Lesson Plan on the Amistad

Teacher: David Moadel

Subject: Social Studies
Grade Level: 7  Date: June 6, 2002

I. Content: I want my students to understand the predicament of the slaves on the Amistad and the conditions that led them to revolt against their captors.

II. Prerequisites: The student should be able to define slavery. In addition, the student should be able to identify the period of time in which slavery was legally permissible in the United States.

III. Instructional Objective: Upon request, the student will describe the specific causal factors that led to the revolt instigated by Cinque and the other slaves aboard the Amistad. Included in the description must be reference to at least the following factors: 1) the misunderstanding between Cinque and the cook, in which the cook unwittingly led Cinque to believe that the slaves were going to be slaughtered and eaten; 2) the inhumane treatment of the slaves on the ship; and 3) the unique ability of the slaves on the Amistad to communicate with each other, due to their common cultural background.

IV. Instructional Procedures:

Lesson-initiating activity: Distribute an informational sheet about the Amistad Incident (the worksheet is included with this lesson plan). Call upon students to read passages aloud from the sheet. Throughout the reading of the sheet, use a large map of the world to point out the slavesí journey, starting from Mendeland, Africa, and continuing within Cuba.

Core activities: Randomly assign each student a number from one to three. Each student will write an essay about a scenario related to the Amistad. A student assigned the number 1 will write about scenario #1; a student assigned the number 2 will write about scenario #2, and so on. These are the three scenarios:

Scenario #1: Imagine that you are living in Africa in the 1830ís. You were taken from your parents, marched to the coast of Africa, and are now chained in a smelly, dark ship's hold. How do you feel? What are you thinking? What would your biggest fears be? If you were a child on the Amistad, would you have liked Cinque? Why or why not?

Scenario #2: Imagine that you are Cinque and you have just been told that you and your companions are to be killed. How do you feel? What will you do? How would you justify your actions?

Scenario #3: Imagine that you are a slave trader. Why are you in this business? What are your feelings toward your slaves? Do you regard them as people, or property, or both? How would you justify feeling this way about your slaves?

Each studentís essay should be at least one full page in length and should be accurate in spelling, punctuation, and grammar.

Afterward, the instructor could upon volunteers to read their essays aloud to the class for extra credit.

Closure activities: Have the students watch the movie Amistad, a film that depicts, among other things, the conditions on the Amistad ship. Afterward, initiate a class discussion about the slavesí uprising on the ship. Ask high-order questions: Was the killing of the captain and cook justified? Would you have done the same thing? Keep in mind that the insurrection was predicated on a misunderstanding between Cinque and the cook. Could the misunderstanding have been avoided? How?

As a review prior to the final assessment (described below in the Assessment/Evaluation section of the lesson plan), initiate a class discussion in which the students will describe the factors that caused the slaves on the Amistad to revolt and slay their captors. In addition to the misunderstanding between Cinque and the shipís cook, there are other pertinent factors, such as the inhumane treatment of the slaves and the ability of the slaves to communicate via their shared cultural and linguistic background. Remind the students to take notes during the class discussion in order to prepare for the assessment.

ESOL considerations: ESOL students should be paired with a peer tutor during the writing assignments. Additionally, the teacher should modify his or her speech during class discussions, define any difficult terminology, and avoid using slang expressions.

V. Materials and Equipment: Pencils or pens, writing paper, worksheets, a large map of the world, a video cassette of the movie Amistad, a VCR, and a television.

VI. Assessment/Evaluation: The instructor will give the class a written test in which each student will be asked to describe the specific causal factors that led to the revolt instigated by Cinque and the other slaves aboard the Amistad. In the description, the student must make reference to three important factors: 1) the misunderstanding between Cinque and the cook; 2) the inhumane treatment of the slaves on the ship; and 3) the unique ability of the slaves on the Amistad to communicate with each other. Moreover, the description of these factors must make reference to the year in which the Amistad revolt took place, at least one location involved in the revolt, and the names of at least two individuals involved in the revolt.

VII. Follow-up Activities: Distribute the informational sheet entitled "What Was It Like on the Amistad?" (the worksheet is included with this lesson plan). Call upon students to read passages aloud from the sheet. Then, for homework, have the students research a different slave ship, such as the Lord Ligonier (the ship on which Kunta Kinte traveled) or the TeÁora, and have them write a brief essay about what it was like to travel on the ship as a slave. The essay should focus both on natural, weather-related hazards and on the cruel conditions imposed by the slave owners.

VIII. Self-Assessment: After the lesson has been presented, the instructor should assess the lesson by evaluating the studentsí written essays, as well as the studentís verbal responses during the class discussions. Did the students convey an accurate understanding of the predicament of the slaves on the Amistad? Were the students able to put themselves in the place of the various people on the ship -- both the slaves and the captors? Were they able to understand how they felt and why they behaved the way they did? These should be the criteria used to determine the success or failure of this lesson.

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