 殖民地).

It was a good chance too to explain some of the geography, such as Chesapeake Bay and  how Virginia and North Carolina are neighboring states. As a plus, I got to explain how this story is about Roanoke ISLAND, North Carolina, and I was coming to them live via the internet from ROANOKE, Virginia. (The Roanoke River flows between these two points.) The word "bay" was fun to explain, because that is the "wan" (湾) in "Taiwan" (台灣).

The students then took turns reading parts of the passage, as I helped them with difficult pronunciation.

We ended class with a review of some of the words we had learned (ship, colony, Bay, North Carolina, etc.)


sailing ship in Roanoke Island NC

Sailing ship at Roanoke Island, NC


Roanoke map 1584

Roanoke Island, NC



The Story:

In 1587, ninety men, seventeen women, and nine children left England on a ship to start a new colony (殖民地) in North America (北美洲). The captain of the ship was Simon Fernandes from Portugal (葡萄牙). He was supposed to take the colonists (殖民者) to the Chesapeake Bay (切萨皮克湾). But instead he took them to a small island called Roanoke off the coast of North Carolina. He said it was too late in the year to take them any farther. Fernandes stayed about a month, and then left.

The 116 people set up a small colony on Roanoke. John White was the colony's governor (州长). His daughter Eleanor was also in the colony. She gave birth to a baby girl shortly after arriving in Roanoke, the first English baby ever to be born in the Americas.

After his granddaughter was born, John White left with Fernandes to return to England for more supplies (日用品). He told them before he left, that if they had any trouble, they should carve (雕刻) a cross (十字架) on a tree.

But there was war (战争) between England and Spain at that time. And John White did not manage to return until three years later. But when he did finally return, no one was there. All 116 colonists were gone. They were never seen by another white person again.

Things seemed to be fairly in order in Roanoke. And no carving of a cross was found. But the letters CROATOANS had been carved on a gatepost of the fort (堡垒)  and the letters CRO had been carved on a tree. Did that mean they went to live on nearby Croatan Island? Where did they go and what happened to them? They were never found. And to this day, no one knows what happened to them.

Lost Colony Tree

Mysterious Tree


This is truly a mystery. However, some recent research has begun to shed light on what may have happened to the missing colonists. Check it out here.

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Read 24743 times Last modified on Monday, 21 August 2017 23:36
Scott Dreyer

A licensed teacher in the US state of Virginia since 1987, Scott Dreyer has been helping Chinese speakers improve their English since 1989. Dreyer lived in Taiwan from 1989-1999 where he learned Mandarin, met his wife, started his family, and realized he loved working with Chinese students. He became an award-winning author and started teaching ESL online in 2008. Dreyer and his wife and their four adult children make their home in the beautiful Roanoke Valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.

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