February is Black History Month: the month when the United States officially observes and celebrates the important achievements of African-Americans. It’s a time for us to remember, educate, and create awareness about the incredible history of African-Americans and all that they’ve contributed to our culture.
Black History Month encourages every American to share the rich traditions and unforgettable accomplishments of African-Americans. This February, whether you’re a Raz-Plus, Reading A-Z, Writing A-Z, or Science A-Z user, there are lots of great ways to incorporate Black History Month into your lesson plans.
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Raz-Plus and Reading A-Z
Grades K-2 Books
Harriet Tubman – Students learn about American hero Harriet Tubman, a slave who escaped to freedom and risked it all to return and help more people gain freedom. Students will also learn how to use past-tense verbs and become familiar with the high-frequency word went.
Teacher Tip – Ask students to write why they think Harriet Tubman risked her life to help other slaves escape to freedom.
Riding with Rosa Parks – Take students back to the 1950s, a critical time in U.S. history when African-Americans weren’t afforded equal rights. Students will discover the power a single person can possess as Rosa Park’s story demonstrates bravery when confronted with injustice.
George Washington Carver – This biographical text chronicles the accomplishments of African-American scientist, George Washington Carver. Carver was born a slave but gained freedom after the Civil War, and he went on to become an inventor and a professor of agriculture who dedicated his life to helping farmers.
Grades 3-4 Books
Making Changes: Poems About Great African-Americans – Celebrate Black History Month with a collection of poems. These poems describe several influential and talented African-Americans including Gwendolyn Brooks, Thurgood Marshall, Mae Jemison, and Condoleezza Rice.
Bessie Coleman – In the 1920s very few women flew planes, let alone African-American women, but Bessie Coleman didn’t let that stop her from achieving her dreams to become a pilot. This informative book, filled with photos of Coleman and the planes she flew, chronicles her life from childhood to her tragic early death in 1926. This book also includes premade vocabulary lessons, a guided reading lesson, and a common core supplement.
Jazz Greats – Through this book students learn about the roots of Jazz and some of the most famous jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington. Additionally, students will learn about present-day jazz musicians and trends. Use this book to promote higher-order thinking for small groups or whole class.
Martin Luther King Jr. – This book tells the story of Martin Luther King Jr., a man who devoted his life for equal rights and the freedom of all people. Through his bravery and demonstration of courage, he inspired a nation to stand up for what is right. Students will learn about his extraordinary life through this biography.
Teacher Tip – Use the graphic book The Jackson Sit-In as supplemental reading. In a story based on true events, readers are taken back to this turbulent time in history as three African-American college students set out on a special mission of nonviolence: a sit-in at a whites-only lunch counter. After reading this book, students can analyze a unique character conflict between the characters in the book and society at the time.
Grades 5+ Books
Frederick Douglass: Forever Free – "Once you learn to read, you will be forever free." These are the words of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who learned as a young slave that education and freedom go hand in hand. This biographical, nonfiction book teaches students about Frederick Douglass’ journey to freedom and his powerful contributions to civil rights.
Up From Slavery – A selection from the Autobiography of Booker T. Washington, this book offers students a first-hand glimpse into Washington’s life as a child slave. Simple pleasures such as eating a meal with his family, playing games with friends, or wearing comfortable clothing were unavailable to Washington and his family. A brief introduction to school and education were all it took to make him begin studying and learning. Readers will enjoy the straightforward, strong voice Washington uses to tell his story.
Grades K-5 Writing
Barack Obama Research Packet – Writing A-Z Research Packets give students immediate access to information related to a content area topic or theme. Research Packets give students factual information to support nonfiction writing and are differentiated by student writing levels so that you can save time and still meet the needs of every student.
Writing Biographies – Prompt students to write a biography about a person who has positively influenced Black History that has inspired them. We provide a six-part lesson plan which will take two weeks to complete, and provides whole-class instruction for teaching and modeling the writing process.
Bibliography Guides – Our Bibliography Guides teach students to correctly source their nonfiction writing. Since we focus mostly on informational and nonfiction text during Black History Month, February is a great time to introduce students to bibliographies.
Scientist and Inventor Cards – Check out our Scientist and Inventor Cards, which feature illustrations and information about history’s most influential scientific thinkers. Our Scientist and Inventor Cards feature prominent African-American scientists such as George Washington Carver, Elizabeth Blount, Benjamin Banneker, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and many others!
With education, we create awareness of the challenges African-Americans overcame in the past to afford us the improved world we live in today. Their stories of perseverance, determination, creativity, and hope will teach your students to appreciate how so many people before them fought for equal rights. Through discussions and sharing experiences, students can also reflect on the remaining challenges yet to be conquered and the many ways we can still make improvements to our world today.
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