I think this would make a wonderful culminating class activity for a unit on Columbus or exploration. Students conduct a mock trial of Christopher Columbus, to decide whether he is guilty of the murder of millions of people on the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic/Haiti). It will require them to draw conclusions and interpret history, which is exactly the kind of higher-level thinking skills we want our students to develop.
"An Open Letter from the American Indian Movement of Colorado and Our Allies" summarizes why many indigenous peoples and Native American tribes do not celebrate Columbus day or view Christopher Columbus as a heroic figure. This was originally published in The Rocky Mountain News in 1994. This letter will provoke good discussion among your students.
Students read a letter from Christopher Columbus to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, describing his voyage. They then "read like detectives" to help them summarize the letter and draw inferences for a critical understanding of historical beliefs and assumptions in 1492. This lesson would work well for middle school, as well as high school. You could extend the lesson by incorporating geography and map study of the islands Columbus describes in his letter.
This excellent lesson from the National Humanities Center gives excerpts from, and close-reading questions on, Charles C. Mann's 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. A teacher guide and student copies are included, along with vocabulary and a follow-up assignment. Because of text complexity, this would be best for high-school students .
What a fun project idea! Working in pairs, students create "Old World" and "New World" restaurant menus, using only ingredients that would be found there before European exploration. Microsoft Word templates are included for download so that students can simply click and replace the existing text with their menu items, prices, and descriptions.
This PBS Learning Media lesson plan requires student and teacher accounts. Students learn about the Columbian Exchange by watching a video, learning vocabulary, and completing a writing assignment. Teacher materials include a rubric, definitions, and questions for students.