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Lesson Plan

Critical Perspectives: Reading and Writing About Slavery

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Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Five 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Kelly Finnegan

Seffner, Florida

Emily Manning

Emily Manning

Denton, Texas


International Literacy Association



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



In this lesson, students critically examine the perspectives of slaves and slave owners. Students begin by reading fiction and nonfiction texts about slavery. Through discussion and a K-W-L chart, students monitor their learning. Next, students analyze the K-W-L information and create a T-chart to compare the two perspectives using this question as a springboard: "Why would each group have a different perspective, and is it justified to say that one perspective was right or wrong considering the historical context?" Finally, students choose one of three writing projects to synthesize their learning and demonstrate comprehension of the critical perspectives surrounding slavery.

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  • Flip Book: Have students use this interactive tool to create a secret message that runaway slaves would be able to use to find the Underground Railroad.

  • Letter Generator: This interactive can be used to have students write about experiences traveling the Underground Railroad, or as a slave owner writing a letter to another slave.

  • ReadWriteThink Printing Press: Students can use this interactive tool to publish a one-page newspaper aimed at slave owners or to publish an underground newspaper for slaves.

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Johnson, H., & Freedman, L. (2005). Developing critical awareness at the middle level: Using texts as tools for critique and pleasure. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

  • Critical consciousness is awareness of the historical, social, and cultural mores or ideologies that create what is acceptable or not within a particular society.

  • Middle school students need to become aware of multiple perspectives-how a situation or idea can be viewed from more than one perspective.

  • Studying history can be an exciting venture; however, students need to have an understanding of the context or social background in which the story or situation takes place.

  • Children's literature can help students examine the complexity of the conflicts that revolve around discriminatory acts based on race, class, and gender.

  • While students reflect on life in the past, they can also make comparisons to the present. The horrors of slavery, the legitimacy of slavery, and the prejudice that produces such treatment all can be discussed in relation to the past and to the present.


Soalt, J. (2005). Bringing together fictional and informational texts to improve comprehension. The Reading Teacher, 58(7), 680683.

  • Informational texts support students' comprehension of fictional texts by building background knowledge, developing text-related vocabulary, and increasing motivation to explore the topic.

  • Research has shown a causal relationship between comprehension and background knowledge. It is important to activate students' background knowledge or supply such knowledge prior to reading.

  • Fictional and informational texts on the same topic enable students to explore vocabulary in multiple contexts.

  • When fictional and informational texts are brought together, students can be initially encouraged to explore a topic in their favored genre. Reading preference creates the initial purpose and momentum for reading, and the common topic acts as a bridge to the other, less compelling genre.

  • Teaching the differences between the two genres is also important; these differences help to prevent students from mixing up fact and fiction.

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