external image slavery.gif

Thematic Unit
Tenee Betpera

* Rationale

* Goals and Objectives

* Planning Web

* Daily Schedule

* Student Learning Styles

* Initiating Activity

  • Day 1------- To Be A Slave

* Sustaining Activities

  • Day 2------- The Auction Block

  • Day 3------- The Plantation

  • Day 4------- Resistance to Slavery

  • Day 5------- Slaves’ Social Life

  • Day 6------- Making Traditional African American Cornbread

  • Day 7------- Harriet Tubman

  • Day 8 ------- Harriet Tubman part II

  • Day 9------- My Family Tree

* Culminating Activity

  • Day 10----- Watching Uncle Tom’s Cabin

* Assessment Plan

* Appendices

  • Masters

  • Bibliography

  • Technology Resources

Thematic Unit Rationale

According to the California State Standards, students in fifth grade recognize that ours is a nation that has a constitution that derives its power from the people that have gone through a revolution that once sanctioned slavery, that experienced conflict over land with the original inhabitants, and that experienced a westward movement that took its people across the continent. Studying the cause, course, and consequences of the early explorations through the War for Independence and western expansion is central to students’ fundamental understanding of how the principles of the American republic form the basis of a pluralistic society in which individual rights are secured. In this thematic unit, we will be covering the California History/Social Studies Content Standards 5.4.6 where students will learn about the introduction of slavery into America, the responses of slave families to their condition, the ongoing struggle between proponents and opponents of slavery, and the gradual institutionalization of slavery in the South. We will also be covering the California Content Standards 5.6.7. Students will learn how the ideals of the Declaration of Independence changed the way people viewed slavery.

This unit will focus on slavery in the United States. This unit gives students the opportunity to learn about and experience slavery through the multiple intelligences. There will be two literature sections that will enable the students to work through the concept of slavery. To Be A Slave by Julius Lester and Letters from a Slave Girl-The Story of Harriet Jacobs by Mary Lyons are centered on activities that build upon the knowledge and concepts that are introduced in the books. To completely immerse the class in this theme, there are activities in language arts, social studies, math, science, art, music, and P.E.


My goal in this unit is to provide my students with a deeper understanding of slavery and the affects it had on people during that time. I want my students to have a heart wrenching experience that opens their eyes to the reality of life during the revolution. It is important for my students to know that slavery has been a part of human life since early times. Slavery existed in ancient Greece, Rome, Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Africa, people believed slavery was a natural par of society. My goal in this unit is to provide my students with activities pertaining to the multiple intelligences that provide them with a well-balanced learning experience. Through different activities and projects, students will take away a newfound knowledge on slavery.

  1. Students will be able to identify what slavery is and how what it means to be a slave.

  2. Students will be able to identify social activities in which the slaves may have been able to participate in.

  3. Students will be able to research topics related to slavery in order to understand the historical background.

  4. Students will be able to understand how it felt to be a slave during the revolution, and they will be able to discuss what slaves would do on a daily basis.

  5. Students will be able to read two literature selections that will enable them to work through the concept of slavery.

  6. Students will learn about the Underground Railroad and slave survivors such as Harriet Tubman.

    1. Daily Schedule

Week 1

Lesson 1 Day 1:
California State Standards: 5.4 Students understand the political, religious, social, and economic institutions
that evolved in the colonial era.
  • (INITIATING ACTIVITY)- I will provide students with copies of the historical background on slavery. We will take turns reading paragraphs together, followed by a whole class discussion.

  • I will read a story called To Be A Slave by Julius Lester and facilitate a class discussion on slavery. I will focus on the quotes from the slaves who were there and what they experienced. I will ask students questions like: What do you know about slavery? How do you think if felt to be owned? What do you think of the slave’s reaction to seeing white people for the first time?

  • Make “Slavery Journals”: Students will be required to create journals by folding construction paper and a few sheets of white paper in half. They will use this notebook created by them to write daily journals from student to former slave. The students will be given various topics to focus on.

  • In order to understand the historical background of slavery, have the student’s research one of the topics and use a specific format I will provide them with. After the students complete the worksheet, they will write a three-paragraph essay following the format of the outline. I will instruct them to use peer editing or teacher editing and then complete the final draft.

Lesson 2 Day 2:

California State Standards: 5.5 Students explain the causes of the American Revolution
  • I will be reading chapter 2, The Auction Block and will have students complete “The Auction Block Discussion”. The discussion consists of various questions and statements for small group discussion. Each group member will be required to write his of her own answers on a separate sheet of paper.

  • After reading The Auction Block, I will be discussing with students different emotions that are generated throughout the book. What emotions did the slaves’ stories invoke in the students? How do they think they would be able to survive if they were slaves? At what points in the book did they feel disgust, sadness, anger, joy, hatred, etc.?

Lesson 3 Day 3:
California State Standards: 2.2 Analyze text that is organized in sequential or chronological order
  • Read chapter 3, “The Plantation” and complete “Describe the Plantation” worksheet. Students will be choosing one descriptive sentence that appeals to their senses. They will use their knowledge of slavery thus far and their imagination to write a descriptive paragraph of a plantation and its activities based on the sentence chosen.

  • We will complete the activity “Who Owns…?” Students will write a rough draft on what they believe shouldn’t be owned. As a class, we will discuss what should be owned and what should not. I will be writing the opinions of the students on the board in two categories. After students complete their final draft on “Who Owns…?” they will paint a depiction of what they believe cannot be owned according to what they wrote.

Lesson 4 Day 4:
California State Standards: 2.2 Analyze text that is organized in sequential or chronological order
  • We will be reading Chapter 4, “Resistance to Slavery-1”. Discuss with the class the differing views of the slaves and their masters. Why do they think this occurred? Which of these differences do the students believe are harmful? Do you think the masters used religion to control the slaves? Was this effective? Why or why not?

  • Students will complete the “Resistance to Slavery” questions. This page is useful for evaluation of the students’ comprehension and cab be treated as a quiz. The quiz will be given after this chapter has been read and discussed.

  • Students will read the passage about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. They will answer questions at the end of the passage and do the math activity on page 63.

Lesson 5 Day 5:

California State Standards: 1.4 Select a focus, organizational structure, and point of view for an oral presentation
  • Students will be completing a worksheet on the Slaves’ Social Life. Students will generate a list that consists of activities that slaves may have been able to enjoy. Afterward, the students will choose three of the activities and rank them in order in accordance to the ones that they’d enjoy most: first, second, and third. Then they will answer the questions on the worksheet.

  • We will read Chapter 5, “Resistance to slavery-2.”

  • I will make copies of “Frederick Douglass” and have the students read and discuss their reactions.

  • Students will participate in a game called “Bivoe Ebuma”. Ask the students to brainstorm what other types of games the slave children may have played. Ask the class to evaluate the suggested games as to their likelihood. Would the slaves probably have played a game like the one suggested? Why or why not?

  • I will be assigning an “Anti-Slavery Speech”. I will be telling the students that they are part of an abolitionist, or anti-slavery, group that is appearing in front of the president to talk about why slavery is wrong. We will share student speeches with the class and receive student feedback.

  • Students will interview one another about their reactions to slavery. Ask them if they learned anything new. Find out what shocked them most, what was the saddest event in the book, and what was an event that made them angry.

Week 2

Day 7 Lesson 7:
  • I will be sending home a parent letter that asks the parents to donate any supplies that will assist us in making crackers and a traditional African American recipe for cornbread.

  • Before reading the story based on the true story of Harriet Ann Jacobs, we will be going over vocabulary words and the dedication that I will provide for the class.

  • Read part 1, the first section on “Mama.” Discuss why the students think Harriet is writing to her mother. Is she writing to her for her own comfort? Why does Harriet need her mother at this time? Is Harriet writing about things that she could only discuss with her mother?

  • (SUSTAINING ACTIVITY)-As a class, we will make crackers together. Recipe and supplies will be provided.

Day 8 Lesson 8:
California State Standards: 2.2 Analyze text that is organized in sequential or chronological order
  • Read part I, “Papa,” and discus why Harriet is writing to her father. Does she miss him? What is her father’s personality like? What does she talk to her father about? Why is he a comfort to her?

  • Read Part I, the sections on “Mama” and “R”, and assign “Comprehension Questions” to assess the comprehension of the book thus far.

  • Discuss Harriet’s life in hiding (For example: the weather, insects, watching her children grow up not knowing her, and not being able to move for hours). Ask the students if they think all of that is worth freedom.

  • Discuss all the different characters in the book and create a chart on the board to identify who they are and what their connection is to Harriet.

  • The characters in Harriet’s life have many different personalities. Personalities impact the way people live their lives and the decisions one makes. Discuss personality traits and have the student’s complete “Character Traits” worksheet.

Day 9 Lesson 9:
California State Standards: 1.5 Understand and explain the figurative and metaphorical use of words in context
  • Continue reading Part II.

  • Discuss all that Harriet does for her freedom:

- deals with Dr. Norcom’s inappropriate behavior

- asks Samuel for help

- runs away at night

- hides out at Gran’s and in the swamps

  • Discuss similes and metaphors. Throughout Harriet’s letter she uses similes and metaphors to describe her experiences and how she is feeling. Students will be provided with a worksheet that has some of the similes and metaphors taken from Harriet’s letter. Students will need to write if the sentence is a simile or a metaphor, and then try to explain what they think the expression means.

Day 10 Lesson 10:
California State Standards: 2.2 Analyze text that is organized in sequential or chronological order
  • Continue reading part III of the story together.

  • We will discuss Harriet’s family tree.

  • Students will be provided with a worksheet titled “Interview for a Family Tree”. Students will fill in the interview questions after speaking with members of their family. Then they will complete their own family tree on a separate piece of paper.

  • Students will be assigned an activity titled “Autobiography”. Students will be provided with a brainstorming map and they will be required to fill in the events of their life and write an autobiography.

  • I will allow students time to look at the pictures of Harriet and the places she lived at the end of the book. We will discuss how seeing the pictures made the story more real and brought Harriet to life.

  • Students will be encouraged to check out books on other people in history that have been oppressed and forced into hiding because of the circumstances in society.

  • (CUMULATING ACTIVITY)- I will be renting the movie Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This film is not rated, therefore I will send out permission slips from administration and parents. After the film, I will ask students if it was difficult for them to watch slavery when it is associated with real people. Ask they if it was like they imagined. Find out if there was anything they thought wasn’t factual.

Assessment Plan

Assessment #1:

  • Students will complete the “Resistance to Slavery” questions. This page is useful for evaluation of the students’ comprehension and cab be treated as a quiz. The quiz will be given after this chapter has been read and discussed.

Assessment #2:

  • Make “Slavery Journals”: Students will be required to create journals by folding construction paper and a few sheets of white paper in half. They will use this notebook created by them to write daily journals from student to former slave. The students will be given various topics to focus on. Students will be graded on their daily journal write-up.

Assessment #3:

  • Students will complete a reading comprehension formal assessment on Letters from a Slave Girl, The Story of Harriet Jacobs.

Student Learning Styles

Special Needs

Special Needs students will be aided with a classroom assistant or an outside source who helps with daily activities. Students with special needs will also have the ability to reach the lesson information before I actually give the lesson. The special needs students can review and prepare for what is to come of the lesson.


The ELL students will be given reading passages that are adapted towards their reading levels. Since some of the material throughout this lesson may be challenging, I will need to make adaptations. The reading material will be on the same topic but tweaked so that the vocabulary isn’t complex. I will also provide pictures for new vocabulary words that are learned throughout the unit. Providing pictures is a SDAIE strategy that helps aide in the understanding of vocabulary words for ELL students.


The GATE students will be provided with opportunities to do extra activities or research projects on any topic in this unit. Gate students can also write biographies on important people we learned about throughout the unit.



African American Voices of Triumph: Perserverance. Time-Life Books, 1993.

Amper, Thomas. Booker T. Washington. Carolrhoda Books, Inc., 1998.

Douglass, Frederick. Escape from Slavery: The Boyhood of Frederick Douglass in His Own Words. Alfred A. Knopf, 1994.

January, Brendan. The Dred Scott Decision. Children’s Press, 1998.

Lyson’s, Mary E. Letters from a Slave Girl: The story of Harriet Jacobs. Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1992.

Technology Resources

Harriet Tubman and The Underground Railroad for Children


Frederick Douglass National Historic Site




Harriet Tubman