The Spanish Empire in America
A reading comprehension lesson about how Spain colonized parts of the Americas and established an empire. Includes printable teaching lesson worksheet.
• Students will be able to tell who the conquistadors were.
• Students will be able to name significant Spanish explorers and identify their contribution to the Spanish empire in the Americas.
• Students will be able to describe how the search for riches and a fountain of youth contributed to the establishment of Spanish colonies in the Americas.
• Students will be able to describe how and why Ponce de Leon discovered Florida and explain that the name Florida means land of flowers.
4th Grade - 5th Grade - 6th Grade
Print the reading comprehension passage and questions (see below).
Students should read the passage silently, then answer the questions. Teachers may also use the text as part of a classroom lesson plan.
You probably know that the United States was once made up of British colonies, but did you know that Spain also had an empire in the Americas? Spanish soldiers known as the conquistadors followed Christopher Columbus to the West Indies. They came looking for gold and turned the West Indies into the first colonies of Spain.
In 1519, Hernando Cortes arrived in Mexico and helped to conquer the Aztec Indians. Cortes' soldiers fought alongside natives who wanted to be free of Aztec rule. Unfortunately these natives ended up under Spanish rule instead. In 1533, Francisco Pizarro and his soldiers conquered the Incas in Peru. Pizarro brought gold, silver and other riches back to Spain. Soon the conquistadors wanted to explore and conquer North America as well. They hoped to find even more riches there. One such explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon, had settled in Puerto Rico. He heard stories of a land with a fountain of youth - waters that could keep men from growing old. Ponce de Leon sailed north in search of this land and came to a place filled with birds and flowers. He named it Florida, which means "the land of flowers."
Print this printable worksheet for this lesson: