168 The Heroic Slave Lesson Plan (tailored to Zoom)

Makensie Roderick and Julia Summa

Materials needed:

  • – Pencil/paper (or laptop if preferred) for notes
  • – Copy of Frederic Douglass’ The Heroic Slave
  • – Opening move handout (optional, can be made in Word or Google Docs)

Opening Move (15-20 minutes):

  • – Students will respond to the opening prompt below, either in notebooks or on a separate handout provided (5-10 minutes).
  • – Students will be asked to share their responses in an open discussion afterwards (5-10 minutes).

Opening Prompt:

  • – Compare The Heroic Slave’s main character, Madison, to The Female American’s Unca. What are some similarities and differences between them, and how do those characteristics make them each “heroic”? (Think about gender, race, class, etc.)

Main Class Activity (48 minutes, 12 minutes per question):

  • – Put students into 4 breakout rooms or groups
  • – Create 4 separate padlet links for each question. Make sure likes and comments are enabled on each padlet for students to use later.
  • – The groups will have 12 minutes to both answer the question and come up with an additional question pertaining to the text. The next group to visit that padlet will answer the question the previous group came up with. Groups should also be encouraged to include a quotation from the text in their answers.
  • – Group 1 starts on Padlet 1, Group 2 starts on Padlet 2, etc. Rotate every 12 minutes, so during the second rotation, Group 2 will be responding to what Group 3 wrote on Padlet 3, Group 3 will respond to what Group 4 wrote on Padlet 4, and so on.

Starting Questions for Padlets:

  1. What do you believe Frederick Douglass’ main purpose in writing The Heroic Slave was and why?
  2. How do themes of bravery and heroism in this text relate to the abolitionist movement?
  3. What does the text imply about the characteristics or expectations of a hero?
  4. After finding out more about the author and story, how would you define the word “hero”? Compare Madison to any non-fictional or fictional hero that comes to mind.
  • – Students will exit breakout rooms after final rotation.

End of Class Discussion (15-20 minutes, 5ish minutes per Padlet):

  • – Review each Padlet as a class using screen-sharing, and have an open-ended discussion for 5 minutes about the questions and answers that stand out.
  • – At the beginning of each discussion, have everyone use the “like” feature on Padlet to identify the group’s answer which they find most compelling. The result of this poll will begin the discussion.
  • – If there’s time, ask students for their feedback on the lesson.


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The Open Anthology of Earlier American Literature: A PSU-Based Project Copyright © 2016 by Makensie Roderick and Julia Summa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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