The Children’s Book Review on Teaching Civil Rights in the Classroom Through Literacy with Lesson and Activity Ideas
Martin Luther King Jr. was a charismatic and influential leader who was pivotal in the American civil rights movement during the 1950s and 1960s. His leadership style and principles continue to inspire leaders and movements around the world, and his contributions have had a profound and enduring impact on the pursuit of justice and equality.
The American civil rights movement saw the emergence of several influential leaders who played crucial roles in advocating for racial equality and justice. While Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most well-known figures, many others made significant contributions. After we share our ideas for lessons and activities that integrate literacy skills with lessons about leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr., you’ll find a list of other notable civil rights leaders to inspire young learners and leaders.
Strategies to Integrate Literacy into Lessons About Civil Rights Leaders
- Assign biographies, memoirs, or autobiographies of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.
- Explore primary source documents such as speeches, letters, and articles written by civil rights leaders.
- Integrate literature related to the civil rights movement, such as novels, poems, or plays.
- Encourage students to analyze the text, identify key events in their lives, and understand the challenges they faced.
- Use comprehension activities such as summarizing, identifying main ideas, and making predictions based on the reading.
- Introduce and discuss key vocabulary words related to civil rights, equality, justice, and activism.
- Encourage students to use these words in discussions, writing assignments, or presentations.
- Have students write essays, reflections, or journal entries on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
- Explore different writing genres, such as persuasive writing or poetry, to express their thoughts on social justice.
- Have students write letters from the perspective of a civil rights leader or someone living during that time. This activity can foster empathy and a deeper understanding of historical perspectives.
- Ask students to maintain reflective journals throughout the unit. Encourage them to explore their own thoughts, emotions, and evolving understanding of civil rights leaders and their impact.
- Use writing prompts to encourage students to express their thoughts and reflections on the civil rights movement. Prompts can focus on empathy, personal connections, or the relevance of civil rights issues today.
- Assign research projects that require students to explore Martin Luther King Jr.’s impact on the civil rights movement, his speeches, or significant events during his time.
- Incorporate research findings into presentations or written reports. Encourage students to support their arguments with evidence from readings.
- Facilitate group discussions to encourage students to share their thoughts and insights about Martin Luther King Jr.’s leadership and contributions.
- Develop discussion questions that prompt critical thinking and analysis of historical events.
- Engage students in critical thinking activities, such as debates, to discuss the impact of civil rights leaders on society. Encourage students to support their arguments with evidence from readings.
- Compare and contrast different civil rights leaders’ leadership styles, strategies, and philosophies through presentations or class discussions.
Role-Playing and Dramatization:
- Engage students in role-playing activities where they can reenact significant moments from Martin Luther King Jr.’s life or historical events.
- Encourage creativity by incorporating drama or storytelling into the lessons.
- Analyze speeches, documentaries, interviews, videos, or audio clips featuring civil rights leaders. Have students analyze the visual and auditory elements to enhance their media literacy skills.
- Discuss rhetorical devices, persuasive techniques, and the impact of visual and verbal communication.
- Integrate lessons about Martin Luther King Jr. with other subjects like history, social studies, or art to provide a holistic understanding of the context.
- Create projects that combine artistic expression with the study of civil rights. Combine literacy lessons with art projects. For example, ask students to create visual representations of critical moments in the civil rights movement or illustrate themes from civil rights literature.
Guest Speakers or Virtual Field Trips:
- Arrange for guest speakers or conduct virtual interviews with individuals with firsthand experience with the civil rights movement—this can provide students with a personal perspective on historical events.
Remember to tailor these activities to students’ grade levels and abilities, ensuring the content is age-appropriate and aligned with educational standards. By integrating literacy skills with the study of civil rights leaders, students can develop a comprehensive understanding of historical events, effective communication, and the ongoing struggle for justice and equality.
A List of Notable Civil Rights Leaders
- Malcolm X, a prominent figure in the Nation of Islam, advocated for black empowerment and self-defense. After leaving the Nation of Islam, He shifted his views towards a more inclusive approach.
- Often referred to as the “Mother of the Civil Rights Movement,” Rosa Parks became a symbol of resistance when she refused to give up her seat on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
- A key figure in the Civil Rights Movement, John Lewis was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and played a significant role in the March on Washington. He later became a U.S. Congressman.
- An influential organizer and strategist, Ella Baker worked behind the scenes to empower grassroots activists. She was vital in forming the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the SNCC.
- Thurgood Marshall was a pioneering civil rights lawyer before becoming the first African American Supreme Court Justice. He argued and won the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education, which led to the desegregation of schools.
Fannie Lou Hamer:
- A leader in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Fannie Lou Hamer, worked to secure voting rights for African Americans in the Deep South. Her activism focused on challenging racial injustice and voter suppression.
- An openly gay civil rights activist, Bayard Rustin was a key advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. and played a crucial role in organizing the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.
- James Farmer, founder of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), was a civil rights activist who advocated for nonviolent direct action to challenge segregation and discrimination.
- As the president of the National Council of Negro Women, Dorothy Height focused on issues such as economic empowerment and education for African American women. She was a key organizer in the civil rights movement.
- A civil rights activist and field secretary for the NAACP in Mississippi, Medgar Evers worked to end racial segregation and fought for voting rights. He was tragically assassinated in 1963.
These leaders, among others, made significant sacrifices and contributions to the civil rights movement, contributing to the progress toward racial equality in the United States. Each had a unique approach and perspective, collectively shaping the course of the movement.
Civil Rights Book Recommendations
- 10 of the Best Books About Martin Luther King Jr.
- The Watsons Go to Birmingham,1963
- The Making of America: Susan B. Anthony
- We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide
- Loving vs. Virginia: An Interview with Patricia Hruby Powell
For more book recommendations and articles on teaching civil rights, check out all of our posts tagged with civil rights.