Pathways to Freedom: Maryland and the Underground Railroad
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about the underground railroad
following the footsteps
eyewitness to history
figure it out
mapping it out
secrets: language, signs and symbols
create a quilt block
living history
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Lesson Plan: Whispers from the Past

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STAGE 3: Plan Learning Experiences and Instruction


Activity 5: Completing the Assignment
Depending on the ability level of students, distribute the Frederick Douglass narrative and repeat the process above. Highly able students can proceed with all of the narratives, (Caroline Hammond, Charles Ball, Josiah Henson.) (15-20 minutes).

Activity 6: Monitoring Student Participation
Monitor students' completion of the primary source analysis chart. (15-20 minutes)

Activity 7: Reporting Out and Class Discussion
If students are divided into cooperative learning groups, ask groups to report out about their assigned documents at this point. (10 minutes)

Activity 8: Preparing to Write
Revisit the K-W-L Chart used as the introductory activity. Complete the "L" column - what did I learn about the Underground Railroad? This activity can serve as the pre-writing activity to prepare students to write an essay. (10-15 minutes)

Activity 9: Writing to Inform
Revisit the focus questions: "Why did people choose to leave their homes and travel to freedom on the Underground Railroad? What are the some factors people had to consider as they thought about escaping from slavery?" Share the writing prompt and writing to inform rubric with students.

Activity 10: Wrap-Up/Closure/Transition to the Next Day's Activities
Share the essays and discuss what else the students would like to learn about the Underground Railroad.


Community Connection
How can students take action in the community through their learning? For additional insight into community-based projects, go to the "Making Family and Community Connections" website

  • Oral History: Oral histories, like the narratives you have read, are the bulk of historical evidence for the Underground Railroad. Historians have to develop their interviewing skills in order to conduct an oral history. Learn more about oral history by writing interview questions and conducting an oral history with an elderly relative. Students can conduct oral history interviews of people that have recently immigrated to the United States for political asylum, or with senior citizens about an important event in their lives (i.e., Holocaust survivor, World War II veteran, refugee, etc.) Share the results with your class.

  • Investigate Underground Railroad sites in your community or in your region.

  • Conduct an service learning advocacy project about modern day slavery that would include a letter or e-mail writing campaign to relevant government officials

  • Parent-Home Connection: How will parents be included/informed in/about the learning experience? Since some of the material included in these narratives is very gruesome in nature, teachers are advised to share the MPT URL with parents and notify them in advance that students are learning about slavery in the United States with primary sources.
Children's Literature Print Materials:
Children's literature could enhance your study of the Underground Railroad with Special Education or struggling readers. Possible titles include:

  • Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad
    By Ann Petry
    Reading level: Ages 9-12
    Paperback (March 1996)
    HarperTrophy; ISBN: 0064461815

  • Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman
    by Alan Schroeder, Jerry Pinkney (Illustrator)
    Reading level: Ages 4-8
    Hardcover (May 1996)
    Dial Books for Young Readers; ISBN: 0803718888

  • Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky
    by Faith Ringgold (Illustrator), J. Davis (Editor)
    Reading level: Ages 4-8
    Paperback (December 1995)
    Crown Pub; ISBN: 0517885433

  • Harriet Tubman (Junior World Biographies)
    by Bree Burns
    Reading level: Ages 9-12
    Paperback (September 1993)
    Chelsea House Publishing; ISBN: 0791019950

  • Now Let Me Fly: The Story of a Slave Family (Aladdin Picture Books)
    by Dolores Johnson, Delores Johnson (Illustrator)
    Reading level: Ages 4-8
    Paperback - 32 pages Reprint edition (January 1997)
    Aladdin Paperbacks; ISBN: 0689809662

  • Journey to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railroad
    by Courtni C. Wright, Gershom Griffith (Illustrator)
    Reading level: Ages 4-8
    School & Library Binding - 1 pages (September 1994)
    Holiday House; ISBN: 082341096X
Fine Arts
Create an illustration, mural or torn paper collage based on one of the primary source narratives and the sense poem.

Graph the population data included in the Pathways to Freedom: "Figure it Out" section.

Students can create a PowerPoint presentation describing all that they have learned from this lesson.

Additional web resources include:
Webquests: Other Online Resources:
  • Library of Congress
    View a broadside about the life of Anthony Burns, whose arrest and trial under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 touched off riots and protests by abolitionists and citizens of Boston in the spring of 1854

  • African-American Mosaic: Abolition
    Read about Abolitionists, view an Early Anti-Slavery Publication, Minutes of Early Anti-Slavery Meeting, an Anti-Slavery Publication for Children, an Anti-Colonization Song, an Anti-Slavery Fair Advertisement, a broadside condemning Slavery in the Washington, D.C., Area, an Anti-Abolitionist Handbill, and more.
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