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46 Differentiated Lessons for Black History Month

Celebrating Black History Month: Making connections through critical reading and writing

Black History Month reminds us all of the importance of celebrating the contributions and impact of African Americans on our country. This national observance calls attention to the significance of understanding and acknowledging the past. It provides us all with an opportunity to learn about powerful leaders and activists and to reflect upon the struggles faced both in the past as well as today.

This year, we encourage you to make Black History Month even more memorable and meaningful for your students using our curated bank of close reading and argumentative writing lessons. These lessons give teachers a format for helping students learn more about our great black leaders and provides them with an outlet to explore historical challenges as they pertain to us today. Using ThinkCERCA’s essential questions as a guide, students can make relevant connections to social justice and civil rights through an in-class discussion or writing lesson. By providing this safe space, students may feel comfortable enough to discuss their own experiences, celebrate the gains in equality, and share their ideas for the future.

Reading Practice

Martin Luther King, Jr. What made Martin Luther King, Jr. such an inspiring leader? (Grades 3-5; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

An Experiment in Discrimination Why was Mrs. Elliott’s experiment so powerful? (Grades 3-5; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Freedom Under Cover How might quilts have helped people escape from slavery? (Grades 3-5; CCSS.RI.6)

The Doll Experiment How did the Clarks’ doll experiment impact the United States? (Grades 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

A Landmark Concert 75 Years Ago What statement did Eleanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson want to make through the Freedom Concert? (Grades 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.4)

A Long, Hard March Why was the Selma to Montgomery march an effective form of protest for the people involved in the civil rights movement? (Grades 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Thomas Garrett and the Underground Railroad What was Thomas Garrett's contribution to society during a time of slavery? (Grades 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

The Harlem Renaissance What conditions made the Harlem Renaissance possible? (Grades 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Harriet Tubman, The Woman Called Moses What events led to Harriet Tubman's participation in the Underground Railroad? (Grades 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.3)

All Aboard the Underground Railroad Why should modern students study the importance of the Underground Railroad? (Grades 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

A Legacy for the Future How did President Truman break down racial barriers in the United States? (Grade 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

"Don't Go to Memphis" Why was the work Martin Luther King, Jr. was doing in Memphis meaningful? (Grades 6-8; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

Tracing a Line from the First Black Slave to the First Black President Why is President Barack Obama’s heritage important to America’s history? (Grades 9-10; CCSS.CCRA.R.4)

Gorée: Door of No Return Are visits to the historical sites at Goree an effective way for people to learn about the horrors of the slave trade? (Grades 9-10; CCSS.CCRA.R.2)

Wilma Rudolph: The Potential for Greatness What made Wilma Rudolph an American hero? (Grades 9-10; CCSS.CCRA.R.5)

Timely Leader What made Martin Luther King Jr. an American hero? (Grades 9-10; CCSS.CCRA.R.5)

My Song Is "My Weapon" In what ways was Paul Robeson influenced by his own past to use his role as a famous artist to influence change in the lives of others? (Grades 9-10; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

United Nations Unveils Slavery Memorial Why should modern students study the historical legacy of the slave trade? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Study of Recent Popular Movies Finds Minorities Are Under-Represented Why are minorities under-represented in popular movies? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Massive Nonviolence How did nonviolent protests in Birmingham affect the civil rights movement? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.10)

Race and College Admissions Should colleges and universities consider race when admitting students? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Missouri Players Show the Power of Unity Through Boycott What role do college athletes have in shaping social consciousness? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.8)

U.S. Support for Satirizing Religion Breaks along Racial Lines, Pew Survey Finds What is the author's analysis of the recent Pew Survey and its implications regarding the ways culture impacts our attitudes toward religious humor? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.4)

The 1936 Berlin Olympics Boycott Debate Should the United States have boycotted the 1936 Berlin Olympics? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.1)

Writing Lessons

Multiday Informational Text: "The Power of a Voice" and "Eleanor Roosevelt and Marian Anderson Based on the evidence from different points of view represented in these accounts of Marian Anderson and Eleanor Roosevelt's work together, how were the two women able to help break down racial segregation in the United States? (Grades 5; CCSS.CCRA.RI.9; CCSS.W.1)

Voices of the Few Does the author build an effective argument about the dangers of group decision-making through his examination of democracy, which he claims has suffered from the “tyranny of the majority”? (Grade 7; CCSS.RI.7.3; CCSS.W.7.1)

Homeless to Howard How did Ward and Sutherland work together to give Ward and others better opportunities for higher education? (Grade 8; CCSS.RI.8.3; CCSS.W.8.2)

Who Are We? New Dialogue on Mixed Race What problems do those with multiracial backgrounds face due to the way our society categorizes race? (Grade 8; CCSS.RI.8.4; CCSS.W.8.1)

High School Teams Can Wear 'I Can't Breathe' T-shirts After All Do political protests at school events unfairly overshadow the event? Why or why not? (Grade 8; CCSS.CCRA.R.1; CCSS.W.8.1)

Multiday Short Fiction: An Old-Time Christmas How does Paul Laurence Dunbar illustrate the challenges African Americans faced in salvaging important family memories and traditions that were rooted in the painful history of slavery? (Grade 9; CCSS.RL.9-10.2; CCSS.W.9-10.1)

I’m Black Enough How does the author use an informal tone to provide readers with a sophisticated analysis of how words and phrases reveal modern-day racial issues? (Grade 9; CCSS.RI.9-10.4; CCSS.W.9-10.1)

Multiday Short Memoir: Bridges Why was Myers so devastated that he did not know his father was unable to read until his father’s death? (Grade 9; CCSS.RL.9-10.2; CCSS.W.9-10.1)

Jackie Robinson: Civil Rights on the Playing Field How does the way in which the author chooses to unfold the events in the life of Jackie Robinson make a strong case that Robinson should be considered an American hero? (Grade 9; CCSS.RI.9-10.3; CCSS.W.9-10.2)

Hiram Rhodes Revels Was America's First Black U. S. Senator How does the author's retelling of events in Revels's life help make a convincing case that he was a good choice to be a U.S. senator? (Grade 10; CCSS.RI.9-10.3; CCSS.W.9-10.2)

The Memphis Sanitation Strike How did the sanitation strike of 1968 change history? Analyze the details shown in both the print article and the photographs to determine your answer. (Grade 10; CCSS.RI.9-10.7; CCSS.W.9-10.1)

"See You On the Other Side!" My Family, 2 Presidents, and the African American Dream How does the author use the story of his family to make the argument that the idea of the American Dream can play an important role in our personal and national histories? (Grade 10; CCSS.RI.9-10.2; )

Cotton and the Civil War How did cotton farming affect the world economy during the Civil War? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.RH.11-12.9; CCSS.WHST.11-12.1)

Excerpt from “The Birth of Race-Based Slavery” According to Peter H. Wood, how was the institution of slavery transformed from 1650 to 1700 to exploit "black people"? (Grades 11-12; CCSS.CCRA.R.1; CCSS.WHST.11-12.2)

Multiday Informational Text: excerpt from Notes of A Native Son How did James Baldwin's firsthand experience with racism and the death of his father shape his identity? (Grade 12; CCSS.RI.11-12.2; CCSS.W.11-12.1)

Differentiated Writing Modules for Grades 4-12

The Transatlantic Slave Trade: What were the experiences of enslaved people in the transatlantic slave trade? (CCSS.CCRA.R.1; CCSS.W.1)

Social Responsibility: How do individuals stand up and take responsibility for changing their societies? (CCSS.CCRA.R.9; CCSS.W.1)

Perseverance: How do we overcome challenges in our country, our communities, and our lives? (CCSS.CCRA.R.3; CCSS.W.2)

Student Free Speech: To what extent should students be allowed to exercise free speech? (CCSS.CCRA.R.1; CCSS.W.1)

Conflict and Dominance: How do conflict and the struggle for dominance affect the human spirit? (CCSS.CCRA.R.1; CCSS.W.1)

Modern Protest: What is the most effective way to organize a protest?  (CCSS.CCRA.R.7; CCSS.W.1)

Supreme Court Decisions: Free Speech What evidence and reasoning has the Supreme Court used to protect or deny an individual’s right to free speech? (CCSS.CCRA.R.8; CCSS.W.1)


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