Once a teacher always a teacher. No matter what I do, teaching is and always will be a part of who I am. With that in mind, I think about how some of my colleagues have struggled to make Black History Month a part of their daily curriculum with the lack of time, support, and ideas for that matter. Here are a few ideas for incorporating Black history lessons into your regular schedule. Some of these activities require time and a little team effort, but many of them are perfectly doable and easy to incorporate. It’s not too late to make Black History Month a celebration of American culture in the classroom.
This activity takes some team effort. During the month of February, many schools have all types of fund raisers and activities surrounding Valentine’s Day. My fifth grade team at my last school wanted to come up with a way to raise money for our end-of-the-year field trip and tie it into Black History Month. What we came up with was . . . Black Historygrams! Now you can play with the name and call it what you like, but basically it worked like this: From February 1 – February 14th we sold Candygrams for Valentine’s Day in which students could pay $1-$2 for candy, put a special (appropriate) message on it, and have it delivered to another student or teacher on Valentine’s Day. Many schools do this. Well, from February 15-February 28th, the Candygrams became Black History-grams. As a team, we chose notable figures in Black history, put their face and a brief description of their contributions to America on a candy wrapper template, printed them out, taped them around chocolate bars, and sold them for $1.00. Students didn’t send them to one another, just bought them for themselves and do you know those history-grams sold like hot cakes! We couldn’t keep them in stock. And the best part? . . . The kids actually read them! This was a win-win for teachers, fundraising, and most importantly, the students. They became so popular, that each day one of the candygrams would be read aloud on the morning announcements. Impressive. Best of all, the kids enjoyed having the opportunity to buy candy for the entire month of February rather than just half of it.
Morning Work Most teachers have students work on assignments when they first enter the classroom. I purchased an activity book from my local teacher store ($7.99) that contained brief biographies about people in Black history and used the handouts from the book for morning work reading assignments. These were quick reads that contained no more than 3-5 questions for the students to answer after reading. This was a quick assignment, quick and easy grade, and an excellent learning opportunity for the students.
The following activities require a little planning ahead:
- Readers’ Theater: This is great for your struggling readers and fun for all. If you can’t find any ready-made materials, create your own. The students will love it.;
- Daily trivia in which the students could earn incentives or rewards for being the first to find the answer to the trivia question;
- Black History Portraits: Draw a portrait of an African-American Figure and students list facts about their life on a note card to display with the portrait;
- Jeopardy: This can be a fun way to quiz students on what they’ve learned after studying people and events in Black history; and
- Reports: Assign students someone or an event in history to research at the beginning of the month and have them share their findings toward the end of the month. Include a portrait as one of the requirements for the report so you’ll have something to display as the students finish presentations. NOTE: I always planned my research around February to guide my fifth graders through the research process which was perfect for Black History Month.
Celebrating Black History doesn’t have to be boring and depressing. Students can learn about the contributions of African-Americans to our country and still have fun and remain engaged throughout the process. These are all lessons I and/or my colleagues have taught and experienced great success. Modify any of these lessons to fit your teaching style and your schedule or create your own. The possibilities are endless and the wealth of knowledge gained is invaluable.
Happy Black History Month!