The Journey to Timbuctoo
Suggested Teaching Instructions
Title: The Journey to Timbuctoo – source analysis and creative writing task
Historical Context: Timbuctoo is deep in the land of the Adirondack Mountains. This mountain range is synonymous with rough weather and tough terrain. After New York State passed a law requiring African American men to posess $250 in real estate in order to vote, Gerrit Smith divided up his 120,000 acres into 40 acre lots and began inviting African American families to live and farm on his land. Gerrit Smith was a very wealthy land owner who invited roughly 3,000 African Americans to come and work on his 40 acre plots where these families could have new oportunities. The lands are in North Elba, New York.
Overview: Lesson 1 will see the students engage in a historical way with the document ‘An Address to the Three Thousand’ by Gerrit Smith. They will look at and analyze certain sections of the text. In Lesson 2, they will use this analysis to help them produce a piece of creative writing that reflects the journey so many took to the North Country in search of a new life.
Goal: Gain a better understanding of Gerrit Smith’s offer and also open up the idea that History can help produce excellent creative writing
Students will practice and improve their skills when analyzing and evaluating primary sources
Students will test their creative writing skills – whether it be prose, poetry, music composition etc
Investigative (Compelling) Question: What prompted people to move to Timbuctoo and what was that experience like?
Two 45 minute class periods – Lesson one for the source analysis and writing prep
Second lesson for the writing task and then time to share their work
I would assume some background work the experience of black people in Ny State in 1800s had been done as preparation or part of a wider scheme of work
Recommended Grade Range
Subject: US History, Social Studies, English
Standards: The specific NYS and Next Gen standards that this lesson is designed to meet.
3. Analyze evidence in terms of content, authorship, point of view, bias, purpose, format, and audience.
4. Describe, analyze, and evaluate arguments of others.
5. Make inferences and draw conclusions from evidence.
5. Recognize the relationship between geography, economics, and history as a context for events and movements and as a matrix of time and place. 6. Connect historical developments to specific circumstances of time and place and to broader regional, national, or global processes and draw connections to the present (where appropriate)
Next Gen Standards
9-10W3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
9-10W4: Create a poem, story, play, artwork, or other response to a text, author, theme or personal experience; demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a variety of techniques and genres. Explain divergences from the original when appropriate. 9-10W5: Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research. Apply the grade 9/10 Reading Standards to both literary and informational text, where applicable
Credits: Simon Shergold
An Address to the Three Thousand Colored Citizens by Gerrit Smith – Sept 1, 1846 (pages 4 and 5) (from John Brown Lives workpack, source 1)
First three minutes of the documentary ‘Searching for Timbuctoo’ WMHT Specials | Searching For Timbuctoo | PBS
LESSON 1 PROCEDURE
Description of Procedure:
Connect: Watch the first three minutes of the ‘Searching for Timbuctoo’ documentary. Ask the students to note down two things in their notebooks. 1/ What does the landscape of the Adirondacks look like? (Will be useful in their creative writing piece) and 2/ What are the archaeologists trying to find? (Setting the general context of the enquiry). (3-5 mins)
After the clip, collect ideas about Q1 and clarify the answer to Q2
Wonder: Distribute copies of the primary source – give out the whole source even though the focus will be two pages. It will be good information for further work across the lessons.
Discuss as a class the language and information on the title page – who are the Three Thousand? What is an address? Was he actually speaking to them? How big is 120,000 acres of land (a soccer field is roughly one acre!)? Who might Gerrit Smith be? (5-10 mins)
Investigate and Construct: Students to read pages 4 and 5 of the document in pairs / threes and try to answer the following questions, which test comprehension and analysis
How much land will each deed give away? (Comprehension)
Why does he say he has he decided to give the land to black people? (Comprehension)
Why can’t the vast majority of black people vote in NY State? (Comprehension)
Why do you think Gerrit Smith is giving away land? (Analysis)
Why do you think Gerrit Smith put restrictions on who can own the land? (Analysis)
Encourage students to treat the source as a working document – they should annotate, highlight and mark the sources. Teacher should circulate to help with any difficult words and help to clarify understanding (15 mins)
Express: Class to share their answers – for the first three questions to solidify comprehension and for the last two questions to discuss motives, ideas and theories about the plan (10 mins)
Reflect: Set homework for next lesson ‘What would be the challenges of moving to the North Country in 1846?’ Students to compile a 10 point list of all the things they think would be a challenge moving to this part of the world. Link back to their responses to Q1 on the intro video looking at landscape and also their own knowledge of their local community – and now think about how much harder that would be in 1846 (20-30 mins at home). Indicate they will be using this as a prompt for a piece of creative writing next lesson, so it should be detailed
Connect: Ask students to share their ‘North Country Challenge’ list they compiled for homework. Encourage them to add to their list from their peers’ input(3-5 mins)
Wonder: Introduce the creative writing prompt ‘the Journey to Timbuctoo’. Ask them to construct a list of creative writing modes (short fiction, poetry, diary entry, song for example) and then explain that they will be writing up a timed piece using one of these formats to describe a journey to Timbuctoo. They can write from the point of view of any member of the family (father, mother, child) and use the landscape of the North Country woven together with what this journey meant to people and the challenges they would face. (5 mins)
Investigate and Construct: Students have 25 minutes to write their piece. They can use any resources they have brought with them from home to help. (25 mins)
Express: Students to share their work with each other – maybe in pairs or maybe as a whole class listening exercise. As for feedback – what was good, did it bring the journey to life, how realistic did it feel. This may work best as whole class listen (10 mins)
Reflect: Ask students to reflect on the enormity of that journey. Ask the question ‘Why did people come to Timbuctoo?’ – explore ideas about a new start, disenchantment with the status quo. Try to get a sense of what drove people to accept the offer.
Extensions (if applicable)
15. Evaluation: Teacher will have assessed student comprehension and engagement throughout the lesson through group responses and class discussion. They will also check the homework list at the start of lesson 2 in preparation of the creative writing task