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Lesson Plan

Forced To Flee: Famine And Plague by Discovery Education

Course, Subject

Global History and Geography, Social Studies (NYS K-12 Framework Common Core)

Grade Levels

Intermediate, 6th Grade, 7th Grade, 8th Grade


Students will

  • review important facts about the Irish Potato Famine;
  • explore primary resources related to the famine; and
  • create a classroom mural about the experience of the famine.


  • Computer with Internet access
  • Print and online resources
  • Color printer
  • Scissors
  • Paper, pencils, markers


Review facts about the Irish Potato Famine.

Where did it occur? (Ireland) When did it occur? (1845-1850)
What happened to the potato crops? (A fungus from Mexico infected them.)
Why was this so devastating? (Potatoes were Ireland's main crop and food source.)
How did most landlords respond to tenants who couldn't pay their rent? (They evicted tenants from their homes, which were often torn down.)
What happened to the people? (More than a million died; some were sent to crowded, disease-ridden work houses; more than a million emigrated to America on in dirty, overcrowded coffin ships.)


  1. Ask students to describe how they think the Irish felt during the famine. (Answers may include angry, helpless, sad, hungry, tired, and hopeless).

  2. Tell students that they will explore primary sources that describe life in Ireland during the famine. These sources include personal accounts, newspaper articles, photographs, drawings, songs, and poems. Working with partners, students will select at least three sources from which to create a collage. If they highlight a newspaper article, personal account, or long poem, have them select one descriptive or powerful excerpt. Students should then print or copy the items and create a collage to present to the class.

  3. Allow students to use print and online resources in their research. The following Web sites provide a wealth of images and text.

  4. Give students one class period to research and collect their sources about the famine. Then have them create a small collage on a plain white piece of paper, clearly labeling each item.

  5. In their presentations, students should explain what each item reveals about the famine experience. Pin each collage on a classroom bulletin board to create a mural. As a class, discuss what students have learned. What were some of the most powerful images or words? Which personal stories, images, or documents do they think they'll remember?


Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson.

  • Three points: Students showed a strong understanding of the Irish Potato Famine; gathered at least five appropriate sources for their collage; developed a creative and comprehensive collage; clearly presented their collage to the class; and participated actively in class discussions.
  • Two points: Students showed a satisfactory understanding of the Irish Potato Famine; gathered four or five appropriate sources for their collage; developed a competent collage; presented their collage to the class with adequate explanation; and participated somewhat in class discussions.
  • One point: Students showed a satisfactory understanding of the Irish Potato Famine; gathered three or fewer appropriate sources for their collage; developed an unsatisfactory collage; presented no explanations about the collage; and did not participate in class discussions.


For "The Black Death" segment: As a class, review how the Black Plague spread from Asia throughout Europe. What caused the plague? Would a plague of this nature have the same devastating effect in Europe today? Why or why not? (No, the plague was caused by a bacterium, which would be treated with antibiotics today.) Have students use print and online resources to learn more about the Black Plague. (The following site is a good starting point, with an overview, map, images, and personal quotes: http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/plague.htm .)


Forced To Flee: Famine And Plague

Content Provider

Discovery Education

Discovery Education offers a breadth and depth of digital media content that is immersive, engaging and brings the world into the classroom to give every student a chance to experience fascinating people, places, and events. All content is aligned to state standards, can be aligned to custom curriculum, and supports classroom instruction regardless of the technology platform.

Whether looking for a digital media library service, an implementation to help you transition your classroom to a 21st century environment or to move completely to replace textbooks with digital resources, Discovery Education offers a continuum of solutions to meet your district's specific needs. In addition, we offer real-time assessment services and a variety of professional development to ensure effective implementation in the classroom. You know your needs. We know our services. Together we can create an effective solution.

And, add the vast number of additional classroom instruction opportunities available such as virtual experiences, compelling Discovery talent, free lesson plans and materials, and a variety of contests and challenges and with Discovery Education teachers are truly able to give students opportunities to soar beyond the traditional textbook for endless possibilities.

Credits: Joy Brewster, curriculum writer, editor, and consultant

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