Sunday, November 9, 2014

Underground Railroad

I love that our classes somehow coincided this past quarter. I love that we were studying about George Washington Carver, a former slave, while also learning about the underground railroad. I love that we also had chapter books to do book groups with for reading. For me, I am able to pull so much more out of the students and really submerse them in the information we are learning.

The students loved learning about Henry "Box" Brown and how he escaped to freedom by mailing himself. They even got to try out a box to see how it would feel to be squeezed in there for a day or so (Of course we just stayed in the box for a few seconds).

Students getting ready to shut me inside the box. They all tried it and of course wanted me to try it too.

We also learned about the secret code that slaves used on the underground railroad and how many of the codes were sewn into quilts. We created a quilt code collage during art class.

My favorite activity was the culminating simulation that we had. I am so fortunate to have wonderful parent volunteers to help out on days like this and the other teachers were great about allowing my students to use their rooms as needed for the day. Here's how it basically worked: the students were split into different groups. Some were slaves, some were conductors on the underground railroadd, some were bounty hunters, and some were slave catchers. The slaves were to follow their conductor, who had a map of the school showing all the "safe houses" which were located in certain classrooms. In each safe house, the students were suppose to collect a ticket to prove that they had been to that safe house. They had to collect three different colors of tickets before they could make their way across the field at our school and touch the back fence, which was "Canada." Meanwhile, slave catchers were looking for safe houses to close down. If they spotted a safe house, they were to take all the tickets, leaving it useless. And the bounty hunters were guarding the path to freedom and trying to stop any slaves they could.

(A "safe house" that had been shut down by the slave catchers.)

(One conductor, holding a copy of the map and three safe house tickets, after reaching freedom in "Canada".)

When we were done, we debriefed by discussing our experiences and writing about them too. And I think all students were in agreement that they wanted to do it again. It was definitely the perfect ending to our unit.

Here are some of the books that we used in our class during our unit.

 What was the Underground Railroad

 Who was Harriet Tubman
Midnight Journey

Henry's Freedom Box

 Underground Railroad Simulation (This is the simulation I used for the Underground Railroad Activity

Underground Railroad Bundle  This pack is by Courtney Eller (Blue Ridge Second Grade Days). We used the quilt part to inspire our art projects. I wish I had not passed them back to the students before taking pictures. Some turned out really great.

Heroes of the Underground Railroad I really loved this pack by Little Red's Schoolhouse. I used it for comprehension building. It would be great for Close reading too. I loved that the students got to hear about all sorts of people who worked on the underground railroad. We could speak a lot about determination and also about character. These people were risking their lives so many times to help others. Really, a great read. We did two of these each Friday during our unit.

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