Frederick Douglass: Inspiration for a Growth Mindset


February is Black History Month, an excellent opportunity to educate our students about the many influential Black Americans who have made significant contributions to our country. Frederick Douglass is an example of a person who had many outstanding achievements – despite all the obstacles he encountered in his life. He is the type of person I want my students to gain inspiration from because he sets a great example of having a growth mindset.

Teaching students about black history can go beyond learning just the facts. It’s an opportunity for them to learn about the struggles, but also the triumphs that demonstrate a desire to persevere.

Learning about Frederick Douglass’ life led me to create a resource for upper elementary students that combined learning the facts of his life and teaching it in a way that inspires them.

What important things did Frederick Douglass do?

There are three main focuses of the text of this resource:

  • Enslaved at the age of 7, and still learned to read by watching the white children and adults around him
  • Escaped from slavery in 1838
  • Became a great speaker, writer, and statesman

Of course, his life was more complicated than these three bullet points.

But, these are the three that inspired me to see how he could become a model of a growth mindset for my students.

Reading about Frederick Douglass

There are several books about Frederick Douglass that are a good read for kids:

  • Who Was Frederick Douglass? April Jones Prince
  • A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass, David A. Adler
  • Words Set Me Free: The Story of Young Frederick Douglass, Lisa Cline-Ransome

Any of these books will help round out students’ knowledge and understanding of Frederick Douglass’ life and could be read before or after using this activity pack.

Frederick Douglass Activities for the Classroom

Reading Passage

Anytime I can include reading in a Social Studies lesson, I do it. I want my students to read across the curriculum, especially non-fiction. This two-page passage will give students a good understanding of who Frederick Douglass was and why he is an important person in history.

Graphic Organizer and Comprehension Questions

During and after reading, students take notes and respond to the text. These 4 pages from this resource can be used for whole group reading lessons or in guided reading groups as a stand-alone reading resource.

Timeline and Vocabulary Activities

Understanding the sequence of events helps the reader comprehend the person’s life so much better. This cut-and-paste timeline is the perfect activity for students to complete after reading. A vocabulary match activity will help students build their vocabulary and comprehend the text better. Both of these tasks would make good center activities during your Black History study.

Growth Mindset Connection

Tying Frederick Douglass’ life and achievements to a growth mindset was an easy connection. These activities will help your students learn how real people overcome adversity and persevere despite the challenges.

If you want more tips for teaching a growth mindset, this post can help: Teach Your Students How to Have a Growth Mindset Like These Famous People.

Frederick Douglass Writing Activity

I have included four different activities for your students to do that will help them learn and understand how Frederick Douglass’ life can be an inspiration for how to have a growth mindset.

Frederick Douglass Partner Activity and Word Search
  • Writing Activity – Students will explain why he is a good example of growth mindset.
  • Growth Mindset Inspiration Activity – Students can reflect in writing on how they can use his life as inspiration. Students can then color the clip art on the page. These would make a wonderful bulletin board display!
  • Partner Activity – Pair students up to brainstorm challenges they face each day and possible solutions.
  • Growth Mindset Word Search – This fun activity is perfect for bell work, homework, or as a partner activity.

If this looks like an activity that you would like to use in your classroom, grab it here.

Don’t have time right now? Save this pin to your Black History month board on Pinterest!

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