The Making of an Abolitionist
#1 US/NYS History; E2b; E4a.
Objective: Students will identify events in the early
life of Frederick Douglass that may have led to his becoming
a leading Abolitionist.
Materials: Miller, William.
Frederick Douglass: The Last Day of Slavery.
Lee & Low Books, Inc. New York: 1995.
Location: M.S. 226, District 27, Queens
Grade: 7th Grade
Subject: Social Studies
Length of time: 2 class periods.
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Pre-Reading Activity: Discuss slavery and the abolitionists.
Discuss accomplishments of the adult Douglass. Ask students to look
at the book cover and describe what they see. Ask students what
they think may be the significance of the title. Ask students what
they believe this book will tell them.
Reading Activity: Read story through once without stopping,
making sure to display each illustration to the entire class. After
completing it, ask the children if they have any questions. After
answering questions and allowing time for any spontaneous discussion,
reread it, pausing throughout to ask specific questions related
to the plot. Again, remember to display the illustrations to the
children. Some suggested questions to ask the class follow:
- Ask the students to make a prediction about Douglass's mother.
- Ask why might the men and women have walked with their heads
- Detecting inconsistencies in text: Why would the overseer beat
the slaves? Does his beatings have the desired effect?
- Why would Douglass dream about going to New York?
- What is a slave breaker? Why was Douglass singled-out by this
- What kind of animals did Douglass dream he could become? Why
would he have such dreams?
- Why did Douglass have no faith in Sandy's root? What did Douglass
- Discuss the meaning of the last line of the book.
The edition of the book that I use has no page numbers; however, if
you choose to use some of the above questions, where in the reading
to ask them is obvious from the text. Again, answer any questions
that the children may have, and allow for any discussion.
Follow-up: Arrange students into cooperative learning groups.
Each group will then make a flow chart that covers the major plot
points of the story. Have the class discuss their group flow charts,
and together create a class flow chart on the blackboard. For homework,
have the students choose two incidents from the story that they feel
to be the most influential on the life of young Douglass and write
a short essay detailing these events as well as create an illustration
that depicts one of their two chosen incidents.
Evaluation: The students' understanding and internalization
of the story can be evaluated by three methods: by noting their answers
during the reading of the story; by the thoroughness of their cooperative
group flow chart; and, their ability to write an essay and create
an illustration utilizing the class flow chart.
1 - Good essay format (introduction, body, conclusion); no grammar/spelling
mistakes; has a
2 - Essay format incomplete; some grammar/spelling mistakes; weak
3 - Not written in essay form; many grammar/spelling mistakes; no
The idea for using picture books came from a fellow teacher in
a beginning reading class that I attended last year. So, at the end
of last semester, I worked up this lesson plan. This year I used it
this year with my 7th graders, and it went better than I had hoped.
During my first class, the moment I told them that I was going to
read them a story, they all got up, pushed their desks to the side
of the room and sat on the floor (I forget sometimes that they are
only 12 years-old). I left the desks to the side for all four classes
until the end of the second reading and discussion. The kids loved
it. I believe this was far and away their favorite lesson so far this
year. And, they now know who Frederic Douglass and the abolitionists