Digital Skills: Developing Online Assessment Skills in Everyday Classroom Activities Western Reserve Public Media

The Underground Railroad

I can:

I can use information from primary and secondary sources to write a historical narrative.

I can use primary sources to help me understand historical events.

Tech Skills:
  • Keyboarding

  • Text Editing

  • Documents
Materials and Resources:
Grade Level:
  • 4th Grade

Subject Area:
  • Social Studies


Activity 1

Students will follow a young slave as he escapes to freedom on the Underground Railroad. He encounters abolitionists on the way and experiences life in both the north and the south. The journey is broken up into four segments, each with a different focus.

  1. Display the “Escape from Slavery” page, found at on a SmartBoard or other device.

  2. Tell the class that they are going to follow a journey on the Underground Railroad using this website. Review what students already know about the Underground Railroad and discuss what the “North” and “South” were. There is a nice map that can be displayed to show northern, southern, and slave states.

  3. Show students the home page and play the introduction. Show them the button at the bottom of the introductory paragraph that stops and starts the audio. Play the introduction and go over the four “stops” on the journey. Explain that only one stop will be made today.

  4. Complete the “Fact or Fiction” activity described in the teacher guide. You can either display the “Myths of the Underground Railroad” to read and discuss them together or give paper copies to students or groups of students to read and discuss.

  5. Click on “Begin the Journey” to travel to the first stop, “On the Plantation: Life as a Slave.” Allow students to listen to the story of Walter, then close the text box. Show students the various icons, pop-ups, audio slideshows, and student activities. Allow students to listen to or read the audio slideshow and then explore the pop-up information. After about 15-20 minutes, ask students to stop exploring and click on the student activity icon (with the pencil).

  6. Ask students to read about Fannie Moore in the “Growing Up in Slavery” article. This can be done in small groups, with partners, or individually. Come back together as a whole group to talk about what was learned.

  7. Ask students to complete the “In Fannie’s Shoes” questions. Have students create a document, name it and type answers to questions. Have students keep the article tab open so they practice toggling between two screens. The questions are on the article page but are also listed below:
  8. In Fannie’s Shoes

    Now imagine yourself in Fannie’s shoes when she was a child.
    What are some of the hardest things about being a slave?
    Describe your family. What do they do? What do you respect about them?
    Describe the plantation where you live. How is your house different from your master’s?


Activity 2-4

  1. Continue to follow the teacher plan for the next three stops on the journey. Use as much or as little of the content as you wish.

  2. Students should complete the writing tasks online to practice using word processing skills. This also helps students to create a set of information to be used when writing the historical narrative listed at the end of the journey (titled “Tell the Story”).


Activity 5-7

  1. Ask students to complete the “Tell the Story” interview and print it out.

  2. Students will use this, as well as the other writing tasks completed, to write a historical narrative from the perspective of an escaped slave describing the journey to freedom taken on the Underground Railroad. Students can also use the primary source slave excerpts found under the “Slave Stories” title on the left hand side of the “Tell the Story” page to get more information for their narratives.

  3. Students will do narratives using word processing software.


Theme: Ohio in the United States

Historical Thinking and Skills

Content Statement

  • Primary and secondary sources can be used to create historical narratives.

  • Sectional issues divided the United States after the War of 1812. Ohio played a key role in these issues, particularly with the anti-slavery movement and the Underground Railroad.

Theme: Civic Participation and Skills
Content Statement

  • Individuals have a variety of opportunities to participate in and influence their state and national government. Citizens have both rights and responsibilities in Ohio and the United States

Supplementary Resources:

The Underground Railroad Teaching Guide

This teacher's guide supports the Underground Railroad: Escape From Slavery online activity.

The historical narrative can be informal, or this journey could serve to launch a unit on historical narratives in Language Arts class.

The journey could be considered the research portion of the writing project, and students could spend time focusing on the characteristics of an historical narrative.

The writing process could be followed and final pieces could be published on a class website or in the school library.

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