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Learning About Harriet Tubman: Teacher Tested Ideas

Disclaimer: All of the ideas in this post come from the bottom of my heart. If any portion of this post is offensive to anyone, please forgive me and educate me so I can do things better. My email is, and I do want to hear from you.
Thank you.
Adriana Leikind

If you are getting ready to teach your students about Harriet Tubman for the first time, or if you are a veteran looking to add to your repertoire of ideas, this post is for you!

Here are my teacher tested ideas that will help you plan quick and engaging lessons for your kids!

1. Set up the Stage!
A few days before you start your Harriet Tubman unit, prepare your classroom and your students for it.

  • Create the background of a bulletin board, but leave the "meat" of it empty to create curiosity. Add to the board as you teach the unit!
  • Start telling your kids a little about Harriet Tubman's character traits, the hard times that she lived in, and how she saved the lives of so many people! When you finally teach the lesson, your students will be eager to learn more about her!
Here are some creative bulletin boards that I found on Pinterest. 

Found on Pinterest.
Found on Pinterest.
Found on Pinterest. From Pittsylvania County Schools.

2. Create an Anchor Chart!
It doesn't have to be pretty! Just make sure that you are ready to record all the new information that your students will learn in the next few days. 

One of the best ways I know to help students retain information, is to create anchor charts together, and to use the writing/drawing on the chart to review what was previously learned.

You can do all the writing, or you can invite students to write on the chart!

3. Act it Out!
The best way to understand the Underground Railroad is to act it out! Move your furniture out of the way or go outside!
Give students the role of slaves running towards freedom, or the role of people who opened their homes to help them. Then switch roles so everyone has a turn to act out both parts.

  • The helping people work in pairs. They hold each other's hands above their heads to form a little "house" in between them. They stay where they are and don't move.
  • The slaves walk around and look for safe homes to hide in.
  • When the slaves "walk into a house", the hands that were above the students' heads come down to "hold" the slaves safely inside.
You can be the one telling students when it's night time (so they are walking) and when it's day time (so they are hiding).

Have kids walk a number of times and go through a number of homes, then switch!

Keep in Mind: This is always a delicate subject that is difficult to work with. No matter how you teach this lesson or do this activity, please be mindful of everyone's feelings about the matter, and be thoughtful about how you distribute roles. I usually split my class in half and assign roles to each half. 

And if you are not completely comfortable, skip this activity altogether!

4. Pencil to paper!
Once your students have a good understanding about Harriet Tubman, have them write about her!
A simple piece of paper with space for an illustration will do! 
Or you can give them a little more support with a graphic organizer like this one:

  • First, students write the facts they feel are most important in each box of the graphic organizer. They can use your anchor chart, or do it in groups with each other's help.
  • Then, using the organizer, they write a paragraph with the information they learned.
Harriet Tubman Ideas and Activities
Find it here.

5.Get Crafty!
You will be pleasantly surprised to know that there is ZERO prep for this idea! 
I literally just give my students sheets of construction paper and tell them to make Harriet Tubman. 

Harriet Tubman Ideas and Activities

Harriet Tubman Ideas and Activities

Harriet Tubman Ideas and Activities
I LOVE the different versions that my students created!
If you want to add their writing to the project, here are the directions:
  • Take the large, black sheet of construction paper and fold it in half.
  • Use the other construction paper on the table to make Harriet Tubman on ONE SIDE of the large sheet you just folded.
  • Glue your writing to the other side of the paper.
And there you have it!

If you still need more resources and activities to do with your students, I offer a Harriet Tubman packet in my TpT store.
In it you will find graphic organizers, writing activities, booklets with her biography, and an assessment for the end of your unit. I have a detailed preview to show you what's inside.It's worth taking a look!

Harriet Tubman Ideas and Activities
Available from TpT.

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