Use these teaching resources to introduce students to the Underground Railroad, a covert network of former slaves, free black men and women, Northern abolitionists, and church leaders who helped fugitive slaves escape to freedom.
Newspaper article. Ask students to imagine that they are newspaper reporters at the time of Harriet Tubman, assigned to cover the Underground Railroad. First have them decide whether they are writing for a free state or a slave state and take the appropriate point of view. Then remind students that a good newspaper article answers the who, what, where, when, and how questions. They should keep their articles to the point, using lively, descriptive language. Also remind students to include a snappy headline to capture the attention of their readers. (You may wish to display some real newspaper articles.) When they have finished writing, ask for volunteers to share their articles with the rest of the class. Collect the articles and display them on a bulletin board.
Her bravest act. Ann McGovern develops the story of Harriet Tubman's life by relating several events that portray her heroic character. Suggest that students page through Wanted Dead or Alive and decide which event they think features Harriet Tubman's bravest act. Then have them write a brief report about the event, explaining why they think it shows Tubman at her bravest. After students finish, have them share their reports to compare and contrast the events they selected and their reasons for selecting them. Then have them use their reports to make a bulletin-board display called Harriet Tubman's Bravest Acts. Encourage students to illustrate the display with drawings of their own.
Book review. Students may enjoy writing book reviews to express their overall opinion of Wanted Dead or Alive. Explain to students that they should decide on one or more standards by which to evaluate the book. They might consider, for example, how the author uses Tubman's actions, thoughts, and words to create a picture of the real Harriet Tubman or how the author's style of writing helps convey her feeling for her subject. Suggest that students include examples from the book to support their points of view and conclude their reviews with a statement summarizing their opinion of the book. Use oral readings of the reviews to start a class discussion of the author's style and writing techniques.
Writing similes. Point out to students that many words in Wanted Dead or Alive describe Harriet Tubman's character. Have them make a list of the wordsbrave, clever, strong, and so forthand then use the words to write similes that describe Harriet Tubman. Explain that a simile is comparison of one thing to another, using the word like or as. As an example, point out that the word brave could be used to create the following simile: Harriet Tubman was as brave as a lion. Have them share and discuss their similes to see what comparisons others made. Then guide them in using their similes to make a class poem about Harriet Tubman. Display the poem in the classroom or school library.