The Civil Rights Movement btt learning Unit By V. DeLoach Emotional Connection



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The Civil Rights Movement

BTT Learning Unit

By V. DeLoach
Emotional Connection


  1. Introduction To The Unit - Students will experience discrimination based on things that they cannot control for one day. Each day of the week discriminate against students of a particular eye color (Monday-brown eyes, Tuesday-green eyes, Wednesday-blue eyes, Thursday-other eye colors). These students should sit by themselves in the lunchroom, sit on the wall for the last half of recess, drink from a different water fountain that is far away from the classroom, etc. On Friday, ask the students to write a short paper about the feelings that they experienced on the day that they were being discriminated against. (Before completing this activity: Receive permission from the principal. Send a note home to parents describing the activity and the learning objectives that you have in mind for the lesson.)

  2. Have students create a KWL chart about the civil rights movement.

  3. Show students samples of artwork from the civil rights period. Discuss what the story in the picture might be. Discuss feelings and impressions that they get from the piece.

  4. Hang student work on the inside walls, outside walls, and bulletin boards.

  5. Throughout the unit, play different songs from the civil rights era and discuss the emotional message conveyed by the song. What was the singer feeling? How did it affect people during the civil rights era?

  6. Allow students choice in the way they represent different ideas or in the topics/people they wish to study on a deeper level.

Physical Environment


  1. Arrange desks in clusters or four so that students can work cooperatively.

  2. Display the words “I Have A Dream…” at the top of a bulletin board. Student work will be hung on this board in a few days.

  3. Display pictures and artwork depicting the world of the civil rights movement era.

  4. In the reading center, provide students with various books about the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, school desegregation, Afro-American culture, etc. for students to read and look at.

  5. Play quite classical music while students are doing quiet seatwork.

  6. Each day display an object, word, picture, etc. that demonstrates a piece of pop culture from the civil rights era. Use this as a way to create visual novelty daily while keeping children interested in the topic while they relate it to their lives.

  7. Collect “artifacts” (real or imitation) from the civil rights periods for students to look at and touch. This will help students to connect with the reality of the time.

  8. Place scented oils discretely around the classroom to stimulate the brain.

  9. Hang a timeline with major events that took place during the Civil Rights Era.

  10. Throughout the unit, play different songs from the civil rights era and discuss the emotional message conveyed by the song. What was the singer feeling? How did it affect people during the civil rights era?

  11. After talking about Martin Luther King Jr. and the March On Washington listen all or part of King’s “I Have A Dream” speech.



Designing The Learning Experience
Kansas State History Standard: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of significant individuals, groups, ideas, events, eras, and developments in the history of Kansas, the United States, and the world, utilizing essential analytical and research skills.

Benchmark 1: The student understands the significances of important individuals and major developments in history.

Benchmark 2: The student understands the importance of the experiences of groups of people who have contributed to the richness of our heritage.

Benchmark 3: The student understands the significance of events, holidays, documents, and symbols that are important to Kansas, United States and World history.

Benchmark 4: The student engages in historical thinking skills.
Learning Goal: Students demonstrate their previous knowledge about the civil rights era. Students begin to think about what happened during the struggle for civil rights and what life would have been like before and during the civil rights period.


  1. Give each student a copy of the top two rows of the flowchart for the unit. In their groups of four, have them write in any information they already know about the topics to be covered underneath the titles. Share these responses with the class and write students responses on a large copy of the flowchart.

  2. Have students fill out a KWL chart with regards to the civil rights era.

  3. Have students write a short (one page) paper about what they think, based on what they know now, life would have been like for an African American child before and during the civil rights movement. (Put in Civil Rights Portfolio)





Teaching For Declarative and Procedural Knowledge
Discrimination Against African Americans

  1. Students read in their textbook about the discrimination experienced by African Americans. They make a T-Chart comparing the rights of “Blacks” and “Whites”. (Put in Civil Rights Portfolio)

  2. Give each seating group the name of a place/situation where African Americans faced discrimination (ex. on the bus, in the school, at the soda shop). Allow each group to use the other books in the reading area to learn more about their form of discrimination. Each group should prepare a short (2-4 minute) skit to perform to the class to illustrate the kind of discrimination they became experts on.

Martin Luther King Jr.-The March On Washington

  1. Give each student a “Martin’s Big Words” worksheet. Each group should have a different word written in the first blank of their sheet. Have each group define what they think the word means then look up the word in the dictionary and write the definition. Read Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport to the entire class. Listen to a recording/watch a movie of Martin Luther King Jr’s speech. Then have each student write a sentence using his/her word as it relates to King’s speech. Each student should illustrate his/her sentence. (Put in Civil Rights Portfolio)

  2. Have each students write three to five sentences based on the prompt “I Have A Dream” about a change they would like to see in their world (ex. no more pollution, no people would be slaves, people would know how to stay safe from accidents). Each student should illustrate his/her dream. Hang them on the bulletin board with the words “I Have A Dream…”. (Grade along with Civil Rights Portfolio)

Rosa Parks-The Montgomery Bus Boycott

  1. Ask students about a time when they stood up and did what was right even though it might have been difficult. Allow several students to share their stories. Discuss what was wrong, what they did when they stood up for right, how what they did/did not change the situation, and how they felt afterwards.

  2. Read students a story about Rosa Parks. Afterwards, have them create a timeline of the events surrounding Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycotts. (Put in Civil Rights Portfolio)

Discrimination In The Schools-Ruby Bridges

  1. Talk about what it would be like to go to school and be the only person who has the color skin that you do. What would you feel like? What if all of the other children stopped coming to school and you were the only student in your classroom? How would you feel? Read The Story Of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. Make a list of adjectives that could be used to describe Ruby Bridges (ex. courageous, hopeful, brave). Have each student pick the adjective that they think best describes Ruby Bridges and write a page about why they think that word describes her best. (Put in Civil Rights Portfolio)

  2. Show students “The Problem We All Live With”. This painting by Norman Rockwell depicts a child (perhaps Ruby Bridges) being escorted to school by federal marshals. Ask students what they think it would be like to have to have federal marshals walk them to school so that they will be safe. Discuss the painting and the feeling that students imagine the little girl is feeling. Have students write and illustrate a journal entry as if they were the little girl in the painting. Hang these journal entries under the painting in the classroom.

Martin’s Big Word: ___________________________________
I Think It Means: _____________________________________

____________________________________________________


The Dictionary Says:___________________________________

________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Dr. Martin Luther King Junior Thought:___________________

____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________



Teaching For Extension and Application Of Knowledge


  1. Create a Venn diagram comparing your school experience with what school would have been like before or during the desegregation of schools. Write a journal entry about what it would have been like to be an African American student being bused to a desegregated school.

  2. Bring in members of the community (both African and Caucasian Americans) who were either parents of children or children (preferred) during the civil rights era. Teach the class about how to create questions and conduct an interview. Each group of four students should come up with five to ten questions to ask about their community member’s life during the civil rights era. Allow students to talk with their community member in the classroom or another monitored area of the school. When students are done with their interview, each students should write and illustrate a storybook of their community member’s memories. Place students into four groups, with one person representing each community member in each group, allow students to read each other their stories. Send each community member a thank you note from the students who interviewed him/her.

  3. Provide students with newspapers, magazines, construction paper, and other art supplies. Give each group of four students a large sheet of paper and allow them to work together, using their combined talents, to create a mural/collage about how and why we should treat others with kindness and respect. Hang the mural/collages outside of the classroom.

  4. Outside Of Class Activity: Provide students with a list of famous people in art, sports, or music who had a major influence on or were strongly influenced by the civil rights era. Each student should research the person of their choice on the internet (do this in class) and write a short (1.5-2 pages handwritten) about the person and how they were a part of the civil rights period. Students should then pick a creative way to “present” their person to the class (ex. poster with pictures, scrapbook of the person’s life using photos, a short skit about the person, a song about the person, etc). Students will give a 3-6 minute presentation to the class about the person they researched.

  5. Visit http://www.voicesofcivilrights.org/history.html with the students. Allow them to explore the interactive timeline and to look at the pictures. Discuss what you see and what you learn about.

Evaluating Learning


  1. Check portfolio projects for understanding. Review and reassess if needed.

    1. Journal from the perspective of what life was like before and during the civil rights era

    2. “Black” vs. “White” rights T-chart

    3. Worksheet about “Martin’s Big Words”

    4. “I Have A Dream…” sentence and illustration

    5. Rosa Parks Timeline

    6. Ruby Bridges adjective paper

    7. “The Problem We All Live With” journal entry response

  2. Check Venn diagram for accurate information and organization.

  3. Use a rubric to evaluate interview storybooks. Allow students to assess each other’s books using a rubric.

  4. Use a writing-scoring rubric to grade student’s papers about a famous person. Use a rubric to evaluate student’s creative projects and presentations.

  5. Have students self evaluate using KWL chart.

  6. Administer an end of unit test.


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