7th Grade New York

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

This seventh grade annotated inquiry provides students with an opportunity to explore how words affect public opinion through an examination of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Students will investigate historical sources related to the novel and reactions in the North and South in order to address the compelling question, “Can words lead to war?” This query takes advantage of the mixed messages students often receive about the power of words. Students’ understanding about how words can make a difference is often grounded in discussions of words used to bully, instead of the power of words to encourage reform. This is an ANNOTATED inquiry with additional information on the questions, tasks, and sources within.

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Compelling Question:

Can Words lead to war?

Staging the Question: Consider the power of words and examine a video of students using words to try to bring about positive change.
1

Supporting Question How did Harriet Beecher Stowe describe slavery in Uncle Tom’s Cabin?

Formative Task Write a summary of the plot of Uncle Tom’s Cabin that includes main ideas and supporting details from Stowe’s description of slavery in the book.

Sources Source A: Summary of Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Source B: Excerpts from Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Source C: Illustrations from Uncle Tom’s Cabin

2

Supporting Question What led Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin?

Formative Task List four quotes in the sources that point to Stowe’s motivation and write a paragraph explaining her motivation.

Sources Source A: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s concluding remarks to Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Source B: Letter from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Lord Thomas Denman

3

Supporting Question How did people in the North and South react to Uncle Tom’s Cabin?

Formative Task Make a T-chart comparing viewpoints expressed in newspaper reviews of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and make a claim about the differences.

Sources Source A: Review of Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in the Boston Morning Post
Source B: Review of Uncle Tom’s Cabin published in the Southern Press Review

4

Supporting Question How did Uncle Tom’s Cabin affect abolitionism?

Formative Task Participate in a structured discussion regarding the impact Uncle Tom’s Cabin had on abolitionism.

Sources Source A: Excerpt from Charles Sumner’s Senate speech
Source B: Article by John Ball Jr. published in The Liberator
Source C: Sales of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1851–1853

Summative Performance Task

Argument: Can words lead to war? Construct an argument (e.g., detailed outline, poster, essay) that discusses the impact of Uncle Tom’s Cabin using specific claims and relevant evidence from historical sources, while acknowledging competing views.
Extension: Create an educational video of the argument that responds to the compelling question “Can words lead to war?”

Taking Informed Action

Understand: Identify and describe a human rights issue that needs to be addressed (e.g., child labor, trafficking, or poverty).
Assess: Create a list of possible actions that involve words. This may include letters, editorials, social media, videos, and protests.
Act: Choose one of the options and implement it as an individual, small group, or class project.