Activity Overview

Starting a unit or lesson with the key vocabulary that students will see in their readings or presentations aids in overall comprehension and retention. In this activity, students will create a storyboard that defines and illustrates key vocabulary related to slavery in America. Each cell will contain a term, its definition and an illustration that depicts the meaning. When students define and illustrate each term, they master the application of it and retain it as part of their lexicon.

Vocabulary for Slavery in America:

Slavery: A condition in which one human being is owned by another. An enslaved person was considered by law as the property of their enslaver. An enslaved person had their human rights denied and was forced to work for another person.

Plantation: In the 1700s, a large farm usually found in the Southern colonies on which cash crops are grown most often with the labor of enslaved people.

Overseer: A person who was in charge of the work of enslaved people and could punish them for disobeying.

Slave Trade: The business of kidnapping, transporting, and selling people as slaves in exchange for goods.

Triangular Trade: The exchange of enslaved people and goods between Europe, the Americas, and West Africa, using shipping routes across the Atlantic Ocean.

Middle Passage: The voyage of slave ships across the Atlantic Ocean, from West Africa to the West Indies and the American continents. The conditions on slave ships were so horrific that many people died of malnourishment, disease, or even by suicide.

Slave Auction: A public sale in which people were sold like property as slaves to the highest bidders.

Fugitive Slave: Also known as a runaway slave. An enslaved person who escaped their enslaver in an attempt at freedom. Many tried to reach territories or states where slavery was banned.

Abolish: To put an end to. The Abolitionist Movement aimed to end slavery in the United States. Abolitionists were people who believed that the institution of slavery was immoral and should be abolished or ended.

Underground Railroad: The Underground Railroad was a term used for a network of people, homes, and hideouts that slaves in the Southern United States used to escape to freedom in the Northern United States and Canada.

Free state: A state in which it was not legal to own slaves.

Juneteenth: A holiday celebrated on the 19th of June to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved people in the U.S. Juneteenth (short for “June Nineteenth”) marks the day when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas in 1865 to take control of the state and ensure that all enslaved people were freed. The troops’ arrival came a full two and a half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation.

13th Amendment: The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime. The amendment was passed by Congress on January 31, 1865, and ratified by the required 27 of the then 36 states on December 6, 1865.

Indentured servant: Indentured servants signed a contract to work for a certain number of years, often in exchange for passage to the colonies and a plot of land at completion of the contract. Indentured servants might have suffered harsh treatment, but they were not enslaved. They had the possibility of being freed from their servitude after a period of time which was not possible for enslaved people.

Template and Class Instructions

(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Use This Assignment With My Students", update the instructions on the Edit Tab of the assignment.)

Due Date:

Objective: Create a storyboard that demonstrates your understanding of different words.

Student Instructions:

  1. Click "Start Assignment".
  2. In the title boxes, identify the key terms you have chosen.
  3. In the description boxes, write the definition of the term.
  4. Create an illustration for each term using appropriate scenes, characters, and items.
  5. Save and submit your storyboard.

Requirements: Must have 3 terms, correct definitions and appropriate illustrations for each that demonstrate your understanding of the words.

Lesson Plan Reference

Grade Level 3-6

Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)

Type of Assignment Individual or Partner

Type of Activity: Visual Vocabulary Boards

Common Core Standards
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/3] Apply knowledge of language to understand how language functions in different contexts, to make effective choices for meaning or style, and to comprehend more fully when reading or listening
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/4] Determine or clarify the meaning of unknown and multiple-meaning words and phrases based on grades 9-10 reading and content, choosing flexibly from a range of strategies
  • [ELA-Literacy/L/9-10/6] Acquire and use accurately general academic and domain-specific words and phrases, sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when considering a word or phrase important to comprehension or expression


(You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)

Define and illustrate each of the key terms.
7 Points
4 Points
1 Points
The vocabulary words are correctly defined.
The meaning of the vocabulary words can be understood but it is somewhat unclear.
The vocabulary word is not clearly defined
The storyboard illustrations clearly depict the meaning of the vocabulary words.
The illustrations relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words but it they are difficult to understand.
The illustrations do not clearly relate to the meaning of the vocabulary words.
Evidence of Effort
Work is well written and carefully thought out.
Work shows some evidence of effort.
Work shows little evidence of any effort.

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Slavery in America

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