ALEX Lesson Plan


The Underground Railroad

You may save this lesson plan to your hard drive as an html file by selecting "File", then "Save As" from your browser's pull down menu. The file name extension must be .html.

  This lesson provided by:  
Author:Jodi Wilson
System: Hale County
School: Moundville Elementary School
  General Lesson Information  
Lesson Plan ID: 12543


The Underground Railroad


The Underground Railroad of the 1800's inspired talented writers of all ages. This lesson will integrate some of these famous writings to encourage students to develop their questioning techniques for analysis of literature while furthering their knowledge of this era in American history. As an extension of this study, students will create a class quilt to illustrate the depth of their research.

 Associated Standards and Objectives 
Content Standard(s):
TC2 (3-5)
5. Practice safe use of technology systems and applications.
Examples: protecting personal information online, avoiding inappropriate sites, exiting inappropriate sites
TC2 (3-5)
6. Describe social and ethical behaviors related to technology use.
Examples: social—developing positive attitudes for using technology collaboratively
ethical—citing sources of text and digital content, avoiding plagiarism, avoiding manipulation of others' work without permission
  • Describing the global nature of the Internet
  • Following local acceptable-use policies regarding technology
  • Identifying intrusive applications, including worms, viruses, spyware, and pop-up advertisements
  • TC2 (3-5)
    8. Collect information from a variety of digital sources.
    Examples: online libraries, multimedia dictionaries
  • Using technology tools to organize information
  • Demonstrating efficient Internet search strategies
  • Example: keyword search
  • Evaluating electronic resources for reliability based on publication date, bias, accuracy, and source credibility
  • ELA2015 (4)
    3. Describe in depth a character, setting, or event in a story or drama, drawing on specific details in the text (e.g., a character's thoughts, words, or actions). [RL.4.3]
    ELA2015 (4)
    9. By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, in the Grades 4-5 text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range. [RL.4.10]
    ELA2015 (4)
    24. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences. [W.4.3]
    a. Orient the reader by establishing a situation and introducing a narrator, characters, or both; organize an event sequence that unfolds naturally. [W.4.3a]
    b. Use dialogue and description to develop experiences and events or show the responses of characters to situations. [W.4.3b]
    c. Use a variety of transitional words and phrases to manage the sequence of events. [W.4.3c]
    d. Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely. [W.4.3d]
    e. Provide a conclusion that follows from the narrated experiences or events. [W.4.3e]
    ELA2015 (4)
    34. Identify the reasons and evidence a speaker provides to support particular points. [SL.4.3]
    SS2010 (4) Alabama Studies
    6. Describe cultural, economic, and political aspects of the lifestyles of early nineteenth-century farmers, plantation owners, slaves, and townspeople.
    Examples: cultural—housing, education, religion, recreation
    economic—transportation, means of support
    political—inequity of legal codes
  • Describing major areas of agricultural production in Alabama, including the Black Belt and fertile river valleys
  • SS2010 (4) Alabama Studies
    7. Explain reasons for Alabama's secession from the Union, including sectionalism, slavery, states' rights, and economic disagreements.
  • Identifying Alabama's role in the organization of the Confederacy, including hosting the secession convention and the inauguration ceremony for leaders
  • Recognizing Montgomery as the first capital of the Confederacy
  • Interpreting the Articles of the Confederation and the Gettysburg Address
  • SS2010 (5) United States Studies: Beginnings to the Industrial Revolution
    11. Identify causes of the Civil War, including states' rights and the issue of slavery.
  • Describing the importance of the Missouri Compromise, Nat Turner's insurrection, the Compromise of 1850, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown's rebellion, and the election of 1860
  • Recognizing key Northern and Southern personalities, including Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, Thomas Jonathan "Stonewall" Jackson, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Joseph Wheeler (Alabama)
  • Describing social, economic, and political conditions that affected citizens during the Civil War
  • Identifying Alabama's role in the Civil War (Alabama)
  • Examples: Montgomery as the first capital of the Confederacy, Winston County's opposition to Alabama's secession (Alabama)
  • Locating on a map sites important to the Civil War
  • Examples: Mason-Dixon Line, Fort Sumter, Appomattox, Gettysburg, Confederate states, Union states (Alabama)
  • Explaining events that led to the conclusion of the Civil War
  • Local/National Standards:


    Primary Learning Objective(s):

    Students will make inferences as they respond to literature.
    Students will formulate and ask questions as they listen to a literature selection.
    Students will compare and contrast two literature selections.
    Students will summarize the theme and content of a literature selection.
    Students will plan and design a class quilt descriptive of the Underground Railroad for display.

    Additional Learning Objective(s):

     Preparation Information 

    Total Duration:

    61 to 90 Minutes

    Materials and Resources:

    The Barefoot by Edwards, Pamela Duncan;
    Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Hopkinson, Deborah;
    Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Sterling, Dorothy;
    Strategies That Work by Harvey, Stephanie et al;
    chart paper for teacher, crayons, markers, colored pencils, quilt design books (Creative American Quilting, Friendship Quilting, New Patchwork and Quilting, all published by Better Homes and Gardens -any quilt book which contains patterns which could be traced and colored)

    Technology Resources Needed:

    Computer(s) with Internet access


    1) A review and introduction of Strategies That Work pages 86-89 focusing on questioning techniques modeled for and then applied by students.
    2) Collection of history textbook(s) related to slavery issues and the Underground Railroad.
    3) Collection of trade books -fiction and nonfiction concerning slavery and the Underground Railroad.

    1.)Refer to Strategies That Work, which emphasizes the importance of teaching students to use the technique of questioning as one reads. Create a chart titled The Barefoot that includes two columns, one headed Questions, the other headed Facts. Preview the book: look at cover illustrations, share synopsis on back, discuss the title, record students questions.

    2.)The teacher should "think aloud" while orally reading the selection. Model the technique of questioning for students throughout the reading of The Barefoot. Stop periodically to record student questions and to check whether some questions have been answered; if so, record those questions and answers. For example, when reaching the part of the book about the Heavy Boots, stop and allow students to discuss who they are and to ask questions. Also, make certain students take note of the significance of the animals of the forest and ask pertinent questions.

    3.)Take particular note at the end of the book at the significance of the quilt. Discuss student observations. Record questions, answers, and facts. Review the chart's "Q"s and "F"s, focusing on the the escapee's feelings, problems, thoughts; the "Heavy Boots"; the helpful animals of the forest; the "safe house"; the significance of the quilt.

    4.)As a class, summarize The Barefoot. Write student suggestions on the board, edit, then write the final draft on chart paper for display.

    5.)To extend this concept of the importance of the quilt to Underground Railroad escapees, have the students make a class quilt. This can be as simple as tracing quilt square designs from quilt-making books (see materials list) or as involved as using fabric, needle, and thread. The students will enjoy the hands-on process of designing a quilt. Choose several different square-shaped quilt patterns, four squares per page, and provide each child with 8 different squares to color and cut out. Next assemble the squares into a pleasing design, glue them to black butcher/ bulletin board paper, and display the results with the class summary of The Barefoot.
    (Harriet Tubman Vocabulary Quilt)
    This neat little quilt was designed by a second grade class in 2001. Not only is it attractive, but it is also interactive, providing a vocabulary quiz for students to take.

    6.)As a follow up to this lesson share the trade book, Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt. Either share it orally or locate multiple copies so that a group of students can read it as a small group. Have the students work together to practice the questioning technique used when reading The Barefoot. They should then make the appropriate chart in order to record questions and observations.

    7.)In order to foster critical thinking, create another two column chart or a Venn Diagram, this time to compare and contrast the different aspects of The Barefoot and Freedom Quilt.
    (Venn Diagram Generator)
    A site to use to quickly create a Venn diagram.

    8.)Take students on a virtual field trip on the Underground Railroad.
    (The Underground Railroad)
    This website offers a virtual field trip of the Underground Railroad. It offers student visitors choices (whether or not to escape; where to go; etc.), has excellent graphics, introduces students to the faces of the Underground Railroad, etc.


    Assessment Strategies

    Have each individual student apply the questioning technique in the reading of a Civil War, slavery, or Underground Railroad book of his/her choice. Require the creation of a Question/Answer chart to be turned in, then check the chart to assess questioning skills. See Strategies That Work for tips, strategies, and suggestions to help teachers help students become better comprehenders. In addition, students might be required to visit the listed websites to take the vocabulary quiz and to build background concerning the Underground Railroad. Also, students may be given a writing assignment on any of the three modes of writing tested during the Fifth Grade Writing Assessment - narrative, expository, descriptive - in order to culminate this lesson.


    Students could conduct a research project on some aspect of the Underground Railroad. Provide Internet research opportunities. In addition, most local libraries have wonderful books on this topic. The most well-known conductor on the Underground Railroad, Harriet Tubman, is the subject of numerous biographies (a good Harriet Tubman biography for young adults is titled Freedom Train: the Story of Harriet Tubman), expository texts, and trade books, any of which would be an excellent resource for student researchers.



    Each area below is a direct link to general teaching strategies/classroom accommodations for students with identified learning and/or behavior problems such as: reading or math performance below grade level; test or classroom assignments/quizzes at a failing level; failure to complete assignments independently; difficulty with short-term memory, abstract concepts, staying on task, or following directions; poor peer interaction or temper tantrums, and other learning or behavior problems.

    Presentation of Material Environment
    Time Demands Materials
    Attention Using Groups and Peers
    Assisting the Reluctant Starter Dealing with Inappropriate Behavior
    Be sure to check the student's IEP for specific accommodations.