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Digging Deeper: Mission San Sabá

Download lesson plan and included materials

Subject: Social Studies, Art

Grade: 7th

Author: Sarah Steger and Rand Scheutzeberg (2001), revised by Jason Terry (2023)

Time Duration: Will vary. Up to three 90-minutes block classes or 6 class periods of 45 minutes each. Lesson may easily be modified to take less time.

Objective: This lesson is designed for students who already have an understanding of the Spanish mission-presidio system in Texas. The purpose of this lesson is to have students understand Spanish motives for establishing Mission San Sabá and the reasons for the mission's failure.

TEKS: Social Studies, Grade 7

  • (2A), compare the cultures of American Indians in Texas prior to European colonization such as Gulf, Plains, Puebloan, and Southeastern
  • (2B), identify important individuals, events, and issues related to European exploration of Texas such as Alonso Álvarez de Pineda, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, the search for gold, and the conflicting territorial claims between France and Spain
  • (2C), identify important individuals, events, and issues related to European colonization of Texas, including the establishment of Catholic missions, towns, and ranches, and the contributions of individuals such as Fray Damián Massanet, Antonio Margil de Jesús, and Francisco Hidalgo
  • (8A), locate and compare the Mountains and Basins, Great Plains, North Central Plains, and Coastal Plains regions
  • (18C), identify examples of Spanish influence and the influence of other cultures on Texas such as place names, vocabulary, religion, architecture, food, and the arts
  • (20A), differentiate between, locate, and use valid primary and secondary sources such as media and news services, biographies, interviews, and artifacts to acquire information about Texas
  • (20B), analyze information by applying absolute and relative chronology through sequencing, categorizing, identifying cause-and-effect relationships, comparing, contrasting, finding the main idea, summarizing, making generalizations and predictions, and drawing inferences and conclusions
  • (20C), organize and interpret information from outlines, reports, databases, and visuals, including graphs, charts, timelines, and maps
  • (20D), identify bias and points of view from the historical context surrounding an event that influenced the participants
  • (22C), create written, oral, and visual presentations of social studies information

Art, Grade 7

  • (1A), identify and illustrate ideas from direct observation, original sources, imagination, personal experiences, and communities such as family, school, cultural, local, regional, national, and international;
  • (3A), analyze ways that global, cultural, historical, and political issues influence artworks;
  • (3B), analyze selected artworks to determine contemporary relevance in relationship to universal themes such as belief, cultural narrative, life cycles, the passage of time, identity, conflict, and cooperation


  • Mission San Sabá Study Questions and corresponding Answer Key (included)
  • Mission San Sabá painting (included)
  • PERSIA categories (Political, Economic, Religious, Social, Intellectual, Area) and examples - student handout (included)
  • PERSIA chart - student handout (included)
  • "Massacre or Victory" reading - student handout (included)
  • Mission Proposal Assignment (included)
  • Internet access for:

Activities and Procedures:

Part 1

Step 1: Show students the painting "The Destruction of Mission San Sabá in the Province of Texas and the Martyrdom of the Fathers Alonso de Terreros, Joseph Santiesteban." Ask students what they can infer about the following details in the painting:

  • Time frame
  • Location
  • People involved
  • Conflict
  • Point of view of the artist

Advise students that they will use a website to discover the facts of the story told in the painting.

Step 2: Distribute the Mission San Sabá Study Questions. Have students answer the questions using information from the Texas Beyond History Mission San Sabá exhibit at:

Part 2

Step 3: KWL (Know, Want to know, Learned) activity: On butcher paper or other medium write the letters K, W, and L across the top. Under the letter K, have students list facts they already know about the Spanish mission system in Texas. Under the W have them list what they want to learn about this subject. The last part of the activity (what they Learned) will be completed at the end of part 2 of the lesson.

Step 4: PERSIA Activity– Contrast Political, Economic, Religious, Social, Intellectual and Artistic ways of Spanish and Native Americans. Distribute the PERSIA model and PERSIA chart to students. Depending on the level of the class, the teacher may fill in the chart with student participation or students may use their Mission San Sabá Study Questions, textbooks, and the Mission San Sabá website to fill in the PERSIA chart with a partner or in small groups.

Student Product: Answers to Mission San Sabá Study Questions and one or all of the additional assessment activities: Massacre or Victory essay, Mission Proposal Project, Mural Assignment.

Closure: Fill in the L (what students learned) on the KWL chart from Part 1.

Extension Activities: Have students share their essays, mission proposals, or murals with the class.

Assessment: Give students the choice of completing one of the following assignments:

1. Mission Proposal Project: In this assignment, students create a proposal for a successful Spanish mission by addressing and improving upon common problems that plagued the settlements.

2. Distribute the "Massacre or Victory" reading student handout and have students read it aloud. Ask students to consider everything they have learned and then decide whether they believe the event at San Sabá was a massacre or a victory. They may use their Massacre or Victory Study Questions to help with this. Once students have formed an opinion, they will write a brief (one page) essay explaining and defending their position.

3. Allow students to create a mural illustrating the events at Mission San Saba. Have them adopt a point of view (Spanish, Natives, or a combination of both) when creating their product.