As you begin your African American history unit, there are a few things you should remember. Most importantly, there is a lot of history that you can cover. As adults, its easy to separate the 1960’s from the 1860’s. This is not easy for children. Here are five tips which will help make your black history unit a success.
1. Cover one period of black history at a time
If you’re teaching younger children, choose one part of black history to cover or even one theme. My first graders enjoy learning about the towns which newly freed slaves created for themselves, as they built new lives. We center our studies around the read about Follow Me Down to Nicodemus Town by A. LaFaye and Nicole Tadgell. I’m currently working on a product to go with this unit, and will update you once it is created. My students understand towns, they also understand moving.
If you’re teaching older students a more detailed history be sure to separate the slavery and abolitionist period from the segregation and civil rights era. These two distinct periods of time are difficult for students to differentiate. Do not confuse children by switching back and forth between the two periods.
2. Be aware of common misconceptions
Remember when covering topics like the underground railroad, students need to understand that underground meant secret. I created this Underground Railroad Virtual Field Trip to help students better understand what the Underground Railroad was. Students need to understand that there was not a real railroad. By taking the time to address what will confuse students early (and often), they are less likely to be confused.
3. Remember those who were on the right side of history
People of all races participated in both the abolitionist movement to end slavery, as well as the Civil Rights movement to end segregation. Study people of all races who made tough choices and did the right thing. This helps all students feel included as they study this topic. It also lets students see that tough choices have to be made every day by regular people.
4. Include the whole family
When assigning research papers, or projects try to open the assignment and encourage family participation. History is lived everyday. There are many grandparents, neighbors, etc. who lived through the civil rights movement and still have vivid memories of it. Encourage students to interview someone about their memories of the march on Washington, etc. Allow students to write about living African Americans who may not be famous, but are admirable for their contributions to society.
5. History is still being made
Remind students that African American history, just like all history, is still being created. People fight for civil rights throughout the world. It’s good for students to realize that injustices have happened to people of all genders, races, and religions throughout the history of the world. Even today, we can be a part of making life better for others.
Looking for a hands on history lesson? Check out my Black History Month Lessons and Pop Up Books Bundle.
At the conclusion of your studies, try this fun and free culminating project.