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HistoryFix: Follow the Drinking Gourd...A Lesson for History Class
 

A Writing Across the Curriculum Lesson from HistoryFix
Historical Topic: The Underground Railroad Students Write: a symbol poem

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Lesson Overview and Resources

Student Writing Samples from this Lesson

The Drinking Gourd

This writing across the curriculum lesson was proposed by Nevada teachers Christy Hodge.

Christy considers this history lesson to be appropriate for students in grades 3-6.


Lesson Overview:

Objectives/Overview: The Underground Railroad was not really a railroad at all. It was a term used to describe the secret routes taken by men, women, and children seeking freedom. Songs were often used to give slaves information that would lead them to safety. The students will learn about the song Follow the Drinking Gourd, the lyrics, and the meaning through a picture book written by Jeanette Winters and the creation of symbol poem representing themselves or a goal they wish to accomplish.

  • The students will identify new information about slavery and the Underground Railroad.
  • The students will learn about the song Follow the Drinking Gourd and be able to understand the meaning of all lyrics.
  • The students will listen to the song and be able to recognize it and its content in the future.
  • The students will make connections with the story and new information learned.

Time Needed: This lesson will take or two days (for an hour each period).

Writing skills (traits) to stress while teaching this lesson:

  • Voice (conveying passion towards the message of the writing or the topic; thinking about and making decisions to acknowledge the intended audience)

Materials List:


Teacher Instructions:

Day One

  • The teacher will be playing the song chosen from the website above “Follow the Drinking Gourd” The students will listen to the song.
  • The teacher will ask the students if anyone recognizes the song.
  • After the students have had the opportunity to listen to the song, the teacher will ask for student’s responses to the song. The teacher will ask if anyone recognizes the song.
  • The teacher will then give the students some background information before reading the story written by Jeanette Winters. The teacher will tell the students the Underground Railroad was not really a railroad at all. It was a term used to describe the secret routes taken by men, women, and children seeking freedom. It was also known for the network of people who assisted fugitive slaves. The teacher will explain to the students that songs were often used to give slaves information that would lead them to safety. Tell the students you are going to read them a story about a very famous song called Follow The Drinking Gourd told by Jeanette Winters.
  • The teacher will then read the story Follow the Drinking Gourd to the students. After the story explain to the students that the Drinking Gourd was a song that had hidden lyrics giving the directions for following the Underground Railroad. The Drinking Gourd was the Big Dipper which points to the North Star.
  • After the story and brief insight of the song, have the students get into groups of 4. Give the students a copy of the lyrics to the song and have them try to figure out what they mean. Do not have them refer back to the book. You will read this to them again to finalize the lesson.
  • The students will write what they think the meaning is in the explanation box located on the right. Give the students about 25-30 minutes to do this activity.
  • When the students have completed this activity go back and re-read the story to the students. They can refer to their paper as you read to them. During and after the story allow them to make or add any changes they would like to after having heard the story for a second time. They should gain more information and a new understanding during the second read and after trying to decipher the content to the lyrics.
  • Give each group a copy of the lyrics with the examples and allow the students to see how they did. If they did not get them right they will be able to make connections to the lyrics with the accurate meanings.
  • Play the song for the students one final time.

Day Two:

  • The students will write a symbol poem about something they want to accomplish. The students will use the format similar to the song’s lyrics. They will use repetition to demonstrate the goal to be accomplished. The first line will be the accomplishment they wish to make and the second line will be what they will do to accomplish that goal or task. This will repeat for a total of ten lines. When the students have written the poem they will illustrate it by drawing a picture that represents that accomplishment. They will write the poem around the picture.
  • For Example a student who writes about saving money may write:

    I will save my money for the things I want to buy-----------
    Line one repeats

    I will get a piggy bank to put my money in-------------------
    Line two is what they will do

    I will save my money for the things I want to buy

    I will not spend my money on junk food

    I will save my money for the things I want to buy


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