Beacon Lesson Plan Library

Escape to Freedom

Zerelda Hammer


Students read “They Called Her Moses,” create a “Wanted Poster” for Tubman, compose a journal entry imagining they are William Still, and work in groups to create a newspaper depicting the incident of the runaway slaves and events from the time period.


The student determines the main idea or essential message in a text and identifies relevant details and facts and patterns of organization.

The student uses a variety of reference materials, including indexes, magazines, newspapers, and journals, and tools, including card catalogs and computer catalogs, to gather information for research topics.

The student produces final documents that have been edited for-correct spelling;-correct punctuation, including commas, colons, and semicolons;-correct common usage, including subject/verb agreement, common noun/pronoun agreement, common possessive forms, and with a variety of sentence structures,including parallel structure; and-correct formatting.


- A copy of the short story “They Called Her Moses” by Ann Petry found in a literature book such as [Adventures for Readers]; Holt, Rhinehart, and Winston.
- Samples of newspapers
- Samples of wanted posters
- Sample journal activity; see associated file
- 9 x 12 White or off-white card stock for “Wanted” posters
- Computer with Internet access and printer
- Computer with Microsoft Publisher or other similar program
- Paper for printer


1. Read “They Called Her Moses” by Ann Petry.
2. Gather literature book, sample wanted posters, newspapers, and journal entries.
3. Make sure computers (with word processor) and printers are working and ready for student use.
4. Make sure students know how to use a word processor or publisher. Students not familiar with these programs can be placed with students who are.
5. Determine student grouping.


1. Students should already have background information on the Underground Railroad, the Emancipation Proclamation, and the Dred Scott Decision. In addition, students should already know the correct format for writing a bibliography.

2. (Days 1 and 2) Read and discuss “They Called Her Moses” by Ann Petry, reinforcing the main idea, essential facts, and William Still’s role on the Underground Railroad.

3. (Day 2) After finishing the story, show and discuss models of wanted posters.

4. Create “Wanted Poster” for Harriet Tubman to be done on 9 x 12 card stock (see assessment for criteria).

5. (Day three) Begin class by reading and discussing model journal entries.

6. Create “Journal Entry ” (homework) by William Still. Entry should include essential facts and details, including information about Harriet Tubman and his relationship to her and the slaves, his strict record keeping, the fear of being discovered, his roll in the Underground Railroad, etc.

7. (Day three continued) Beginning of cooperative group newspaper project.

8. Discuss the 5 W’s of newspaper writing (Who, What, When, Where, Why – and may include How)

9. Show and discuss examples of newspaper layouts noting name of newspaper, major headline(s), titles of articles, etc.

10. Tell students whom they will be working with so they will be ready to work when they come to class the next day.

11. (Day four) Give students the class period to gather information and draft articles about Harriet Tubman, the runaway slaves, and other events from the same time period. Hint: Students may want to refer to the timeline in their social studies text to give them ideas for other events.

12. (Days five and six) In class, students lay out newspaper with headings, titles, and space for articles for group newspaper. The group must name their newspaper!

13. Using Microsoft Publisher or similar program, students produce and print out a group newspaper.


- Wanted Poster for Harriet Tubman: Students should include a likeness and description of Tubman. The poster should also have information about why she is wanted, the area she might be found, and the fact that she might be in the company of slaves, and others who might be associated with her.

- William Still journal entry: Entry should include information about Harriet Tubman and his relationship to her and the slaves, his strict record keeping, the fear of being discovered, his roll in the Underground Railroad, etc. (see associated file for sample)

- Group-created Newspaper with an article about Harriet Tubman, the missing slaves and other events from the same time period: The newspaper should have a name, appropriate headings, and titles for each article. In addition to the 5 W’s of newspaper writing, rules of grammar, mechanics, and usage should be followed. Students are required to include a bibliography with their final project.


The time required for this lesson assumes that the Wanted Poster and journal activity are done outside the classroom. Lessons could be expanded to include other areas such as social studies, Black History, or geography according to the types of questions to be asked and activities to be implemented and assessed.

Attached Files

A student sample of a possible entry from William Still’s journal.     File Extension: pdf

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