February’s nonfiction feature “Escape From Slavery” tells the story of the remarkable Harriet Tubman. Her story and that of the Underground Railroad are the subject of many fantastic works of fiction and nonfiction—perfect for literature circles. We’ve compiled some of our favorite books across genres and Lexiles so you can mix and match according to your students' needs and interests.
To get things started, here are some essential questions that connect these books with the article “Escape From Slavery.”
- What is it like to live without freedom?
- Why is it important to learn about slavery?
- How do people fight oppression?
- What is the legacy of the Underground Railroad?
Check your library for these amazing books:
Trouble Don’t Last by Shelley Pearsall
Samuel searches for freedom and his mother on a journey from Kentucky to Canada that is full of action, heartbreak, and hope.
Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis
Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit, Michigan. Elijah journeys back to America to help a friend trying to buy his family out of captivity in the South.
Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg
(novel in verse, 900L)
This novel in verse illuminates the stories of runaway slaves who sought sanctuary in the Great Dismal Swamp, located between North Carolina and Virginia. Native Americans took refuge in this swamp for thousands of years, and today, it is a federal wildlife refuge. Poetry lovers will thank you.
This classic is a Common Core Text Exemplar for grades 6-8, and it's also a great source for excerpts for close reading.
Harriet Tubman: Conductor on the Underground Railroad by Ann Petry
(informational text, 1000L)
This is another great Common Core Text Exemplar for grades 6-8. It will allow your students to dig deeper into the life of Harriet Tubman.
True North by Kathryn Lasky
An abolitionist's granddaughter and an escaped slave traveling on the Underground Railroad are the protagonists in this adventure novel. Revolutionaries Robert Gould Shaw, Abigail Adams, and Ralph Waldo Emerson make appearances too.
The Underground Abductor by Nathan Hale
(graphic novel, GN370L)
The story of freedom fighter Araminta Ross (better known as Harriet Tubman) is told in this graphic novel. Perfect for reluctant readers.
Ashes by Laurie Halse Anderson
This is the third book of the Seeds of America trilogy, which is no doubt already a student favorite. Ashes follows Isabel to the South in the midst of the Revolutionary War where she searches for her enslaved sister.
You may have noticed some new kids on the Scope activity block. My absolute favorite? The Theme Anticipation Guide! We did a deep dive into literary elements over the summer—assessing our support materials, researching best practices, and of course getting advice from amazing Scope teachers. The Theme Anticipation Guide is just one of a handful of new activities we’ve created out of those efforts.
Our new literary elements offerings include higher-level thinking tasks that encourage students to make meaningful connections to their life experiences and across texts. We hope activities like this guide will help students analyze and appreciate literature through the lens of literary elements.
The Theme Anticipation Guide will Get Students Ready for Reading
The Theme Anticipation Guide is to reading what stretching is to running. It’s a warm-up that readies your students’ minds to recognize and connect to the themes they will encounter in the reading. We designed the guide not as a worksheet, but as a pre-reading comprehension strategy and valuable discussion starter. Look for the Theme Anticipation Guide that will appear with every Scope fiction and play feature, and occasionally with the nonfiction feature as well.
What's in the Guide?
Each guide consists of 10 or fewer statements related to universal themes or dilemmas that students deliberate before reading the text, and then revisit and reflect upon after reading the text. You could use all the statements or just a select few. You could project the page or hand it out as a “do now” activity at the start of class.
Here's how we recommend using the Guide:
What you’ll need:
- Theme Anticipation Guide: “Hercules the Mighty: What determines our identities?”
(one copy for each student, or one to project)
- Hercules the Mighty play from September 2017 issue of Scope
critical thinking, speaking and listening, theme
one class period
1. Fill out the checklist.
Give each student a copy of the Theme Anticipation Guide and have them write down whether they agree or disagree with each statement. Or project the statements and have students record their responses in their reading journals.
2. Share the responses.
Poll the class about each statement by a raise of hands or any other method you prefer. Invite students to assert and justify their opinions (middle schoolers like to do that, right?) Remember that the statements are purposefully debatable. The point is not to have right or wrong answers, but to invite students into the conversation the author is seeking to have with them.
3. Read the play.
Read Scope’s play Hercules the Mighty as a class.
4. Revisit the Guide.
Have students reread the statements in their Theme Anticipation Guides and reflect on the following questions in writing or a class discussion:
- Did your experience with the text influence your opinions about each statement, perhaps by confirming your beliefs, challenging them, or causing them to shift completely?
- How do the statements apply to Hercules the Mighty? For example, is Hercules’s identity affected by other people or by what happens to him? If so, how?
Let us know what you think of the Theme Anticipation Guide in the comments below!
Lauren Salisbury is Scope’s Senior Education Editor.
In the May 2017 paired text feature of Scope, "Are These Stories True? (Nope.)", your students read all about the history of fake news. In the article and accompanying video, they also got lots of tips on how to spot fake stories and unreliable sources. Now you can give your students this self-guided activity to practice the media literacy skills presented in the article and the video. It's great for small group work!
Here’s how we recommend you use the fact-checking activity in your classroom:
- This Fact-Checking activity asks students to find and fix incorrect and misleading information in an article about junk food. Have students complete it after they read the article and watch the video.
- Students can work in groups or on their own.
- When students finish, bring the class back together to share what students have discovered.
For more media literacy resources, check out this post.
"More modeling, please!" We hear this often from teachers who are looking for more ways to support their students. Well, we've got your covered!
We've created two model texts for you to use with our You Write It activity.
What You'll Need:
- You Write It: "Why Pigs Rule"
- Model texts: annotated and not annotated
- You Write It: "Why You Should Sing"
- Guided Writing activity: Supporting a Claim
Here's how we recommend using the model texts:
(All images below are downloadable.)
As a class, preview Scope's You Write It titled "Why Pigs Rule."
Pass out and discuss the model text. Choose the version without annotations or, for students who need additional support, the version with annotations.
Now it's time for students to write an essay of their own. First review the You Write It "Why You Should Sing" from the April 2017 issue of Scope.
Have students follow the guidelines at the bottom of the You Write It to write and edit their essays, using "Why Pigs Rule" as a model. Students can also use the Guided Writing activity which walks them through the process of writing their essays.
We know your students can't get enough practice with inference. That's why we include an inference activity which every issue of Scope as part of the Core Skills Workout—a collection of eight skill-based activities designed to help students "bulk up" in the skills they need most to become strong, analytical readers.
You'll love this inference activity
Check out our inference handout
And don't miss the reference handout for more inference practice. You can find it and dozens of other fabulous handouts and use-it-anytime activities on everything from identifying mood to using text evidence in the Activity Library at Scope Online.
These activities are great test-readiness tools and provide a simple way to refresh key skills any time of year.
Click the image to download.
TIP! After students complete the activity on the handout, have them work in groups to create their own questions, modeled on the questions in the activity. Then have students trade with their classmates.
We often hear from teachers that finding and using text evidence is one of the most challenging skills for students to master. That's why we are so excited about our teacher-tested Core Skill Activity: Using Text Evidence. (And we hope that you will be too!)
In this activity, students will practice:
- finding text evidence
- explaining WHY particular evidence supports an idea (and why other evidence does not)
- quoting, paraphrasing, and citing
- integrating text evidence into writing with transitions and commentary
- weaving it all together by writing a paragraph
This activity is available in two levels for easy differentiation.
In the lower-level text evidence activity, students practice FINDING text evidence:
In the higher-level activity, students practice FINDING and USING text evidence:
The activity and the handouts come with each issue of the magazine. For example, in the March 2017 issue, they are featured with the Paired Texts at Scope Online.
Try out this activity with your students and tell us how it went in the comments below!
Here at Scope, one of our favorite things about nonfiction is how it can open doors to further learning for students. A window into the writing and research process for nonfiction can be just as engaging as the topic of a nonfiction story itself. And thinking about an author's research process and the quality of his or her sources can also help deconstruct what quality nonfiction looks like.
The following activity provides a wonderful way to prepare students for doing research projects of their own.
critical literacy, critical thinking, close reading
To give students a deeper grasp of the research process, have them consider these simple questions after reading any nonfiction Scope text (like this one):
- How do you think the author got the information presented in the article?
- Can you find quotes from experts in the article? If so, mark them.
- Are those experts reliable? What might their biases be?
- What are three facts the author gives you?
- Do you think the author's information is reliable? Why or why not?
- Do any of the images show primary sources?
- How would you have researched this story?
You can also download and print the activity sheet below.
Have questions to add to our list? Tell us in the comments below!
To celebrate Black History Month, we wanted to tell the story of Garrett Morgan—a brilliant entrepreneur and inventor. Among his many inventions was a safety hood that changed the way firefighters fought fires. As an African-American man living during the first half of the 20th century, Morgan faced prejudice, and his accomplishments went largely unrecognized. We were riveted and moved by Morgan's story, and we think your students will be too. We've paired the article about Morgan with an informational text about the qualities of a successful entrepreneur. After reading both texts and completing the lesson plan with your class, have students complete the extension activity below.
Divide students into groups to research other inventors—from the past and the present. Each group should then pick one inventor and create a presentation about him or her to share with the class. Presentations can be in the form of a poster, video, or Powerpoint presentation and should include information about the inventor’s life, what the inventor created, and why his or her invention is important.
There are so many wonderful aspects of Scope. We don't want you to miss any of them! So we created a series of videos highlighting how you can use the many features of Scope. Our first 60-Second Teacher Workshop video is all about our paired texts. Check it out below!
Watch the 60-Second Teacher Workshop Video: Paired Texts
You're in luck! In honor of the unluckiest day of the year—Friday the 13th—we have a fascinating informational text all about why superstitions remain part of our culture. In the February issue of Scope, we paired the article with our play about the discovery of King Tut's tomb and the curse supposedly attached to the famous pharaoh. But the informational text also works on its own.
After your students read the article, challenge them to go more deeply into the topic by researching a superstition of their own choosing, such as Friday the 13th, black cats, opening an umbrella indoors, or walking under a ladder. Ask them to look into how that particular superstition developed. (Note that the origins of specific superstitions are often murky.) Also have students consider why the superstition may have developed. Was it out of fear? Perhaps it was a safety measure? Many superstitions are quite old; why might they have lasted this long?