Classroom organization is important to me so I establish the following learning stations for small groups and independent work: A Listening Station, A Vocabulary Station, A Writing/Art Station, A Computer Station, A Direct Reading Station, and A Classroom Library / Drama Station. Each station has specific objectives. Students also have journals for recording activities done at each station. The listening station is where students listen to a recorded story from the bibliography, they follow along in the book while they listen with headphones to the cassette tape. In their journals they will record the date and the book they listened to and their response to the book. A list of predicting, locating, organizing, remembering, and evaluating questions will be there for them to answer. A Vocabulary Station is where students choose at least four words from any source they want to learn that evening, about slavery or the Civil War. These words are written in their personal dictionary. At the end of the week these words are written on a word wall in alphabetical order. A Writing/Art Station is for writing a story or response to an art piece on the Civil War or Slavery. The Computer station gives students an opportunity to research the Civil War and associated subject matter. They can also connect with others in the World Wide Web to have a book talk. Many Civil War Round Table Groups are on the Internet with chat groups. The Direct Reading Station is where students work on reading activities to improve reading skills within the theme framework. Shared reading activities and games take place here. The classroom Library/Drama Station is where they continue to search out books on the theme and each evening each student takes a book home with a reading card to be signed by a parent or responsible person. The number of books read each week is celebrated as well. The card comes back signed at the end of the week and a new card is given to the student. This along with other records are placed in their individual portfolio files for assessments. The Library/Drama area is also a place for characterization. Students can share with each other their favorite characters and practice dramatization. I encourage script writing here as well. They can work on scripts to portray characters that they have read about to eventually present to classmates. Every Friday is an author's chair celebration of works. Students will present their character dramatizations to the class. I use these strategies and process with most classes in which a two hour block of time is allotted for reading and language arts. This model gives each student twenty minutes per day for each learning station. This Model is patterned after,
Essentials of Literacy School Development Program
, by Edw. T. Murray, Ph.D., (Murray, 1993). I am very fortunate to be able to work with Dr. Murray at Davis Street Magnet School. He has been a consultant to our school for several years and has established
Essentials of Literacy Reading Rooms
at our school and in districts around the country.
The various literature that I use in this thematic approach and learning station strategies allows for a great deal of contrastive analysis of similar books. I always introduce all the books that will be available to the children and also make sure that they know these books are at various levels for us all to enjoy. I tell them that I still enjoy picture books that allow me to make up my own stories and poems. I also like non-pictorials, which allow me to use my own imagination. Here I introduce
Pink and Say
, by Patricia Polacco, a most effective picture book about the war and humanity. I stress the value of the pictures to help our minds understand the war and the events that took place. I then introduce
Walking the Road to Freedom, A Story about Sojourner Truth
, by Jeri Ferrris, illustrations by Peter E. Hanson. I always stress the importance of the author and the illustrator so children can see good collaborative work. I suggest that when they do their stories or poems two might want to work together as these authors and illustrators do. This is an excellent book that speaks of slavery in the North and South. It is about a woman who was named Isabelle or Isabella Hardenbergh only because her master's last name was Hardenbergh. Isabelle would change her name to Sojourner Truth, walking out of the City Streets of New York City upon gaining her freedom. She was born into slavery in Ulster County, New York; she was freed in 1827 and became a voice against slavery and an advocate of women's rights. This is her story about her life and how she helped in the underground railroad, met Frederick Douglass and President Lincoln. She traveled to Kansas to see a dream of hers fulfilled, people working on their own land; she was 83 years old. She died in 1883. She was a woman who did something about slavery before Harriet Tubman.
This leads nicely into books about Harriet Tubman, so I introduce books about her life by different authors:
"Wanted Dead or Alive" The True Story of Harriet Tubman
, by Ann McGovern;
The Story of Harriet Tubman, Conductor of the Underground Railroad
, by Kate McMullan, illustrated by Steven James Petruccio;
The Story of Harriet Tubman, Freedom Train
, by Dorothy Sterling; and
Harriet Tubman, Conductor on the Underground Railroad
, by Ann Petry. Harriet Tubman was a very popular lady who risked her life by going back and forth freeing slaves and guiding them to the underground railroad. She was brave and skillful in her fight for freedom and the fight for others. I ask that when students read these books they should discuss the similarities and differences. Each person in a group can read one and then report their reading notes to each other to see how the story facts match up. Another great book is
The Underground Railroad
by Raymond Bial, in which Bial presents photographs that he took while retracing the steps of those who traveled the Underground Railroad. He took them as if he was traveling and being hunted late in the evening or during the night. He calls on us to imagine the emotions and feelings of those folks who took the freedom train on the Underground Railroad. This book can be complemented by the book
ÉIf You Traveled On The Underground Railroad
, by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Richard Williams. In this book the author helps me and the students to focus on quality questions about the Underground Railroad and then goes on to tell the story answering the various types of questions. This gives the students a chance to reflect and predict possible answers to the questions from their prior knowledge base. It also helps them in their critical thinking strategies.
Another great grouping of books is those about Abraham Lincoln.
Lincoln: A Photobiography
, by Russell Freedman is wonderful biography, walking you down the paths and roads Lincoln traveled down, from his boyhood home through the political days of great talks with the people, with pictures to go along with the exciting travels up to his assassination. You meet famous people and not so famous who found themselves in his company, but most of all you get to know the man who helped to abolish slavery and took the reins of a nation torn apart by war. Other books that help us know Abraham Lincoln are:
Just A Few Words Mr. Lincoln, The Story of the Gettysburg Address
, by Jean Fritz, Illustrated by Charles Robinson;
, by Stuart A. Kallen, Illustrated by Terry Boles, This is a marvelous book of explanations of words used in the speeches made by Abraham Lincoln; its illustrations are fantastic to help students understand even better what this Gettysburg Address is all about.
The Gettysburg Address
, by Abraham Lincoln, Illustrated by Michael McCurdy. This is an excellent book for children to see how illustrations can make an old speech come alive with meaning. Each one of these books is below the targeted grade level of the Unit. However, it is my experience that I need to provide simple texts for good explanations of what might otherwise be difficult. Not all students read at their grade level and therefore I provide books at various levels and allow students to choose what they feel comfortable reading on their own in the Library Station.
Another great book that stands alone in the study of Lincoln's Emancipation
BOTH SIDES, The Emancipation Proclamation, Why Lincoln Really Freed the Slaves
, by Robert Young. It gives students a great Time Line and Glossary of words that can be added to their personal dictionaries. In fact when a student puts down that they read this book I look for the vocabulary in their dictionaries. The greatness of this book is it makes you look at the historical aspects of the issues that led up to the war and through the war and asks you to think about some questions. There are great illustrations of famous black men like Judge Samuel Sewall, an early opponent of slavery, and Richard Allen, one of the nation's first black activists; these are important historical figures that you don't hear too often about. Kids today need heroes of the past not just the present. I use page 31 of this book to get reactions of what it must have been like to have your back whipped so brutally and almost to death. This page shows a slave with the scars of the whip. I have the students talk about the feelings this gives them. We can never appreciate the freedom we have without looking at the past.
Here are three more groupings of books that can be used in many ways to contrast the settings, characters, and events of the Civil War period.
What it is like to be a slave girl is realized in reading
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
, by Deborah Hopkinson, paintings by James Ransome, and
Dear America, A Picture of Freedom, The Diary of Clotee, a Slave Girl, Belmont Plantation, Virginia, 1859
. Another book to compare and contrast life in a big plantation house and slave quarters is by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack's outstanding
Christmas in the Big House, Christmas in the Quarters
. It tells of how Christmas was celebrated just before the Civil War with recipes, poems, and songs. This book is wonderfully illustrated by John Thompson.
Who is John Brown? This question can be interestingly answered after reading about him in
John Brown: One Man Against Slavery
, by Gwen Everett, paintings by Jacob Lawrence, and
The Story of John Brown's Raid On Harper's Ferry
, by Zachary Kent. One thing I know from these books is that Brown was influenced by Harriet Beecher Stowe's
Uncle Tom's Cabin or Life Among the Lowly,
written in 1852. It described the hardships of slavery and convinced many Northerners slavery was immoral.
Another great grouping of novels for better readers includes:
Which Way Freedom
? , by Joyce Hansen, which is about a slave boy who knew when the Civil War began that it was time to run for freedom even though he might be caught and killed. He ran to taste freedom and then turned around and fought for the freedom of others. It is a strong, thought-provoking novel. Julius Lester's
Long Journey Home
weaves six historical fiction stories to share the proud, joyful, and painfully emotional black experience. This book grew out of his first,
To Be a Slave
, which is a book about what is was like to live in slavery, in the words of the black Americans who lived it.
With Every Drop of Blood, A Novel of the Civil War
, by James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier, is a very challenging book about two people caught up in the war, one a Southern Boy named Johnny who is challenged to a bold mission of delivering supplies to the Rebel troops, the other a runaway slave who is now a Yankee soldier who captures Johnny.
Other books in the bibliography that follows are great books to include in your Library for the students' enjoyment.