freedom.jpgUnit 4: A Long Journey to Freedom

In this fourth six-week unit of second grade, students read informational text and fictionalized accounts of the African-American journey to freedom.

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Building on unit three’s “building bridges” focus, students recognize the long and multi-faceted effort to break down barriers to racial equality in the United States. By reading the true stories of Henry “Box” Brown, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges, the Greensboro Four, and others, students see the links between historical events. Each student writes a narrative “from a box,” (i.e., in the style of Henry’s Freedom Box). They also write an opinion piece that is published digitally in a class presentation and possibly online.

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Theme Essential Question
What is challenging about writing a narrative?

Focus Standards for the Unit:

LAFS.2.RI.1.3 Describe the connection between a series of historical events, scientific ideas or concepts, or steps in technical procedures in a text.
LAFS.2.RL.2.6Acknowledge differences in the points of view of characters, including by speaking in a different voice for each character when reading dialogue aloud
LAFS.2.RI.3.9Compare and contrast the most important points presented by two texts on the same topic.
LAFS.2.W.2.6With guidance from adults, use a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers.
LAFS.2.W.1.3:Write narratives in which they recount a well-elaborated event or short sequence of events, include details to describe action, thoughts, and feelings, use temporal words to signal event order, and provide a sense of closure.
LAFS.2.W.1.1 Write opinion pieces in which they introduce the topic of book they are writing about, state an opinion, supply reasons that support the opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.

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Suggested Objectives:

    • Write a narrative imagining that you are a character in one of the stories.
    • Select the correct verb form, particularly of irregular verbs, to show past tense in narrative writing.
    • Note links between historical events, including parallel connections and sequential connections.
    • Analyze narrative poetry to understand its elements, meaning, and the use of formal and informal English.
    • Compare two texts (a biography and an autobiography) on the life of a famous person.
    • Write an opinion piece, citing evidence for the opinion.
    • Express an opinion by creating and displaying a PowerPoint slide.
    • Record the opinion piece being read aloud to use for a class presentation or online web page.

Interdisciplinary Connections:

  • This unit teaches:
    • Art: Photography, Norman Rockwell
    • Geography: Southern states and Canada
    • History: Slavery (e.g., Lincoln and Tubman), Civil Rights Movement (e.g. Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King, Jr.)

    This unit could be extended to teach:
    • History: Civil War (e.g., slavery, states’ rights), Civil Rights (e.g., Susan B. Anthony)

Sample Activities

  • Teacher Notes: The books in this unit can be taught in chronological order, beginning in the middle 1800s with the Underground Railroad, Tubman, and Lincoln; moving to Jesse Owens, and then Rosenwald (1920), Rosa Parks (1955), Ruby Bridges and the Greensboro Sit-In (1960); and, finally, Martin Luther King Jr. The connections between historical events (RI.2.3) will be seen as a long journey if each book is linked to the other as related stories.

    Opinion Writing, Multimedia Presentation

    Students can publish their opinion pieces by scanning the drawing and putting it into a slide. Opinion pieces should be recorded and played as the drawing is projected. These slides and recordings could be posted on a web page to be viewed by friends and relatives. Arrange the slides chronologically to reinforce the linking of ideas in this long journey to freedom. (W.2.6, SL.2.5)

    Opinion Writing, Language Usage

    Give the students this writing prompt: “Choose one of the people studied in this unit who you think is the greatest hero in this long journey to freedom. Give two or three strong reasons for choosing this person.” Students should be moving toward writing paragraphs. Remind them to introduce the person and give strong reasons why the person was chosen using words like because and also to link ideas. Encourage the addition of details to strengthen the writing and a strong statement to close. (W.2.1, L.2.1f)

    Reading Informational Text, Narrative Writing

    After reading about Henry’s journey to freedom (in Henry’s Freedom Box), introduce this narrative prompt: “Write a story as if you are in the box headed for freedom. Begin your story as you get into the box and end the story as the box is opened at your destination. Be sure to describe the action in the story, your thoughts, and feelings. Use words to show time order and end with a strong wrap-up.” To help prepare students for writing strong paragraphs, plan the writing using a sequential graphic organizer (flow map or trifold paper) showing a beginning, middle, and end. To help the students with thoughts and feelings, you may want to have them journal after spending several minutes in a well-ventilated, open box. (W.2.3)

    Language Usage

    Revise the “stories from inside a box” (see Narrative Writing activity) by focusing on action words. Discuss the present tense and past tense of verbs, focusing particularly on irregular verbs such as “I hide, I hid” and “I sit, I sat.” (L.2.1d)

    Language Usage, Vocabulary

    As you have the students read the literature of this unit, look for words that might lend themselves to a discussion of affixes and roots. Teach the students that by knowing the root word, you can approximate the meaning of another word that they may not know. For example, if the children have learned the meaning of prejudice and then come across the word prejudicial, they may have an idea of its meaning, especially if they see prejudicial in context as they read. Encourage students to use dictionaries to determine accurate meanings and to check spelling while writing. (L.2.4b, L.2.4c)

    Reading Poetry, Speaking and Listening

    The poems about Harriet Tubman (“Harriet Tubman,” Eloise Greenfield) and Abraham Lincoln (“Lincoln,” Nancy Byrd Turner) are narrative poems that tell a story. Read (recite) the poems. Use these questions to discuss the poems:
    • How are the poems similar and how are they different?
    • What poetic elements do you hear/see in the poetry (e.g., alliteration, repetition, regular beats, and rhyme)?
    • What is the message of each poem? Are they similar or different?
    • Which of the poems uses formal English and which one uses more informal English? (L.2.3a, RL.2.4)

    Reading Informational Text, Speaking and Listening

    Read aloud the two supplied texts about Ruby Bridges (Ruby Bridges Goes to School and The Story of Ruby Bridges). Before reading, explain that one of the books is an autobiography (Ruby Bridges Goes to School: A True Story) that Bridges wrote about her own experiences. Explain that the other book, The Story of Ruby Bridges, is biographical, which means that an author wrote the book about Bridges’s life. When you finish reading each book aloud, have the students choose the most important parts of the story. Then, have them compare how the books are similar and how they are different. (There are several other opportunities to do this compare/contrast activity, or assessment, with the Greensboro Sit-In and Martin Luther King Jr. texts.) (RI.2.3, RI.2.9, SL.2.3)

    Reading Informational Text, Speaking and Listening

    Read and discuss the book Henry’s Freedom Box (Ellen Levine), a true story of a slave’s journey to freedom. Be sure to discuss the characters, setting, plot, and message of the book. Students may enjoy listening to the author read the story, noting the way she changes her voice with the different characters. (RL.2.6, RI.2.3, SL.2.2, W.2.)

    Art, Language Usage, Speaking and Listening

    While the class is focused on Ruby Bridges, show the students some photographs of Bridges and the Rockwell, which was painted after a photograph of her. What can you learn about Bridges and the time in which she lived by looking at these works? Compare the photo of Bridges walking to school with that section of Rockwell’s painting. What has Rockwell added or subtracted (e.g., the lunchbox, graffiti)? What tells us more about Bridges’s character, the photograph or Rockwell’s depiction of her? (Note: You should look for adjectives and character vocabulary in the conversation.) (L.2.5b, L.2.6, SL.2.3)

Online Resources:

Sample Literacy Block

Reading Workshop
Familiar Reading (15 min)
Word Study (30 min)
Read Aloud (15 min)
Reading Workshop (1 hour)
Book Talk (5 min)
Mini-Lesson (10 min)
Independent Reading-Guided Reading-Independent Research (40 min)
Sharing-Reflection-Feedback (5 min)

Writing Workshop
Writers Talk/Mini-Lesson-Status of the Class (10 min)
Independent Writing/Guided Writing/Investigations (45 min)
Sharing/Reflection/Feedback (5-10 min)

Linking words
Opinion Piece
Time Order Words