Black History Month Middle School Lessons
- Slavery is a fundamental aspect of black history. Studying slavery and the affects it had on African Americans is essential to understanding the civil rights movements and continued struggles of blacks in American society. One of the best ways to teach middle schoolers is though audio visual presentations like movies, since they tend to engage attention more effectively than reading or lectures. Showing the TV miniseries "Roots" can be an effective way to teach middle schoolers about slavery. The series documents the journey of an African boy as he is captured, shipped to American, and sold into slavery. "Roots" is an American classic, but many middles choolers have never seen it, and may never see it unless they watch it in school. Consider including worksheets that ask basic questions about the movie in order to keep the kids focused on story and dialogue.
- Another integral part of black history is the civil rights movement and the actions of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Historical film footage of the civil rights movement such as protests and police retaliation can be a powerful way to teach kids about the struggle of African Americans. Speeches may be somewhat less engaging to middle school aged kids, but it is important to at least show Dr. King's I have a dream speech. Every child should have seen the speech in its entirety at least once. Documentary films about historical figures can also be effective, especially when supplemented with study guides, but the length of films should be kept to a minimum, as informational videos may engage kids less than character-driven stories like Roots.
Historical Figure Game
- Finding ways to turn learning into a game can be a great way to teach while allowing kids to have fun. Black history is filled with a many important personalities, from Abraham Lincoln to Rosa parks. Make a list of important people from black history which is at least as large as your group of kids, and then find several important pieces of background information on each one and write them on cards. Assign a different historical figure to each child, and then have a social time, where kids walk around the room and talk to one another, pretending to be the person that they were assigned. Have kids record the people that they meet as well as two or three facts about those people. To add extra incentive to the game, offer a prize for meeting the most people and recording the most facts during the game. This sort of game can sometimes lead to list copying between kids, so after the game is complete, have each student tell the class who they were and a couple things about the historical figure they portrayed.