/educators/lessons/grade-6-8/Reliving_History

Reliving History Through Slave Narratives

Students will conduct research on slavery in the United States and then write a story which they will present in a dramatic fashion.

Overview

Key Staff

Social studies or language arts teachers with the opportunity to collaborate with the drama teacher

Key Skills

Making Art: Performance Skills and Techniques
Global Connections: Connecting to History and Culture
Creative Thinking: Communication and Collaboration

Summary

After reading narratives from former slaves that were recorded in the 1930's as part of the Federal Writers' Project, students conduct research on slavery and tell a story based on their findings. The lesson incorporates an exploration of storytelling techniques.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

  • Analyze how the senses can evoke strong images
  • Explain the impact slavery had on African-Americans in the United States
  • Dramatize a story based on historic events
  • Demonstrate how to use facial expressions, gestures, and voice to express emotions
  • Combine storytelling techniques when they tell a story

Teaching Approach

Arts Integration

Teaching Methods

  • Research
  • Information Organization
  • Discussion
  • Cooperative Learning

Assessment Type

Performance Assessment

Preparation

What You'll Need

Resources
Required Technology
  • 1 Computer per Learner
  • 1 Computer per Classroom
  • Internet Access
  • Speakers
Lesson Setup

Teacher Background

Teachers should have a solid understanding of the Civil War and Reconstruction eras as well as familiarity with the Federal Writers’ Project. Teachers should also be knowledgeable about storytelling and narratives.

Prior Student Knowledge

  • Knowledge of Civil War history
  • Understanding of slavery
  • Understanding of prejudice, discrimination and segregation

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer Lab

Grouping

  • Small Group Instruction
  • Large Group Instruction
  • Individualized Instruction

Staging

  • Test internet connection
  • Make necessary photocopies

Instruction

Resources in Reach

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

Engage
Build Knowledge
Apply
Assess

Engage

1. Discuss with your students how we often depend on visual descriptions when telling a story and that it's important to remember that evoking a person’s sense of taste, touch, smell, and sound can also be a very powerful tool in storytelling.

2. To illustrate the point, begin reading some of the items below to the class. As you read the descriptions, stop and discuss how your tone differs while reading each of the following descriptions:

  • A pizza baking in the oven
  • An injured animal
  • The first snowflake of the year falling on your face
  • Diving into a pool on a hot summer day
  • Stepping out of bed onto a cold floor
  • The school bell ringing at the end of a long day
  • The sound of your parent's voice when he or she found out you did something wrong
  • Cotton candy at a carnival
  • The taste of sour pickles

3. Divide the class into small groups and spend a few minutes generating a list of one-sentence descriptions that appeal to the five senses. Have students record their work on the 'Appealing to the Five Senses Worksheet' located within the Resource Carousel. Ask students to include at least one description for each of the five senses. Have the groups share their lists with the class. Remind students to use expressions when they share their sentences with the class.

4. After each group has finished, ask the students if they had any "That reminds me of the time..." thoughts when the sentences were being read. Discuss how it is easy to identify with an image that contains a description that appeals to our senses.

Build Knowledge

1. Select one of the slave narratives from the following sites to share with the students:

  • American Slave Narratives: An Online Anthology
  • Library of Congress: Born in Slavery
  • Library of Congress: Voices from the Days of Slavery

2. Divide the class into small groups and have them read or listen to different slave narratives. Using the 'Slave Narrative Sensory Worksheet' located within the Resource Carousel, ask students to write a sentence or two about the person or an event that happened in the narrative under each category.

3. After each group has finished reading a slave narrative, ask each group to share with the rest of the class the slave narrative they read. Have students tell the story from the point of view of the person in the narrative. Point out ways students can tell the stories with more expression.

4. Involve the class in a discussion of the differences between learning about a time period from accounts of people who lived through the experience or from another primary source and learning from reading about the topic in a history book (a secondary source).

Apply

1. Divide the class into small groups and ask them to select one of the following topics to research:

  • Plantation life
  • Traditions
  • The Underground Railroad
  • Life after emancipation

Library of Congress: African American Odyssey provides information, photographs, graphics and audio clips on the topic of slavery.

2. Ask students to record a brief summary of the information, as well as the source of the information, as they conduct their research. Tell students that they are going to create a story based on their research topic.

3. Explain to students that each group member will tell the story from the viewpoint of a different person involved in the story. For example, students researching the Underground Railroad could tell the story from the point of view of an escaping slave, a person who helps them during their journey, a family member left behind and a bounty hunter who is looking for the escaped slave.

4. Using the 'Narrative Planning Worksheet' located within the Resource Carousel, have students record information about the individual they are researching. Students may respond to these prompts to help develop their characters. Discuss the fact that not all of their thoughts or information about the character will be brought out in the story, but that the process of developing specific characteristics and qualities about the character will help them to create an interesting character.

  • Name
  • Age
  • Physical description
  • Description of person's life
  • Personal history
  • Details of everyday life
  • Hopes and dreams
  • Greatest fear
  • Attitude

5. Have students use a graphic organizer to help them develop their stories. ReadWriteThink offers a Story Mapping Interactive that includes character, confict, resolution and setting organizers. Have students complete one or more of these organizers to develop their characters and plot lines. Students should print a copy of the completed organizer(s) for future reference. A variety of additional organizers students may use to help organize their story can be found on the NCREL Web site.

Reflect

1. After students have outlined their stories, discuss how stories aren't memorized, but instead tend to change a little with every telling. Discuss how they can use visualization techniques to help them remember their story. Tell students that they might try breaking the story into scenes in their mind, noting different sensory observations in each scene. Remind students that they are the tellers of the story, even though they are telling the story from the perspective of another character.

2. Show students a video clip of storyteller Kuniko Yamamoto telling the story of her grandmother. Discuss how Kuniko switches between herself and the character of her grandmother.

3. After the groups have had a chance to practice, have the groups perform their stories one at a time. After each group finishes its performance, provide time for students to ask questions about the topic. The following is a list of possible questions to use after each performance:

  • What was the most surprising thing you learned from the performance?
  • What do you still want to learn about this topic?
  • How does learning history through a storytelling performance compare to reading about the topic in a history book?

Assess

Assess student performance using the associated 'Assessment Rubric' located within the Resource Carousel.

Extend the Learning

Dance
Slaves often created dances from the everyday events in their lives such as rocking a baby, picking cotton, or baking a cake. Have students create a dance to tell the story that they created in Activity Three. (See the PBS: Free to Dance site for a synopsis of a dance performance that portrays African slaves.)

Music
Stories about slavery were often told through music. Listen to a traditional slave song like "Before I'll Be Beaten" by Joe McDonald on the PBS: Ken Burn's Jazz, and have students search for traditional slave songs on the Internet.

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
Theater

Grade 5-8 Theater Standard 1: Script writing by the creation of improvisations and scripted scenes based on personal experience and heritage, imagination, literature, and history

Grade 5-8 Theater Standard 2: Acting by developing basic acting skills to portray characters who interact in improvised and scripted scenes

Grade 5-8 Theater Standard 5: Researching by using cultural and historical information to support improvised and scripted scenes

National Standards in Other Subjects
Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts

Language Arts

Language Arts Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes

United States History

US History Standard 10: Understands how the industrial revolution, increasing immigration, the rapid expansion of slavery, and the westward movement changed American lives and led to regional tensions

US History Standard 13: Understands the causes of the Civil War

Credits

Writers

Daniella Garran
Original Writer

Email Print Share

Text:

- +
Email a link to this page
Cancel
Share This Page




Cancel
ARTSEDGE promo
YoungArts.org

© 1996-2014 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts  

ArtsEdge is an education program of

The Kennedy Center

with the support of

Department of Education



The contents of this Web site were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. However, those contents do not
necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal government.

Change Background:

Connect with us!    EMAIL US | YouTube | Facebook | iTunes | MORE!

© 1996-2014 John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts   Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions

Close

You are now leaving the ArtsEdge website. Thank you for visiting!

If you are not automatically transferred, please click the link below:
http://absoluteshakespeare.com

ArtsEdge and The Kennedy Center are in no way responsible for the content of the destination site, its ongoing availability, links to other site or the legality or accuracy of information on the site or its resources.

Cancel

Close