As we approach our Civil War unit, I want my students to bring all of their knowledge about slavery to the forefront. They've learned about how this horrific practice has affected our country since early American History, and even today, by learning significant social studies lessons all year. Now slavery itself is the main focus. They will read text about slavery and using RI.5.2 summarize this text after determining the main ideas that are supported by key details.
All year they've read about this grim topic, engaged in class discussions, and watched video sections of "Roots" to give them a touchstone for learning. To begin this lesson I want the students to use their collective body of knowledge to compile a list of adjectives and/or phrases (Writing Adjectives and Phrases assignment) that come to mind when they think of slavery (Examples of Adjectives/Phrases).
The students read the section in the textbook entitled, "Resisting Slavery," independently. After they finish reading, they determine at least two main ideas from the text, and support this data with key details. This is summarized into two paragraphs under the focus question, "Why do you think enslaved people risked their lives to escape from slavery?" (Writing Main Ideas from Social Studies Text)
They write immediately, they write consistently, and they write thoughtfully (Writing...) This is clearly a topic that resonates and they have a lot of information to get down on their papers (and more writing...) As they write, I put the word, SLAVERY, on the Smart Board. Using the list of words created during the Warm Up, they take turns coming to the board to contribute to a class mural (More contributions...) I'm proud of their words, and though not surprised at their approach, feel overwhelmed with how somber they are as they add them to the mural.
I evaluate the writing using the Six Traits of Writing rubric. I concentrate on the traits of Voice, Ideas and Content, and Organization as the students express their thoughts, determine main ideas in the text, and support their findings in an organized manner.
This has been an emotional lesson, and the kids have written amazing heartfelt papers. The students are welcomed to share their papers with their classmates, and many want to. I'm pleased with how well they practice SL.5.4 Presenting an opinion clearly at an understandable pace as well as SL.5.3 as they take turns summarizing the points made by the speaker, and why their evidence supports it. Great listeners, too.
To complete the lesson, I ask the question, "Would you risk your life to escape?" Many hands go up. One girl adds, "I can't even imagine. I would risk my life because it would be better to die than live like those poor slaves did." Others nod in agreement.