February is Black History Month. If you're like me, you have little time in your day to fit in extra learning when it doesn't align with the required curriculum. But there is so much rich history to be learned by studying the important historical figures that we celebrate in February! Since our social studies block has all but been eliminated by walk-to-intervention time, I'm planning to integrate Black History Month into my language arts block. If you look at the Common Core Standards, you'll see that many of the "Speaking and Listening" standards provide a perfect opportunity to read, learn, and talk about African-American history.
One of my favorite books to read aloud is My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. written by his own son. It gives a new perspective to the story of Dr. King, one that the children can relate to... a proud son talking about his loving father. I will read this book in January, since that's when we celebrate MLK's birthday. But, it's a great way to start a study of African-American history anytime.
After reading this book, I give students an opportunity to write about their own fathers. This allows for making text-to-self connections and integrates writing into our studies.
We follow up the book and writing with the video Our Friend, Martin and an interactive booklet that involves main idea, text features, vocabulary, and context clues.
(You can view Our Friend, Martin for free on youtube!)
After completing our studies of Dr. King, we start researching other important figures in African-American history: Rosa Parks, Mae Jemison, Frederick Douglass, Jackie Robinson, Booker T. Washington, and Mary McLeod Bethune are a few that we focus on.
The students get to choose one of the above people to research with their group. They use the facts they learn to create a poster, write a short biographical report, and then present it in front of the class.
We have the advantage of being just a few miles away from Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach. A field trip to the college and Mary McLeod's home isn't always possible, but we can pretty easily bring in a speaker from the college to talk about her life and accomplishments.
Most communities have some sort of African-American organization that can provide speakers to schools. One to try is the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs. Listening to a speaker, asking questions, and talking about what they learned are important skills for our students to learn.
Have fun celebrating Black History Month!