Landmarks of the Underground Railroad

July 24 – 28, 2006

Submitted by: Bev Frevert


I.                   Main Concept: The third grade students in my class will be able to understand that the Underground Railroad was not a myth or a fantasy. The students will also discuss that the enslaved people who made a conscience decision to flee slavery were real people with courage and a great belief in the idea of freedom.



II.                Primary Sources: The story of Henry Box Brown.



III.             During February we read the following books; I Have a Dream, the story of Martin Luther King, Nettie’s Trip South, If You Traveled on the Underground Railroad, and Wanted Dead or Alive, the story of Harriet Tubman. The students are exposed to several pieces of literature and are required to react to the reading through journals, story mapping, and timelines. Math, map skills, and language art skills are incorporated into the lessons.



IV.             Lesson Plan:

a. Using the primary source of Henry Box Brown students will listen to the teacher read the excerpt. Students will be made aware that this is a real person in our history and that even though this story may sound fantastic; he made a very courageous journey. As a group discussion, students will address the question,” What does this document tell us about people at this time? (Responses will vary but the discussion may include the possible reasons why someone would take risks.)


b. Students engage in partner reading of the excerpts. Each partner group will read a different part of the story. Students may select one of the following reading strategies: chorale reading, echo reading or take turns. The partner reading teams write one observation that reacts to the question,” What does this reading tell us about people at this time?” Observations are shared with the whole group.







c. Question/Analyze/Response Implementation Reading Strategy: Using the story of Henry Box Brown, students will decide if the following questions can be answered in one of the following four categories.

1. In the Book – Right There! The student is able to easily find the answer to the question. This is a basic response to a question.

2. Think and Search – The student reads for meaning, often times accessing unknown vocabulary words.

3. In My Head – On My Own. The student uses information from the story to form their own opinion.

4. Author & Me. The student uses clues from the author and adds their own interpretation to gain meaning from reading.


 QAR Questions:

1.      Why did Henry Box Brown decided to escape?

2.      Why did he think that sending himself in a box would be a successful method of escape?

3.      What safety measures did he include in his plan?

4.      How might life have been different for Henry if his wife had not been sold to another slave owner?

5.      What does the phrase; he was an unhappy piece of property mean?


Directions: Students read the questions, and then sort them into the QAR category above. All responses are shared with the class. Students may have different opinions in which category a question fits.


V.                Across the Curriculum Activities:

a.       Math – The students will build a box from cardboard using the same measurements that Henry Box Brown used in building his box.

b.      Map Skills – Students can trace the route of Henry Box Brown on the map. They can compare the time that it took him to travel from Richmond to Philadelphia to the time it would take them to travel the same route by train, car, sea, and air.

c.       Health – Discuss the safety features of the box (air holes, water and food).

d.      PE – students measure the same amount of space on the floor and curl their body to fit inside that space. Is it comfortable? How long would a student be able to stay in that position without feeling panic or crying out from discomfort?


VI.             Culmination:

a.       Readers Theatre – students will practice and perform an original Readers Theatre written from the information presented in the primary source of Henry Box Brown.

b. Student Document – What information do students in 2006 want people 100 years from now know about people to know about them and our world?