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Home Classroom Resources Lesson Plans

Lesson Plan

Escaping Slavery: Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

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Escaping Slavery: Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

Grades 3 – 5
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Three 45- to 60-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sue Ann Miller

North Wales, Pennsylvania

Publisher

International Reading Association

 

Student Objectives

Session 1

Session 2

Session 3

Extensions

Student Assessment/Reflections

 

STUDENT OBJECTIVES

Students will

  • Identify the various uses for quilts and describe the significance of Clara's quilt

  • Enhance their understanding of the Underground Railroad

  • Create a problems/solutions/events chart for Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

  • Apply mapping skills to make a "quilt map" showing their route from home to school

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Session 1

Before reading

1. Show students a quilt and discuss the following questions with them.
  • How is a quilt made? (Answer: by stitching pieces of cloth together)

  • What material is used to make a quilt? (Answer: cloth)

  • Where does the cloth come from? (Answers: a store, leftover pieces from a sewing project, old clothes)

  • What are quilts used for? Record students' oral responses on the board. (Possible answers: blankets, wall hangings, maps, storytelling, family keepsakes)

  • In what ways have you used quilts? Have students share their own experiences.
2. Tell students that they are going to read a story about a slave girl, Clara, and a special quilt. If multiple copies of the book are available, distribute them to the students. If not, you can conduct this lesson using one copy of the book and reading it aloud.

3. Before reading, ask students to look at the illustration on the cover of the book and "picture walk" through the entire story. Select several students to tell what they see (e.g., title, girl and boy on hill, girl and boy picking cotton, and so on). Have students think about the pictures and then write in their journals what they think will happen in the story. Have students share their ideas with their partner, then select several students to share their ideas with the class. You can record students' responses on the board if you wish.

4. Based on your students' needs, you may integrate vocabulary instruction before, during, or after reading. Use your preferred method for instruction. Words to consider include seamstress, overseer, contrary, runaways, paterollers (slave's dialect pronunciation for patrollers), quarters, plantation, and swamp.

5. Have students read the first 12 pages of the story silently to see if their predictions were correct. To assist less able readers, you can read the story with students or have them listen to the story on audiotape. If only one copy of the book is available, read the book aloud.


After reading

6. Have students check their predictions for accuracy. If predictions were recorded on the chalkboard, check them as a class. Remind students that predictions are guesses based on information they previewed before reading.

7. Using an overhead projector, display the transparency of the problems/solutions/events chart and begin to complete it as a class. Distribute copies of the chart to students as well so that they can record responses on their own copy of the chart and store it in a folder or notebook. (See the teacher's copy of the problems/solutions/events chart for possible responses.)

a. Ask students to identify Clara's problems. Record students' responses under the heading "Problems."

b. Ask students to recall the "major events" that happen in the story. Record students' responses under "Events."

8. Select a few of the following questions to generate a discussion. The discussion can be with the entire class, in small groups, or in the fishbowl method. (To perform the fishbowl method, divide the class into two groups. Arrange chairs in an outer and inner circle. The inner circle of students discusses the first question as the outer circle of students listens. When the discussion has concluded, have the outer circle of students move to the inner circle. They can further discuss the first question or respond to others.)
  • What was Clara's dream? (Detail)

  • Why was Aunt Rachel determined to teach Clara how to sew? (Inference)

  • Who were the "paterollers?" (Vocabulary)

  • What was the Underground Railroad? Why was the North Star important? (Detail)

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Session 2

1. It is not unusual for children to perceive the Underground Railroad as a train or subway system. Because the story they are reading involves the Underground Railroad, have students think about what they already know about the Underground Railroad and then write their ideas in their journal. Their writing can be in a list form or phrases. The purpose of this activity is to activate prior knowledge; therefore, it is not important to evaluate students' writing for spelling or grammar. Have students share their ideas with a partner. Hold a class discussion for students to share the information they already know about the Underground Railroad.

2. It is important for students to understand the dangers that faced the fugitive slaves and the Underground Railroad stationmasters, agents, and conductors. Have students visit The Underground Railroad developed by National Geographic Online. Click on "Enter" found under the swinging lantern. At this interactive site titled "The Journey," students will "walk in the shoes" of a runaway slave deciding whether to take the risks and continue on a journey to freedom or turn around and return to the misery of slavery.

3. Ask students to write in their journal a minimum of one new piece of information that they learned after completing the online activity at National Geographic Online.

4. Conduct an "oral symphony" where each student tells one new piece of information that he or she learned. Continue around the room until all students have had an opportunity to share.

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Session 3

Before reading

1. Have students read the problems/solutions/events chart that is stored in their folder or notebook. They can reread the first 12 pages of Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt to refresh their memory of the story. Select several students to tell a summary of the first 12 pages of the story.

2. Explain why it was important for the slaves to know north, south, east, and west (i.e., to reach freedom). Using the Xpeditions Atlas, generate a map of the United States showing where Ohio, the Ohio River, and Canada are located. Identify the directions of north, south, east, and west on the map and in your classroom.

3. Have students write in their journals what they think will happen at the end of the story. Ask them to share their predictions with their partner. Select several students to share with the class. You can record responses on the board if you wish.

4. Have students read silently (or you read aloud) to the end of the book.


After reading

5. As students finish reading, instruct them to individually complete the problems/solutions/events chart for the last part of the story. Their writing needs to include additional major events in the story and the solutions to the problems. (See the teacher's copy of the problems/solutions/events chart for possible responses.)

You can circulate around the class to observe students' responses while working or review the charts at a later time. Students who do not correctly identify the events and solutions can meet with you as a flexible group to review and make corrections.

6. Select from the following questions to generate a class discussion.
  • How did Jack help Clara with the map? (Detail)

  • Why didn't Clara take the quilt with her to Canada? (Inference)
7. Have students respond to the following writing prompt in their journals: "Describe the purposes of quilts and the significance of Clara's quilt."


Map-Making Activity

Explain to students that they will be making a map similar to Clara's "quilt map." Their map will show the route they take from home to school. After demonstrating to the class the steps for creating a map, have each student complete his or her own map. Share the Map Scoring checklist with students so they understand how their maps will be evaluated. Assist students with this activity as needed.

1. On a map of your local area, circle the school's location with a red circle. For demonstration purposes, choose any location on the map to show its relation to the school. Direct students' attention to the north, south, east, and west positions in the classroom. Using a 12" x 16" sheet of paper, place the school at the top, bottom, left, or right side of the paper with the location that you selected opposite depending on its position relative to the school. These activities will help students determine where their home is in relation to the school. Following your demonstration, students can begin their own map of the school and their home.

2. In pencil, draw buildings (squares), streams (wavy lines), lakes (circles), railroads (crossed lines), roads (thick lines), and other landmarks that are significant markers for the map. These can be labeled by name. Relate these landmarks to those Clara identified in the story (rivers, fields, roads, buildings). Students can complete this portion of their own map after your demonstration.

3. Have students use dotted lines to show the path from their home to school.

4. Invite students to select various wallpaper pieces to represent water, buildings, land, and other landmarks, and cut them into 4" x 4" squares.

5. Show students how they can arrange the squares over the paper and transfer the pencil drawings onto the wallpaper squares using markers or crayons. Glue the squares in place.

6. Help students add a key and a directional compass to their maps.


Have students share their finished maps with the class. Maps can be displayed on a bulletin board.

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EXTENSIONS

Surf the Web

  • To learn more about the Underground Railroad, access the website created by Mrs. Taverna's second-grade class titled Harriet Tubman & The Underground Railroad. Her students have developed crossword puzzles, character sketches, timelines, poems, and a vocabulary quilt.

  • To learn more about author Deborah Hopkinson, visit her website, which include links to related websites about the Underground Railroad and to lesson plans about quilts.

  • To learn more about quilting and its history, visit the website, America's Quilting History.


Read More About It


Read other books about quilts:

  • The Patchwork Quilt by Valorie Flournoy (Pearson Learning, 1995)

  • The Secret to Freedom by Marcia K. Vaughan (Lee & Low Books, 2001)

  • Luka's Quilt by Georgia Guback (Greenwillow, 1994)

  • The Keeping Quilt by Patricia Polacco (Aladdin Library, 2001)


Read other books about the Underground Railroad:

  • Under the Quilt of Night by Deborah Hopkinson (Atheneum, 2002)

  • Minty by Alan Schroeder (Puffin, 2000)

  • Secret Signs by Anita Riggio (Boyds Mill Press, 1997)

  • Allen Jay and the Underground Railroad by Marlene Targ Brill (First Avenue Editions, 1993)

  • Journey to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railroad by Courtni C. Wright (Holiday House, 1997)

  • If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine (Scholastic Trade, 1993)

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STUDENT ASSESSMENT/REFLECTIONS

Students' achievement of the objectives will be based upon the following assessment strategies:

Objective

Assessment

Students will

Identify the various uses for quilts and describe the significance of Clara's quilt

Evaluation rubric

Enhance their understanding of the Underground Railroad

Teacher observation of responses during the "oral symphony." If every student is able to share one new piece of information, then understanding has been enhanced.

Create a problems/solutions/events chart for Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt

Evaluation rubric

Apply mapping skills to make a "quilt map" showing their route from home to school

Evaluation rubric

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