Who Was Frederick Douglass?
Use this lesson to teach your students about the life of Frederick Douglass. First, they will read a picture book that shares facts and beautiful illustrations to teach about his life, and then they will record important information about him on a graphic organizer. Lastly, they'll choose an important event from his life to illustrate and caption.
- Students will be able to identify the main idea and key details of a text.
- Students will be able to identify and illustrate an important event from Frederick Douglass's life.
- Invite students to join you in a comfortable place in the classroom to talk about a specific genre of books. Explain that a genre is a type of book. List some of the genres of books they have read as a class.
- Share that today, they will read a biography. Display a pre-made anchor chart with the definition of biography (e.g. a written story of the facts and events in a person's life). Ask students to name any famous people they know of. Point out that they could use different tools like picture books, encyclopedias, and articles on the internet to learn about that person's life.
- Introduce students to Frederick Douglass by explaining that he was a person who was against slavery. He was a speaker and writer, and he was a leader who worked to get rid of slavery in the United States.
Explicit Instruction/Teacher modeling(20 minutes)
- Display a copy of A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass and do a brief picture walk through the book. Show students some of the pictures, and tell them that Frederick Douglass was an enslaved person. Provide a student-friendly definition of slavery (e.g., when a person is owned by another person and forced to work with no pay or rights) and some context around the issue of slavery. Allow students to ask any questions, as this concept may be new to them.
- Read aloud the picture book, stopping to ask comprehension questions to ensure student engagement. Focus on 5W + H questions:
- Who taught Frederick Douglass to read?
- What was Frederick's job as an enslaved person?
- When did Frederick Douglass learn to read?
- Where did he go when he escaped from slavery?
- Why was it so hard for Frederick and his mom to see each other?
- How did Frederick Douglass work to end slavery?
- Model identifying important events in the story by thinking aloud about what you think was most important in Frederick Douglass's life. Record the events or create a simple timeline with key words and phrases on the document camera (or on the board). Events could include:
- Put to work at the age of 6
- He started learning to read at the age of 8.
- Frederick opened a secret school on Sundays and taught other enslaved people how to read.
- He escaped from slavery and went to New York.
- Frederick traveled around to speak about how bad slavery was.
- His house became a stop on the Underground Railroad.
- He wrote books and gave speeches about equal rights.
Guided Practice(15 minutes)
- Distribute a copy of the Biography: Who Am I? worksheet to each student, and go over what information will go in each section. Share that students can either write the words or draw an illustration to go in the sections in order to help them remember the important information about Frederick Douglass.
- Guide the class through completing the graphic organizer with information from the read aloud. Invite students to participate by giving examples from the book.
Independent working time(15 minutes)
- Ask students to choose an important moment in Frederick Douglass's life that they learned about in the picture book. Have them turn their Biography: Who Am I? worksheet over to the back and create an illustration.
- Put students into small groups based on the event they chose to illustrate. Give them a few minutes to act out the event. Circulate to the different groups during this time and observe students as they demonstrate their understanding of the event. If time allows, ask them to explain why their event was important to Frederick Douglass's life.
- Instruct students to work together in their group to write a sentence to go along with their illustration. Provide support for emergent writers.
- Provide students with a sentence starter to accompany their illustration during Independent Work Time.
- Give students a partially completed Biography: Who Am I? worksheet to use during the Guided Practice portion of the lesson.
- Read aloud the picture book again for students that need refreshers throughout the lesson.
- Ask students to create an additional illustration of an important event and write a caption to go with it.
- Challenge to write 2-3 sentences to explain why the event they illustrated from Frederick Douglass's life was important.
- Circulate during Independent Work Time and observe students as they identify an important moment in Frederick Douglass's life. Assess whether they understand a main idea about the historical figure by assessing the accuracy of their illustration, as well as their short skit.
Review and closing(5 minutes)
- Ask students to share their illustrations and captions with a partner from a different group.
- Review the different events that took place in Frederick Douglass's life, and point out that each was important to his journey as a leader to make changes in his country. He worked to make the United States a better place for all people, no matter the color of their skin.