Harriet Tubman


Our Harriet Tubman lesson plan teaches students about Harriet Tubman and her accomplishments, including information about the Underground Railroad. Students also learn about her early life and her lasting impact on history.

Included with this lesson are some adjustments or additions that you can make if you’d like, found in the “Options for Lesson” section of the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions to this lesson is to invite a Civil Rights activist to speak to your class about Harriet Tubman.

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What our Harriet Tubman lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: Harriet Tubman introduces students to Harriet Tubman and her accomplishments, including information about the Underground Railroad. At the end of the lesson, students will be able to identify Harriet Tubman, list facts about her life, and explain and define the Underground Railroad. This lesson is for students in 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. For an additional lesson activity, you can have students use a U.S. map to plan an Underground Railroad route to help slaves escape to the north. As an optional addition to the lesson material, you can discuss Harriet Tubman’s inclusion on the $20 bill. Students can also create posters honoring Harriet Tubman. You could plan a Famous American Women in History Week and include Harriet Tubman. For an additional writing exercise, you could have students write a story from the perspective of a slave seeking freedom, using the Underground Railroad, and being led by Harriet Tubman. Finally, you can invite a Civil Rights activist to speak to your class about Harriet Tubman.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


Slavery in America

The Harriet Tubman lesson plan includes three content pages. One of the worst events in the United States’ history was the buying and selling of African-American men, women, and children as slaves. Slaveowners forced people into slavery as their property. This happened primarily in the 1800s in the U.S. Slaveowners forced people to do whatever they wanted, and forced them to work long hours in bad conditions. Slaveowners often beat or even killed their slaves.

Colonists saw slavery as an acceptable practice during the Colonial Times in the 1600s. By the 1800s, some people’s attitudes about slavery started to change. The issue of slavery divided the country and it became one of the main issues in the Civil War. The Civil War happened between the northern and southern states.

Slave states, mostly found in the south, and free states, mostly in the north, fought. African-Americans had to secretly escape to the north to get out of slavery. Many people helped them on their journey, including a woman named Harriet Tubman.

Early Life of Harriet Tubman

Harriet Tubman was born in Maryland in 1820. Her name was originally Araminta Harriet Ross and her parents were both slaves. We don’t know her exact birthdate because they did not keep accurate records at the time. Tubman was one of nine children and they called her “Minty.”

Tubman’s early life was hard, like all slaves. The slaveowners who owned her family sold some of her siblings to other plantation owners, causing her family to break up. The slaveowners were physically abusive and violent and often beat Harriet and her family members. She had scars from these beatings for her entire life.

As a teenager, she refused to help a man capture a runaway slave and the man struck her in the head with a two-pound weight. She suffered from severe headaches, seizures, and other problems for her entire life. She also sometimes felt like she was in a dream, which she described as a religious experience.

They released her father from slavery at the age of 45, but her family kept living as slaves. He could not find work anywhere else and kept working on the same plantation. His wife and children did not have their freedom.

Around half of the African-American people in the area that she lived in were free, and some families had both free and enslaved people living and working together. Harriet married a free man named John Tubman in 1844, when she was 24.

We don’t know much about John Tubman’s life, their marriage, or their children. Harriet was still a slave and any children she had would have automatically become slaves too. She changed her name to Harriet from Minty and escaped from slavery five years later.

Harriet’s Escape from Slavery

Harriet’s owner died in 1849 and Harriet escaped from slavery. Two of her brothers escaped with her but changed their minds and returned to the plantation. The owners published a notice in a local newspaper offering a $300 reward for the return of Harriet and her brothers. She continued her journey and finally arrived 90 miles away, in Philadelphia.

The Underground Railroad helped her with her escape. This was not a real train on real tracks, but was groups of people, homes, and hiding places to help southern slave escape to the north. It was dangerous and slaves would travel at night to places about 10 to 20 miles apart. It started around 1810 and ended in the 1860s.

Around 100,000 slaves escaped using this network, including Harriet. She returned many times to help others, and we sometimes call her a Conductor. She was a hero to the folks she helped escaped. At one time, they offered a reward of $40,000 for her capture.

Harriet chose to risk her safety in the north by returning to help others, including her family, escape slavery. She guided her niece, parents, siblings, and around 60 other people to freedom. She took many trips back and forth along the Underground Railroad, and they gave her the nickname “Moses” in reference to a character from the Christian Bible who led thousands of people to freedom.

The Fugitive Slave Law passed in 1850. It stated that you could capture and return escaped slaves. This meant that people kidnapped and returned many former slaves.

Harriet changed the route that the Underground Railroad took to Canada in response to the law. Canada outlawed slavery everywhere. You could not capture and return the freed slaves once they were there.

Harriet worked for the Union Army as a cook and a nurse during the Civil War. She later became an armed scout and spy and was the first woman to lead an expedition in the war. She freed over 700 slaves in South Carolina by guiding the Combahee River Raid.

Harriet’s Later Life

Harriet purchased a small plot of land on the outskirts of Auburn, New York in 1859. She bought the land from an abolitionist, a person who was against slavery, named Senator William H. Seward. She brought many of her family and friends to live with her on the land.

After the war, she took care of her family and other people. She married Nelson Davis, a Civil War veteran, in 1869. Together, they adopted a girl named Gertie. Harriet became famous and had a great reputation, but she did not become financially secure until her late life when her friends, family, and supporters raised money to help her.

As she got older, her head injuries from her early life started to cause more problems, and she had to have brain surgery to help with the pain. She later lived in a rest home named in her honor. She died of pneumonia at roughly the age of 93, surrounded by her friends and family.

They buried her with honors at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York. They also honored her life with a plaque at the courthouse. We’ve named many schools and other place throughout the United States after her, like the Harriet Tubman Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Harriet Tubman became more famous after her death because of her heroic life and work. During the 1990s, a survey named Harriet Tubman one of the most famous civilians in American history. To this day, she inspires many generations of Americans fighting for civil rights.


The Harriet Tubman lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


For the activity, students will use each of the letters in Harriet Tubman’s name to describe her or tell a fact about her life. They will also shade and decorate the page with drawings or other related designs.


The practice worksheet asks students to first fill in the blanks in each statement using the words in the provided word banks. Next, they will match the person to the correct event. Finally, they will match the event to the correct number or year.


For the homework assignment, students will design and draw an advertisement asking people to donate money to help Harriet Tubman build a home on the land she purchased in 1859, including some facts about her life to help encourage donations.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the activity worksheet and the practice worksheet. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade


Biography, Social Studies

State Educational Standards

 LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.RI.5.3, LB.ELA-Literacy.SL.6.2

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Isabel A.

Harriet Tubman

Easy to follow with fun activities and good quizzes.

Allyson N.

Harriet Tubman

The pictures add to the text and the vocabulary is rich.

Gulsoom A.


Really useful resource, the kids really enjoyed learning about Harriet Tubman