Back to Projects

Dried Tears: Voices from the Time of Slavery

School: Polaris Charter Academy

City/State: Chicago, IL

Grade(s): 5

Format(s): Book

Subject(s): English Language Arts

Project Overview

Fifth grade students at the Polaris Charter Academy in Chicago, Illinois created this book as part of a study on slavery in the United States in the 1800s.

With the cooperation of the docents and staff from the Civil War Museum and Civil War re-enactors, they studied how history can be brought to life in order to gain the content knowledge. They also had creative and technical support from community members.

Each student produced a narrative in this collection and each narrative is accompanied by a piece of art done in bright watercolors with print overlays.

The book is 55 pages long and includes entries from 25 students. 


Models of Excellence recognizes the challenges of teaching students history that includes sensitive topics such as enslaved people, genocide, and human rights abuses. Student projects that involve topics like this should be planned with care for the emotional safety of students, respect for the people and cultures studied, and should use reliable primary and secondary sources so that content is not built upon assumptions or stereotypes. Written simulations (e.g., fictional diaries or documents) should be closely informed by student research, fieldwork, and adult experts. 

How This Project Can Be Useful

  • Highlights a format that helps make history come alive
  • Combination of artwork with strong student writing is very engaging
  • Excellent example of descriptive writing
  • Illustrates how a unique combination of narratives and artwork can create an emotional connection to the content

Common Core State Standards

Standard Long Term Learning Target
  • I can write narrative texts about real or imagined experiences using descriptive details and clearly sequenced events.
  • I can produce clear and coherent writing that is appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  • I can use conventions to send a clear message to my reader.
  • I can accurately use 5th grade academic vocabulary to express my ideas.
Back to Projects