/educators/lessons/grade-3-4/Harriet_Tubman_Dancing_on_the_Freedom_Trail

Harriet Tubman: Dancing on the Freedom Trail

Dance with Harriet Tubman and other slaves as they journey the Underground Railroad

Overview

Key Staff

Can be taught by the classroom teacher or a dance educator or both.

Key Skills

Making Art: Producing, Executing and Performing
Developing Arts Literacies: Analyzing and Evaluating - Critique
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture

Summary

Harriet Tubman was a leading figure in the Underground Railroad movement. In this lesson, students are introduced -- through the observation of a dance performance -- to the emotional struggles Tubman faced as she helped slaves escape and travel north along the Underground Railroad. The students share what they learn about this secret migration through the creation of an original dance/dramatic play production set to the song “Harriet Tubman.”

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Watch a short dance/dramatic interpretation about Harriet Tubman.
  • Observe how emotions can be expressed through body movement, dance, and overall performance.
  • Experiment with the expression of emotions using their own body by creating a short dance/dramatic interpretation to a song about Harriet Tubman.
  • Reflect on the dance experience by capturing a dance scene using drawing skills.

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Discussion
  • Experiential Learning
  • Modeling
  • Large or Small Group Instruction
  • Guided Practice

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment

Preparation

What You'll Need

Materials
Resources
Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Projector
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Review general information about Harriet Tubman. Suggested resources include but are not limited to:

 Review lesson-specific information for this lesson:

[Note to Teachers: This lesson is based on the first video clip called “Harriet Tubman and the Quakers.” The second video, “Harriet Tubman at the Auction,” should be considered only after reviewing it completely. There are sexual inferences that may not be appropriate for your class.]

  • Worksheet: “Harriet Tubman” lyrics

Obtain a copy of the song “Harriet Tubman” by Walter Robinson.

Prior Student Knowledge

General information about slavery, the Underground Railroad, African American history. (It’s OK if they know little before the lesson.)

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Gymnasium

Grouping

Large Group Instruction

Instruction

Resources in Reach

Here are the resources you'll need for each activity, in order of instruction.

Engage
Build Knowledge

Engage

1.    Without introduction, play Sister Moses Dance without the audio.

Ask students:

  • What are you observing? (a dance, a dramatic interpretation, answers may vary)
  • Who is performing? (an African-American main dancer and a Caucasian supporting troupe)
  • What are they using to express themselves? (their bodies, their dance movements)
  • What type of dance are they performing? (a combination of ballet and modern dance)
  • Why role do the costumes play? (show sharp contrast, imply a purity, answers may vary)
  • Why are some dancers “frozen”? (to hold a tension, to allow the viewer to anticipate upcoming action, to prevent distraction when they’re not part of the action)
  • How and why did the director use locomotor movement (walking, running, skipping), non-locomotor movement (bending, stretching), and non-movement? (answers may vary)
  • What emotions do the dancers express through their movement? (happiness, sadness, jubilation, uncertainty, friendship, etc.)
  • What props are used and why? (none, to keep the focus on the dancers)
  • How does the set influence the production? (the set is plain to keep the focus on the dancers)
  • What role does the director play in this production? (controls what the audience experiences by the choices made)

2.    Play Sister Moses Dance with the audio.

Ask students:

  • How does the music and words impact the performance? (helps to tell the story, gives support to the dancers’ movements)

Recommended Resources:

Build Knowledge

1.  Listen to “Harriet Tubman” by Walter Robinson. Ask students to close their eyes while they are listening.

Ask students:

  • What did you envision while you listened? (answers will vary)
  • How did the song make you feel? (answers will vary)
  • What was the songwriter trying to accomplish with his words? (share a story, bring tribute to a woman, tell history)
  • What was the songwriter trying to accomplish with the music? (create a mood, establish a rhythm and format, encourage listeners to sing on chorus, etc.)

2.  Share the song lyrics with students.

Ask students:

  • Who is singing the song? (someone dreaming about being a slave, or a slave)
  • What symbolism is used in the song? (train, conductor, first mate, railroad, lifeline)

Apply

1. Create an original dance/dramatic interpretation. Divide the class into dance teams. Ask each team to create a dance to accompany the song, “Harriet Tubman.” Ask them to consider their type of movement (non-movement, locomotive, non-locomotive), emotions expressed, symbolism portrayed, props, what they want the audience to feel or experience, etc. For example, the students may want to literally become a train, have a conductor, pick up passengers, etc. Or, they may represent this collection of people and journey in an abstract fashion.

2. Perform dances. After all of the dances have been performed, ask students:

  • How were the dances the same?
  • How were the dances different?
  • What did the dance teams do well?
  • How did you feel as you performed the dance?

Recommended Resources:

  • Song: “Harriet Tubman”

Reflect

1. Draw a scene from one of the dance performances. Ask students to select a scene that impacted them in some way. On the back of the artwork, ask them to write a few sentences to reflect on the viewing experience and this particular dance scene.

Assessment

Use the Assessment Rubric to assess students' peformance.

Extending the Learning

  • Create dance movements to accompany another song about history.
  • Write an original history song to perform with dance and movement.
  • Watch other dance performances that convey a story (with and without the audio).
  • Create a dance show that spotlights women in history.
  • Engage in parts 1, 2, or 3 of this unit.

Recommended Resources:

Standards

The Common Core State Standards Initiative seeks to bring diverse state curricula into alignment through a set of common learning goals and assessments. In 2010, Standards were released for English language arts and mathematics. Common standards have not yet been released for science, social studies, and other subject areas, including the arts. In addition, some states have yet to, or have chosen not to, adopt the Common Core standards.

During this transitional period, ArtsEdge will present all relevant state and nationals standards as they apply to our lessons.

National Standards for Arts Education

For the full text of the content and achievement standards in Arts Education, visit our Standards section.

ArtsEdge Lessons connect to the National Standards for Arts Education, the Common Core Standards, and a range of other subject area standards.

Common Core/State Standards

Select state and grade(s) below, then click "Find" to display Common Core and state standards.

National Standards For Arts Education
Visual Arts

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 1: Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 2: Using knowledge of structures and functions

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 3: Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas

Grade K-4 Visual Arts Standard 4: Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures

Music

Grade K-4 Music Standard 6: Listening to, analyzing, and describing music

Grade K-4 Music Standard 8: Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts

Theater

Grade K-4 Theater Standard 4: Directing by planning classroom dramatizations

National Standards in Other Subjects
Physical Education

Physical Education Standard 1: Uses a variety of basic and advanced movement forms

Physical Education Standard 2: Uses movement concepts and principles in the development of motor skills

Geography

Geography Standard 9: Understands the nature, distribution and migration of human populations on Earth's surface

Credits

Writers

Gladys Van Der Woude
Original Writer

Carol Parenzan Smalley
Original Writer

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