James Madison University – College of Education

Social Studies Lesson Plan Format

Name: Thomas Pitts Date: 7/13/2011

Subject/Class: US I. Grade Level:6 Topic: Underground Railroad

NCSS Theme # 5: Individuals, Groups and Institutions.

Subthemes: Processes # 5: Investigate conflicts between individuals and group conformity;

Processes#7:Institutions may promote or undermine social conformity

(Remember NCSS is focused on Knowledge, Process and Product—be specific)

Essential Questions/Big Ideas:How did African Americans, who sought their freedom prior to the Civil War, obtain it? What dangers did they face along their journey?

SOLs/Standards addressed:

Standard 8d

The student will demonstrate knowledge of westward expansion and reform in America from 1801 to 1861 by:

d) Identifying the main ideas of the abolitionist and women’s suffrage movements.

·  Abolitionist leaders included both men and women.

Harriet Tubman led hundreds of enslaved African Americans to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

Learning Outcomes/Objectives:

Students will also be able to identify one of the major ways that slaves tried to gain their freedom; the Underground Railroad. They must be able to identify how the Underground Railroad operated, what knowledge slaves needed to know in order to escape, and what dangers slaves faced along their journey.

Assessment alignment chart: How will you know they know the objectives listed above?

Objective / Assessment (formative and summative)
U1: Students will be able to analyze the risks and dangers slaves were under if they chose to run away on the underground railroad. / Students will write an entry in their journal explaining the risks and dangers they went through on the underground railroad, trying to get to freedom. They will need to explain their path to freedom, symbols they used to get there, and dangers they faced along the way.
U2: Students will be able to identify important symbols slaves would need to know on their journey north. / Prior to their reading assignment, students will research what symbols slaves needed to know and dangers they faced along the way. The students will need to draw these symbols (three each-will be used for later activity).

Background Content Outline:

I. Underground Railroad

A. Background

1. Underground- secretive, unknown

2. Railroad- due to words that are connected with the railroad

B. How it works

1. Slaves moved north using stations

2. Conductors

3. Night travel? Why? 10-20 miles

C. Symbols

1. Quilts

2. Lawn jockeys

3. Lanterns

4. Songs- Follow the drinking gourd

D. Dangers

1. Physical (beatings, mutilations, enchainment, etc.)

2. Legal (no trail, property)

3. Slave catchers

E. Harriet Tubman

1. Former Slave

2. Hit with stone by master (affected all life)

3. Escape to freedom (without husband)

4. 19 trips/ 300 saved

5. $40,000 reward


Concept word / D=define / E=examples / A=attributes / N=non-examples
Unit Concept word = Abolition / The desire to end a process that is seen as negative / Slavery, mass murdering, genocide / Freedom to make choices, Inforcement of the Bill of Rights / Anything dealing with human rights

Instructional Plan:

What the Teacher Will Do / What the Students Will Do
5-10 minutes / 1) Teacher reminds students of the Declaration of Independence while flipping through slave abuse slides. On each slide students should be asked if these people would have said the Declaration’s words had been carried out. When the response is no, then the teacher asks why.
Use the following site to show slave torture:
http://www.sonofthesouth.net/leefoundation/civil-war/1863/july/whipped-slave.htm / 1) Students will review the treatment of slaves by analyzing photos. No grade need be taken for this, as the photos will serve to remind anyone who has forgotten?
(Youth Leadership Initiative)
5 minutes / 2) Ask what would you do if you were put into these circumstances? / 2) Student responses will vary, with some wanting to revolt, others pushing for legislation, and other wanting to run away. The teacher should take time to say why revolts and laws had not worked up to this time.
2minutes think
2minutes pair
2minutes share / Teacher introduces the idea of the underground railroad
Teacher makes sure share definition is right.
Discussion of any background info that has been left out, as well as Harriet Tubman. / Students in think/pair/share explain why it is called the underground railroad.
20 minutes / Teacher will make sure all students are on portaportal sight, and have made it to pathways.thinkport.org/secrets/
Teacher will also make sure that students’ drawings are correct, and will take these up for future use. / Students go to portaportal website, where they are responsible for finding three symbols that slaves would need to be able to recognize in their journey north. They will need to draw these symbols to the best of their ability. Students will also be required to read the section on follow the drinking gourd” as they will need to know this point to get through the story.
(Web-based Interactive site)
30 minutes / Teacher hands out headphones and allows students to go to the Following in the Footsteps interactive story. In the story, students are required to make a series of decisions based on what they know to be symbols and dangers in order to get to freedom. / Students will write an entry in their journal explaining the risks and dangers they went through on the underground railroad, trying to get to freedom. They will need to explain their path to freedom, symbols they used to get there, and dangers they faced along the way.
(Web-based Interactive site)
If time permits- for fun and experience / For review, students go outside and play a hide and seek version of the underground railroad. Some students are passengers and can only travel when there is music playing (symbolizes night). They must make it to a safe house (you have placed the symbols around the play area) before the music ends, or they are captured.One student can be the Harriet Tubman of the group. (it would be great to get a version of follow the drinking gourd to play)

Materials Needed for the Lesson:

Computer access

Computer paper

Colored pencils


Loose leaf paper

Bibliography/Resources Used (using APA):

Following the footsteps. (2011). Pathways to freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad.


Secrets:signs and symbols. (2011). Pathways to freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad.

Retrieved at http://pathways.thinkport.org/secrets/

Whipped slave. (July 4, 1863). Civil war harper’s weekly. Retrieved at



ELL/struggling readers / Struggling readers have access to headphones as soon as they are on the website.
ADHD / Shocking pictures will hold attention, along with movement in various activities throughout the class period. Students also enjoy the stealth language as well as being able to choose their own path within the story.
Gifted / Gifted students will be expected to write in greater detail with more clarity when turning in their journal page. They will be asked to provide more depth coverage about the dangers they face, as well as how important the symbols are to their journey.

Explanation of Instructional Strategies Used:

1. Pictures- great review to shock the kids into why a slave would want to escape.

2. Think/pair/share- definition of the Underground Railroad- This gets students thinking about the travel experience of slaves. As they discuss and come up with the answers it is a great time to discuss railroad lingo.

3. Website- Students know they hold their destiny in their own hands. In order to be successful (and to play the game afterwards) students will need to successfully complete their challenge- to create the symbols of the Underground Railroad, and to understand the “drinking gourd.”

4. Game- They remembers this stuff more than anything else. By putting the symbols into a game, in which they know they must get to, they’ll remember the symbols forever.

Dept. of Middle, Secondary, and Math Education

modified by Dr. Cude & Dr. Stern 8/10