Thurgood Marshall: Brown vs. Board of Education

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Thurgood Marshall: Brown vs. Board of Education


Circle of Knowledge


Lesson Plan


Social Studies

Grade Range:



Thurgood Marshall: Brown vs. Board of Education


90+ Minutes


Michele Mark

Instructional Unit Content

Standard(s)/Element(s)/Content Area Standard

SS3H2 The student will discuss the life of Thurgood Marshall and his efforts to expand people's rights and freedoms in a democracy.

a. Discuss Thurgood Marshall and his efforts to expand our rights through civil rights and the Supreme Court of the United States.

b. Explain social barriers, restrictions, and obstacles that Thurgood Marshall had to overcome and how he was able to succeed
TAG Standard: Higher Order and Critical Thinking Skills

Summary/Overview: The focus of this lesson is to give students opportunities to discuss the complex motivations and reactions of characters that transcend historical settings through compare and contrast. Thurgood Marshall and his contributions to expanding our rights and freedoms.


Enduring Understanding(s)

At the end of this unit the student will understand that

  • Many people overcome obstacles to help expand people’s rights and freedoms of people in our democracy

  • The natural world and people around us shape what we do.

  • People must choose how to use limited resources.

  • In a market economy, governments collect taxes for a variety of reasons.

  • Consumers and producers are interdependent because of specialization, and both benefit from voluntary exchange.

Essential Question(s): How did Thurgood Marshall expand the rights and freedoms of people in our country? How did the actions of government impact Thurgood Marshall? How were Thurgood Marshall’s actions related to the actions of others?

Concept(s) to Maintain


  • Supreme Court Justice

  • Civil Rights

  • Desegregation


Evidence of Learning

What students should know:

  • Students will explain that Thurgood Marshall was an important American who expanded people's rights and freedoms in a democracy (SS3H2) through activities and accomplishments never before performed by a black attorney.

  • Students will explain that as a result of his hard and diligent work, Thurgood Marshall overcame social barriers, restrictions such as segregation, and obstacles (SS3H2b) to rise to a position to argue civil rights cases before the Supreme Court, and then finally was appointed to the Court (SS3Ha).

Suggested Vocabulary

  • Debate

  • Freedom of conscience and expression

  • Segregation

  • Justice

  • Civil Rights

  • Citizen

  • Authority

  • Separate but Equal


Phase 1: Sparking the Discussion (Hook)

  1. Call for volunteers to answer the following questions: “What are some examples of privileges or opportunities that some people get and others don’t? Have you ever experienced a privilege or opportunity when your peer hasn’t? How is perfect attendance like this? What are some possible causes?” Pose the question: “How might two different groups of people be offered different opportunities?” Provide students time to jot down their thoughts and share thoughts with a partner. Select a few students to respond.

Phase 2: Acquiring Content Needed to Participate in Discussion

  1. Pose the essential (focus) question: “Why is conflict likely when two or more groups, each with a strong sense of citizenship, disagree on Brown vs. Board of Education?” Activate prior knowledge by having students create at least 1 sentence using at least three words from the Word Splash; Have the students share 1 sentence they created from the word splash.

  1. Students will review the articles; Group 1 will read, “Issue: Racial Segregation in Public Schools”; Group 2 will read, “Thurgood Marshall was America”; Group 3 will read, “Separate but Equal”; and Group 4 will read, “What was the Board of Education’s Argument in Brown vs. Board of Education”; The students will take notes on the information using the supplied graphic organizer.

Phase 3: Kindling the Discussion

  1. Students will use their notes and the Questioning Cube to answer and have small group discussions.

  1. In whole group, students will participate in a discussion driven by the following questions: Why is conflict likely when two or more groups, each with a strong sense of ethnic group, attend the same school? As an American student, what shapes your point of view regarding segregation? Did your point of view change as a result of the readings and/or small group discussions?

Phase 4: Synthesis Activity

  1. Students will sort the quotes about segregation and desegregation. Pose the question: If these people represented our past, how would you change things in the future? Each student will select a quote with which s/he can most identify and pose a solution for what they can do in the future to create equality in schools.

Summarizing Activity

  • 3-2-1 Exit Ticket


Anchor Text(s):

“Issue: Racial Segregation in Public Schools”

“Thurgood Marshall was America”

“Separate but Equal”

“What was the Board of Education’s Argument in Brown vs. Board of Education”

Handout 1: Word Splash

Handout 2: Issue: Racial Segregation in Public Schools

Handout 3: Thurgood Marshall was America

Handout 4: Separate but Equal

Handout 5: What was the Board of Education’s Argument in Brown vs. Board of Education

Handout 5: Notes Organizer

Handout 6: Questioning Cubes

Handout 7: Quotes for synthesis

Handout 8: 3-2-1

Revised April 2009

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