Lesson Plan

Struggles and Successes of African Americans Shaping our Country

Project for Black History Month #withmathican
Lisa B.
Classroom teacher
Hershey Middle School
Hershey, United States
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My Grades 6, 7, 8
My Subjects Social Studies

Students will be able to...

  • problem-solve, by identifying important and relevant information on the database and other approved research resources
  • analyze text to provide evidence to support claims how an African American shaped history or culture 
  • fearlessly share their thinking through an ebook with their essay and visual story
  • the project celebrates the failures that people have made, and students potentially will made, but that they overcome to be successful, which fosters a growth mindset.
Social Studies
Grades 6 – 8
All Notes
Teacher Notes
Student Notes

1 Hook

Before watching the videos, ask students what prior knowledge they have about the Civil Rights Movement and/or Martin Luther King Jr.

BrainPop offers both free and subscription videos on important figures in the Civil Rights Movement and the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. The video about Martin Luther King Jr. is available for everyone.

After the video, let the students ask questions they have. Ask what barriers MLK had to overcome. Point out that the struggle was not quickly solved, the Civil Rights Movement lasted from the 1950’s to the 1960’s.

2 Story Time

Activity: Reading

Read the book Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom by Lynda Blackmon Lowery. There is an interview with the author on Time for Kids that provides a brief overview of the book. Each chapter has something Lynda as a child has to conquer. If you are reading as a class, have students volunteer to explain the challenges. 

3 Text Dependent Analysis

Actively Learn
Free, Paid

Select a primary source or other non-fiction text that focuses on the contributions of African Americans in American history or culture. For example, there is a letter written by Martin Luther King Jr while he was in jail in Birmingham, Alabama. Actively Learn highlights selected text and asks students to answer questions or it provides a statement and asks them to find the section of text that would support the statement.

Newsela focuses on recent news topics. The short quizzes also ask students multiple choice questions and to analyze the text by selecting the text that best supports a statement. 

Before moving on, debrief with the students. Ask them which questions were challenging and why? Since the websites give the students immediate feedback, you could ask them if there were any questions they did not agree with? What reading strategies could they use to help find the answers easier?

4 Research and Write

Google Drive
Free, Paid
Free, Paid

Many significant people in American history have faced obstacles and failure before they shaped history. As you do research on your selected inspirational figure, think about when they failed and what they did to turn it around into success.

Provide the students a GoogleDocs or paper graphic organizer (https://goo.gl/3fojWl) for the information they must find and recommendations for what will help them write a descriptive paragraph about their African American. After reading about their figure, the students should write a claim statement demonstrating that the person they are researching had failure before they had success. If the students use a Google Doc to fill in a graphic organizer and write their paragraph, the teacher can use the comment feature in Docs to provide questions to prompt the student thinking or ask clarifying questions for students to ponder. By breaking the research into chunks, students will be less likely to quit. Students can also utilize the comment feature on the GoogleDoc. If they need guidance from the teacher, they can include +teacher’s name in the comment and it automatically emails the teacher.  

There are many online databases for research; many articles provides a citation at the bottom of the page.  If students are using other resources for the research, they can use EasyBib to cite their own sources.

5 Creation

Book Creator
Free, Paid

Students will turn their paragraph about the challenges that their influential African American overcame to help shape American history or culture into an ebook with the Book Creator app. Each student will create a 3 page book. The first page is information about the student: name and class period. The inner two pages will be a biographical summary with images on one page, and the paragraph essay on the second page. Each student can AirDrop their work to a student assigned as the book editor. The essays can be combined into a single class book that can be shared with classmates and parents.

Students will be problem solvers for each other. There will not be formal training on using Book Creator. Most of the functions are self-explanatory, but if they want to get creative they will be encouraged to problem solve together. 

6 Wrap Up

Free, Paid

Students will have the opportunity to read the essay’s that their classmates wrote. As a class, discuss the types of challenges and struggles that people faced before being successful. Based on the discussion, create a timeline to show the path of failure to success.  

Concluding conversation as a class: What challenges do we face in our life? What can we do to pick ourselves back up and try again?