Conductors of the Underground Railroad

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SWBAT...explain the cause - effect relationships or interactions between key figures and their roles in "The Underground Railroad"

Big Idea

When people care they take risks to help others, sometimes even for those who they don't know. Their reward is knowing they did the right thing.

Creating the Purpose

5 minutes

This unit focuses on people that change the world. We have a read a few biography texts. I chose the book for this lesson based on its format and its ability to show cause-effect relationships through the actions of key people involved in the Underground Railroad and freeing of slaves.

This ties in with our changing America studies in history, our study of biographies of important people and our theme of helping others. My secondary purpose was to teach how cause-effect text format can be found in books other than primarily science related texts. The primary focus is CCSS RI 5.3 with a secondary on RI 5.1 and 5.2 - supporting responses with details from the text

I begin by introducing them to Escape to Freedom Book cover book and asking them what they see on the cover. I then have them evaluate Escape to Freedom book back page and why it was included. This helps me to evaluate their background knowledge of the Underground Railroad and slavery issues at the time to see what and how much information I need to teach. They determine critical details such as: the slaves look fearful, late night, running away - being chased, etc. and then tie this into their history knowledge of the Underground Railroad which tells me I can move on to our objective and lesson.

I share that we are going to learn about some people who helped slaves escape using the Underground Railroad. You will read about their lives to determine why they did this, what roles they each played and the effects their choices had on theirs and others lives.   


Guiding the Learning

25 minutes

In this part of the lesson I focus on gathering information from the text to support opinions. We read the introduction chapter to gain understanding of the background of the book and the events that were occurring at the time.  

I ask and discuss questions: What was slavery and why did people have slaves? Benefits to the economy? Negatives? 

Then I model how to read for meaning by sharing how slavery changed from indentured servants to "property". We discuss slavery so that I can determine their levels of understanding of the pros and cons of it in the development of our country. We review the section on views of slavery to demonstrate different viewpoints on the issue from the perspective of two characters in the text (pg 13)

We read the beginning of the next chapter and I ask them What was the Underground Railroad and why was Canada chosen as the place to escape to? How did slaves know who to trust and where to go? 

Students respond and give their support found in the text.  If they do not offer this I prompt them with why? How do you know this? What clues in the text gave you that opinion?

We continue with a few more questions and discussions on resisting slavery. I then share that they will continue with their reading with a focus on the people who had important roles in the Underground Railroad. We review the positions people may have held (conductor, stationmaster, abolitionist) and what roles these represented. I model a chart and share how they will read the biographies of five people and then create a chart that shows their positions in the Underground Railroad and the effect their actions had on others and themselves. ..."beCAUSE they did this - the EFFECT was this"

I share a secondary focus will be for them to evaluate the risks that they could have or did face and why they made the choice to risk so much. This ties our lesson back into our helping others theme.   

Sharing the Learning

10 minutes

When signal sounds students bring their work back to the table and share out the information they collected from the text and the charts they created. I'm looking for evidence of understanding of the text they read, knowledge of the cause-effect relationship between the people and others or their actions, and ability to support their responses with evidence from the text. A secondary item is the readability and flow of their notes and charts to show they put effort and thought into its creation.

Here's a video of a part of our discussion and how students responded to my questioning and prompting for determining deeper meaning from what they read through questioning and analysis:

and a copy of a sample Underground Railroad student guided reading journal.

and a summary of what the expectations and examples are in their reading journals

We close the discussion by reading the eye witness account of their escape on page 29 to bring a reality to their learning.