The Underground Railroad

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Grade Level
Middle School
Social Studies
Length of Time
Two or three fifty minute clas

This project will allow students to explore the underground railroad and abolitionsit movement using their own talents and desires. The list of projects allows students to think about and apply the information that are finding. This lesson also allows for differing levels of Bloom's taxonomy to be used.


The student will understand use research skills and methods. The student will develop an understanding of the underground railroad and abolitionsist movement. The student will be able to present their projects and knowledge gained to the class.

Materials Needed

Students will need access to the media center and/or computers to use the internet for research. You will need to create a handout of the choices and rubric. Note cards or notebook paper and pens or pencils. All other materials the student should find at home.


1. As an opening activity have students think/pair/share a brainstorm list about what they know about the abolitionist movement. Use this list to create a KWL chart to help guide the research. As a class develop the research questions for the W column of the chart. Only spend five to seven minutes on this portion.

2. Pass out the project options and tell the students that they will have to choose a project(or two)and use their research to develop the project.


1. Research the underground railroad and create a journal as if you were either a slave running away or the `railroad operator'.

2. Draw a map detailing the escape routes and stops of African-American slaves on the underground railroad.

3. Create a political cartoon in reference to the abolitionist movement.

4. You are there! Write a speech convincing slave owners that slavery is immoral.

5. Create a diorama of a hiding place for slaves on the underground railroad.

6. Listen to several African-American spirituals from this time period. Compose your own music/lyrics for a spiritual.

3. Move on to the research phase. Have the students use either note cards or index logs. Spend the rest of the class period researching the answers to the questions.

4. Give the students two nights to complete the project for homework.

5. Use the next class day for other activities or use it as another research/work day.

6. The next class period should be used for presentations. Have the students present their project to the class.

7. As a closing activity fill in the L column of the KWL chart.


Use the following rubric or develop one that suits your students and classroom/district grading procedures.

For this rubric a 4 is the highest credit and 1 is the lowest.

A- Support for Topic (total product):

4. Relevant, telling, quality details give the reader important information that goes beyond the obvious or predictable.

3.Supporting details and information are relevant, but one key issue or portion of the storyline is unsupported.

2.Supporting details and information are relevant, but several key issues or portions of the storyline are unsupported.

1. Supporting details and information are typically unclear or not related to the topic.

B- Support for Topic (content information):

4. The artifact shows a great understanding of the use of the topic. The cartoon shows a commanding use of satire. The maps are detailed and accurate. The song feels authentic. The journal is complex and details the journey and emotions with vivid imagery.

3. The artifact shows a clear understanding of the topic with sufficient knowledge, creativity and explanation. The cartoon shows knowledge of satire. The maps are somewhat detailed and accurate. The song is similar to the originals. The journal is details the journey and emotions with some imagery.

2. The artifact shows some understanding of the topic. The cartoon shows an attempt at satire. The maps have detail but much detail is missing or inaccurate. The song seems too contemporary. The journal is simple with little details of the journey and emotions.

1. The artifact shows a lack of understanding for the topic. Minimal effort or inaccurate information.

C- Support for Topic (planning, thought):

4. Shows an expletory understanding of the material. Shows much thought and analysis. Student clearly took time and effort to think out the project.

3. Shows strong evidence of thought and analysis of the subject matter. Some pieces are general or stereotypical.

2. Shows some understanding and thought about the subject matter. Most if the project seems to rushed or hurried.

1. Minimal Effort. Shows no thought or analysis.

D- Presentation

4. Neatly presented, shows thought and creativity.

3. Average presentation.

2. Minimal effort in neatness.

1. Sloppy handwriting or poor printing quality. Uses visible tape or patchy glued items.

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