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Lesson Plans for The Ex-Slave Narratives
Contributed by Dick Parsons

Lesson 1: An Examination of Interviews from the American Slave Narratives and the American Folklore Collection

Estimated class time: Three to four class periods

Description: This lesson is organized into three sections:

  1. Students will read selected oral histories in order to learn about individual experiences of African Americans in the pre-Civil War period.
  2. Students will meet in small collaborative groups with other students who read the same oral history and share their understandings and develop different perspectives on the reading.
  3. Students will gather in reconfigured small collaborative groups (jigsaw) and share their understandings with students who read different narratives. Here the goal for students is to broaden their understanding of what the experience of slavery was like for individual African Americans.

Lesson 2: Generating a Student-created Document Based Question

Estimated class time: Six to eight class periods

Description: This lesson requires students to work individually and in groups to accomplish particular discrete tasks. Teachers may wish to establish benchmarks or time frames in order to hold students accountable for particular short term objectives.

  1. Students will work independently to gather four documentary sources that inform a focusing question about the experience of slavery.
  2. Students will work collaboratively in groups of four or five and select approximately 10-12 of their collected documents for presentation in the form of a Document Based Question.
  3. Collaborating groups will assemble their documents into a packet consistent with the recognizable format of the Document Based Questions on the AP exams of the Educational Testing Service.
  4. Collaborating groups will exchange and assess one another's Document Based Question.
  5. Optional: Individual students may be instructed to write an essay in response to the DBQ created by one of the other groups

    Lesson 3: Comparing and Contrasting the Individual Experiences of African Americans in the 19th Century

    Estimated class time: 2-3 class periods

    Description: This lesson provides a guided opportunity for students to interrogate the Ex-Slave Narratives for information about selected topics.

    1. Students will be led in a discussion about the strengths and limitations of using the ex-slave narratives and other oral histories as primary sources in the study of history.
    2. Students will be introduced to the hypertext index created by the New Deal Network and assigned a specific guiding question or task to investigate.
    3. Students will compile data from their investigations and share their results.

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