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From Courage to Freedom: Frederick Douglass's 1845 Autobiography

EDSITEMENT! National Endowment for the Humanities

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Note that this resource was reviewed during the Spring 2014 review period. The resource may or may not have been updated since the review. Check with the content creator to see if there is a more recent version available.


This resource was reviewed by OSPI in Spring 2014. Learn more about the review process and the data analysis approach.

Background from OER Project Review Team
EDSITEment is a partnership among the National Endowment for the Humanities, Verizon Foundation, and the National Trust for the Humanities and is a member of the Thinkfinity Consortium of educational websites. This unit predates the Common Core State Standards. This should factor into the viewer's analysis of the review results.

EQuIP (Learn more)

Revision needed (6.5)
Chart with scale of 'meets criteria' from 0 (None) to 3 (All). Alignment: 2.0, Key Shifts in the CCSS: 2.0, Instructional Supports: 1.75, Assessment: 0.75.

Achieve OER (Learn more)

Chart with scale from 0 (Weak) to 3 (Superior). Explanation: 1.8, Interactivity: 0.0, Exercises: 1.3, Deeper Learning: 1.3.

See standard error chart for the review scoring

Reviewer Comments (Learn more)

Minor (1.8)

Comments/Ideal Use:

Although CCSS Appendix B lists Fredericks Slave Narrative at the 7th-8th grade grade band, this resource shows clearly how the rigor of a task can make a text appropriate at higher grade levels as well. The progression of activities and resources on Douglas's life and rhetorical devices challenge the student to dig back into the text to discover both meaning and method. It provides the teachers with resources to build their own background knowledge. While most of the questions require the student to go back to the text, teachers may need to revise some of the wording to make sure the students use textual evidence. Teachers may also consider revising some of the lessons to include small group discussion and to tie in the Speaking and Listening standards. The focus on author's purpose, the craft and structure standards, is effective in building student understanding of the text and how rhetorical devices are used to persuade. Although some adaptation will be necessary to implement this with a particular group of students, this is a well-developed unit and teachers will be able to make those adaptations without undo additional time.

This unit could be used within a literature or U.S. History course at the high school level and, with much scaffolding, in the middle school. It would work best within a larger unit on slavery or oppression where scaffolding of related texts can build to this text. The questions are scaffolded well to build the students' understanding of the text and ability to succeed on the assessment. Teachers who are not familiar with the text will need to take time to prepare but will find the questions, resources, and background information helpful.


  • Assessments are scaffolded from response to an essay, but, while the topic is specific, no rubrics are given. Students will need more support on the expectations.
  • Interactive assessment in lesson is not truly interactive. Students are simply answering the questions online and printing results.
  • Although the lesson activities actively involve the students, they are predominantly whole group, teacher lead.


  • Expand the description of the assessment specifically tying it to the objectives and to a rubric.
  • Add interactive functions such as links to support pages showing how to find evidence in a text, or how to cite textual evidence in an answer. Rather than just printing the answer, have it posted to a discussion forum where students and teachers could interact. Or, simply call it an assessment not interactive and create a print handout as an option.
  • Include suggestions for moving some of the work to small group discussion and whole group response.

Comments/Ideal Use:

This lesson could easily be used easily in an honors or AP classroom with a teacher practiced in rhetorical analysis. Teachers without experience in rhetorical analysis would need to do more preparation and rely heavily on the links provided. Ideally students would have already learned and practiced analysis on texts that cover more familiar topics before approaching this unit. Since the lessons themselves do not include learning activities to teach rhetorical terms, teachers would have needed to teach those terms prior to the unit or would need to take time out of the described activities to teach the related vocabulary and skills.


  • Lack of information about pacing and instructional strategies - lessons have multiple activities listed but no mention of time it would take to teach the lessons. Also lacking is a focus on varied instructional strategies or much description of the learning activities.
  • Lacking in assessments and instructions on how to evaluate student learning - each lesson just has one assessment and it appears to be a summative assessment.


  • Provide pacing for the lessons and suggested times needed to teach each lesson.
  • Describe suggested instructional strategies including a focus on speaking and listening
  • Write rubrics to evaluate student learning. Include methods for pre-assessment and point out where in each lesson there is a chance to check for student understanding (formative assessment).

Comments/Ideal Use:

The texts are definitely rigorous and well chosen. An experienced teacher could take the suggested resources and develop a unit that could teach close reading skills, evidence based analysis, comparison of how texts treat a subject, research skills, and writing skills (either informative, argumentative, or narrative, or all three.)


  • Common Core Standards are not the specific targets of instruction.
  • Guiding questions will not get students to dig deeply into the text for text-based analysis - lessons do not include adequate instruction nor clear outcome expectations.
  • There are no supports for struggling readers. The lessons are too short and do not allow for true in depth analysis or any instruction that would include modeling before moving to independence.
  • There appears to be no writing and little or no class discussion.
  • The lesson appears to assume that students already know how to do close reading of grade level text. There is no skill instruction for either reading or writing. There do not appear to be varied practice items. There is no assessment.


  • Identify learning goals aligned to CCSS
  • Provide detailed instructional tools to guide students in evidence based claims.
  • Extend the unit of instruction. Practice close reading. Practice writing to analyze using text based evidence.
  • Model the types of writing students should be doing as they respond to the questions. Provide rubrics for assessment and self-assessment.

Comments/Ideal Use:

These lessons might be used as a portion of a larger unit that incorporates a variety of media and how rhetoric is used to influence individuals. When used with cartoons, ads, speeches and other types of rhetorical text it could be a very powerful set of lessons. I think a teacher who has moderate to a great deal of experience would need to teach this unit in order to be able to modify it. There are not modifications for ELL and SPED students and that needs to be addressed.


  • None of the lessons focus on teaching writing and there are no rubrics for the assessments that align to the reading or writing standards. The assessments should evaluate the students ability to read the text closely if this a close reading unit and if it is evaluating writing then it needs to include lessons that teach students how to writing utilizing information from the text.
  • The instructional strategies in the lessons are repetitive and do not have students talking to each other. It is very teacher directed.


  • Include rubrics that focus on providing information from the text. Expand the readings to include other items to evaluate whether students can independently determine an authors ability to create an effective argument utilizing similar structures as Frederick Douglas.
  • Broaden the questions allowing students to read the text and generate questions about what Douglass is saying and how he is saying it.

Creative Commons License
This work by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.