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A little bit of everything: lessons surrounding African American History Month

Posted on February 20, 2014 by Alan Haskvitz

African American History Month - February lesson planningI like to use African American History Month as a way to expand knowledge and help students develop an appreciation of different cultures and races. I build on topics such as Civil Rights and slavery, turning them into lessons on civil disobedience, cause and effect, the Constitution, geography, art and music to make the commemoration more meaningful for students. 

As an example, one resource I like to use is this interactive map of the Underground Railroad routes. Students make their own copies of the maps and follow the lessons provided to better understand the sophistication of the escapes.

I’ve also introduced lessons on stereotyping and hate groups. For older students, I like to use the Southern Poverty Law Center's Teaching Tolerance site. It offers a free newsletter and a huge menu of ideas to develop rich learning experiences. Take some time and explore its myriad of resources and ideas.

Additionally, take a look at the sites below. I’ve assembled a group of quality sites you can use to develop other lessons; some can be used as stand-alone units.

  1.  African-American History Month - The official site, its teacher resource section has excellent images to share with students.
  2. African American spirituals - Students can listen to these songs.
  3. Africans in America - This site works with the televised series from the Public Broadcasting System. It provides an excellent collection of images, stories, and maps -- easy for students to use.
  4. The Amistad Case - An easy-to-follow narrative of this case, it’s excellent for cause-and-effect discussions as well as Common Core-related critical thinking lessons.
  5. Black History Month videos - From the History Channel
  6. Chronology on the History of Slavery and Racism - This timeline of slavery and civil rights presents concise information, making it easy for students to follow.
  7. Harriet Tubman - This short narrative about Harriet Tubman shows her bravery and intelligence.
  8. The Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute - Explore many exceptional materials such as an encyclopedia of the Civil Rights movement and more.
  9. SCORE Slavery Resources - This listing of teacher-related material has some exceptional primary resources that meet Common Core standards.
  10. Slave narratives - The students can read interviews from ex-slaves about their experiences using this compelling site and its many primary resources.
  11. The Underground Railroad - With this exceptional site, students can take part in an escape from slavery using the Underground Railroad.


*Photo courtesy of Flickr user Thinkdoctor

Alan Haskvitz teaches at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut, Calif., and makes staff development presentations nationwide. He serves as an educational consultant, curriculum developer and author.

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