New France: The French in America

Learn about the role of France in the history of North America.


  1. Students will understand why French explorers came to North America.
  2. Students will be able to describe the history of French colonies in Canada.
  3. Students will be able to identify French explorers and describe their expeditions in North America.
  4. Students will be able to identify New Orleans as an American city founded by the French.

Suggested Grades:

4th Grade – 5th Grade – 6th Grade


  1. Read lesson or have students read it silently.
  2. Have students answer the questions on the worksheet.
  3. Discuss answers to questions.

Lesson Excerpt:

Like England and Spain, the country of France also played a role in the history of America. In the early 1500’s, French explorers came to North America looking for gold and jewels. Like other European explorers, the French soon realized that they would not find gold and jewels in the new land. They did, however, find other riches like furs and fish.

In the spring, French fishermen would set out for America. They traded with Native Americans in Canada for beaver furs and brought both fish and furs back to France each fall. In France, hats made of beaver fur became so popular that hat makers could not keep them in stock. Fur traders were quickly able to make a fortune.

As the fur trade grew, the French set up a colony in Canada called New France. The colony was started by the French explorer and geographer Samuel de Champlain. He built a trading post and called it Quebec. Champlain had a good relationship with the Huron Indians in the area. The success of the French fur trade depended greatly on this strong relationship with Native Americans.

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