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Lesson Plan

Strategic Reading and Writing: Summarizing Antislavery Biographies

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Strategic Reading and Writing: Summarizing Antislavery Biographies

Grades 3 – 7
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 60- to 90-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Sarah Dennis-Shaw

Avon, Massachusetts


International Literacy Association


Materials and Technology

Student Interactives






  • Enemies of Slavery by David Adler (Holiday House, 2004)

  • Any book from the Civil War Booklist (optional)

  • Computers with Internet access

  • Chart paper

  • Color markers or highlighters

  • Heavy paper or card stock (optional)

  • Overhead projector (optional)

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Bio Cube

Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Bio Cube

Bio Cube is a useful summarizing tool that helps students identify and list key elements about a person for a biography or autobiography.


Cube Creator

Grades   3 – 12  |  Student Interactive  |  Organizing & Summarizing

Cube Creator

The interactive Cube Creator helps students identify and summarize key elements. It can be used as a prewriting or postreading activity.


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1. The content of this lesson focuses on antislavery heroes. Depending on your studentsí knowledge, you may want to work on building background knowledge before starting. Choose a book about the Civil War to share with students. The book can be one you are already using in class or one from the Civil War Booklist. You can use this book to gauge studentsí knowledge of slavery and to model summarizing techniques.

2. Make an overhead transparency of the Summarizing Strategy Sheet and also individual copies for students.

3. Obtain and familiarize yourself with Enemies of Slavery by David Adler. Rather than using every person described in Adlerís book, choose four or five biographies for students to research in jigsaw groups. In this lesson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, Sojourner Truth, and Frederick Douglass are highlighted.

4. If you do not have classroom computers with Internet access, reserve two sessions in your schoolís computer lab (see Sessions 2 and 3). Visit and familiarize yourself with the Bio-Cube tool. You will need the most recent version of the Flash plug-in to use this tool. (You can download plug-ins from the Site Tools page.) Bookmark the site on the computers students will be using so that it can be easily accessed.

5. Create your own Bio-Cube to use as a model. The best and most effective model would be to choose one of the biographies in the Adler book that is not one of the four you will be assigning to students (see Step 3). You will want to complete a Bio-Cube Planning Sheet as well to show students how to transfer the information from the planning sheet to the actual Bio-Cube. Depending on the needs and abilities of your students, you may just want to display and discuss the completed planning sheet and Bio-Cube, or you may want to actually complete them in front of students.

6. Photocopy the Bio-Cube Planning Sheet, the Biography Information Sheet, the Abolitionist Web Resource List, and the Self-Reflection Sheet for students. You may also want to make overhead transparencies for discussion purposes.

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