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Literature Unit Ideas for Follow the Drinking Gourd (31 Days of Literature Unit Ideas)

Leah Courtney
This post is part of the 31 Days of Literature Unit Ideas series. You can find all of the books in the series here. If you'd like to use this book as a literature unit study, you can find a FREE printable guide below.

I was first introduced to this book as part of a planetarium show at our local museum. I really liked the story, and I realized that reading it gave the opportunity to talk about history as well as science concepts. Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter is a book about the Underground Railroad. It's based on a song by the same name that was taught to the slaves to help them follow the constellations to the North and freedom.

Literature unit study for Follow the Drinking Gourd: study of the Underground Railroad and constellations
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About the book...

A man names Peg Leg Joe helps slaves flee to the North and guides them to the Underground Railroad. When he works on Southern plantations, he teaches the slaves a song that will guide them using seasons and constellations. A man, his wife, and son, along with two other slaves, use the words of the song to help them reach safety.

The book will be appealing to even younger children because of the rhythm and rhyme and the bright, boldly colored illustrations. But, although it's a picture book, it's a good one to use with older elementary-aged kids to discuss slavery and those who helped the slaves to escape.

History connections: Slavery and the Underground Railroad

Science connections: Stars and Constellations

Other resources...


If you would like to use this book as a literature unit study, you can get a FREE, printable guide here.

Leah Courtney / Author & Editor

Leah Courtney is a homeschooling mom of four. She’s graduated two teens- one who’s a legal adult now! And she’s still homeschooling two middle schoolers. She loves all things book related, and in her- very rare- free time you can find her listening to audiobooks and coloring.


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