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Three Coffles Lesson Plan
Overview
This lesson examines the history of enslaved men, women, and children who were chained or tied together and marched across the U.S. countryside from market to market until they were sold. The "Modes of Transportation," "Victims of the Trade," and "End of Domestic Slave Trade" segments of the narrative, The Domestic Slave Trade, describe three coffles over a broad geographic range and over time. Students will read about three coffles to create three expressive pieces of writing (all in the same format) to form a "triptych" of emotions of the enslaved.
Grade Levels:Middle school, grades 6-8
For use with:The Domestic Slave Trade
Concentration Area:History
Concentration Area:Language Arts
National Curriculum Standards met by this lesson
The following standards have been taken from the Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McRel) standards.
Students will understand

  • Understand how slavery shaped social and economic life in the South after 1800 (e.g. the cotton gin and the opening of new lands in the South and West led to increased demands for slaves; differences in the lives of plantation owners, poor free black and white families and slaves; methods of passive and active resistance to slavery; escaped slaves and the Underground Railroad).
  • Understand different economic cultural and social characteristics of slavery after 1800 (e.g. the influence of the Haitian Revolution and the ending of the Atlantic slave trade; ways slaves forged their own culture in the face of oppression; the role of the plantation system in shaping slaveholders and the enslaved; the experiences of escaped slaves).
Time required
One 50-minute class period.
Materials needed
Anticipatory Set

  1. Provide students a copy of the "Modes of Transportation," "Victims of the Trade," and "End of Domestic Slave Trade" segments of the narrative The Domestic Slave Trade. Or, you can give them excerpts from each of the segments that describe the people in Sella Martin or Charles Ball's coffle; the enslaved members of a waterborne coffle, such as the one described by Joshua Levitt; and Robert Lumpkin's coffle in Richmond, Virginia, during April 1865.
  2. Ask students to read about each coffle, imagining how it felt to be either a man, woman, or child in these circumstances.
  3. Discuss the differences in experiences of each of the coffles' members, how it was different to be in a waterborne coffle than a marching coffle, or how the sound of Union gunfire and the hope of emancipation might have made the experience in Lumpkin's coffle different from the others' experiences.
  4. Discuss the common experiences to members of all three coffles.
Procedures

  1. Explain to students that they will be writing three pieces of either prose or poetry from the point-of-view of a man, woman, or child in each of three coffles: Sella Martin or Charles Ball's coffle, the enslaved members of a waterborne coffle such as the one described by Joshua Levitt; and Robert Lumpkin's coffle in Richmond, Virginia, during April 1865.
  2. Once students have selected a form, they should use the same form for all three pieces, whether it is (for example) a poem or song lyrics, a stream-of-consciousness monolog, a journal entry or letter, or a speech or sermon. Ask students to express the feelings of the individual whose persona they have adopted.
  3. Direct students to touch on historical events and details from the descriptions of the coffles and encourage them to research for more information so that they will sound authentic. Allow several days before the due date so that students will have an opportunity to conduct this research.
  4. Be prepared to provide students with three pieces of construction paper to mount their triptych. There may be a greater visual "punch" if the background for an individual triptych is the same color. Alternatively, students may have ideas about background paper, such as wrapping paper, newsprint, magazines, or other materials, so the mounting material will be optional.
  5. Display the triptychs and provide time for students to read each other's creations.
Assessment

Evaluate the triptych on a 25-point scale (and multiply by four to convert to a 100-point scale or for letter grades) using the following rubric:

Grading Element and Total Possible Points Excellent Good Fair Not Satisfactory No Work
Written Assignment's Historical Research and Accuracy (5) (5) Demonstrates:

  • Extensive research
  • Many details
  • No factual errors or anachronisms
  • (4) Demonstrates:

  • Complete research
  • Some details
  • No factual errors or anachronisms
  • (3-2) Shows:

  • Minimal research
  • Generalized information
  • May contain some errors
  • (1) Shows:

  • Little or no research
  • No new information
  • Many factual errors
  • 0
    Written Assignment's Technical Writing Skills (10) (10) Shows excellent:

  • compositional structure
  • sentence structure and variety
  • vocabulary use
  • grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (9-8) Shows good:

  • compositional structure
  • sentence structure and variety
  • vocabulary use
  • grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (7-5) Shows adequate:

  • compositional structure
  • sentence structure and variety
  • vocabulary use
  • grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • (4-1) Shows inadequate:

  • compositional structure
  • sentence structure and variety
  • vocabulary use
  • grammar, spelling, punctuation
  • 0
    Felicity of style and presentation (10) (10) Composition:

  • Engages reader
  • Shows high originality
  • Show empathy with historical figures
  • Is visually interesting (if applies)
  • (9-8) Composition is above average in:

  • Engaging reader
  • originality
  • showing empathy with historical figures
  • visual interest (if applies)
  • (7-5) Composition is adequate in:

  • Holding reader interest
  • originality
  • empathy with historical figures
  • visual interest
  • (4-1) Composition demonstrates attempt to fulfill assignment with little or no success 0

    Related Works
    Interdisciplinary Links

    • Geography: Students may wish to create a map of the locations and movements of the coffles described in the narrative The Domestic Slave Trade
    • Computer: Students may create either a computerized slide show or a website featuring the triptychs created in this assignment. Additional illustrative materials should be added only from public domain sites, and properly credited.
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